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  1. #21
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    Re: Scotch/bourbon, one better than the other?

    If you took all the flavor varieties of Scotch and lined them up (I don't mean brands) they would be far wider than all the flavor varieties of Bourbon.
    But would it be much wider than the spectrum from a straight Rye Whiskey to a straight Wheat Whiskey (realizing that wheat whiskey is a new phenomenum)?
    Based on my limited sampling of Bourbon and Scotch coupled with knowledge that has been passed on to me from individuals whose Bourbon and Scotch collection is vast, yes I would say the Bourbon spectrum is much tighter.

    That is not to say Bourbon is less interesting or bourbons all taste the same, it just seems to me that Bourbon (Rye through Wheat)has a closer range of flavors than Scotch. I think despite its tighter range of flavors, Bourbon has some amazing and unique flavor profiles. There is no reason to feel Bourbon is inferior to Scotch.

    Here's a few questions for those with greater knowledge on Scotch and Bourbon:

    Is there something about corn that leaves a greater flavor characteristic in Bourbon than malted barley does in Scotch?

    Or is it the greater number of distilleries and various regions of Scotch, which accounts for the great range of flavors found in Scotch?

    If Bourbon's popularity continues to grow and more and more distilleries open, in years to come would you expect the flavor profile of Bourbon to widen?

  2. #22
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    Re: Scotch/bourbon, one better than the other?

    If Bourbon's popularity continues to grow and more and more distilleries open, in years to come would you expect the flavor profile of Bourbon to widen?
    Sadly, it seems the price of entry into distilling in this country is just too steep. The amount of capital you need to weather the first 6-10 years while your product ages (including taxes!) is huge. There are ways around this but you pretty much just can't get a distilling license and start cooking.... It would be great if you could.

    Ken

  3. #23
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    Re: Scotch/bourbon, one better than the other?

    Here's a few questions for those with greater knowledge on Scotch and Bourbon:

    Is there something about corn that leaves a greater flavor characteristic in Bourbon than malted barley does in Scotch?

    Or is it the greater number of distilleries and various regions of Scotch, which accounts for the great range of flavors found in Scotch?

    If Bourbon's popularity continues to grow and more and more distilleries open, in years to come would you expect the flavor profile of Bourbon to widen?
    I'm not sure how qualified I am to answer these questions, but here are a few thoughts and observations:

    There are several variables in the SMSW equation that are not present when producing bourbon, including differences in barrels and peating of the malt. Certainly heavily peated whiskies (e.g., Lagavulin, Ardbeg) and heavily sherried whiskies (e.g., a'bunadh, Macallan) are among the more commonly cited extremes, contrasted with cleaner and lighter styles like Glenmorangie or Auchentoshan. If all SMSW was made with unpeated malt and aged in new barrels, the range of flavors would certainly be less broad.

    I suspect, however, that it would still be broader than the bourbon range, because of the wide diversity in stills used in SMSW production. There are so many distilleries in Scotland, and each has its own stills which are each different to a greater or lesser extent from all the others. I suspect (although I don't know) that the use of pot stills contributes to the variability of flavor. The size and shape of the still seems to affect how many and which cogeners end up in the final distillate, which I think also contributes to the variety of SMSW.

    I think these factors are more important than regional factors when it comes to variety in SMSW. Regional differences are mainly traditional---fine whiskey in the style of one region can be made in another region, or even in another country; see e.g. Connemara, which is Irish but similar to Islay SMSW, or any of a number of other Irish or Japanese malt whiskeys which in a blind tasting would be indistinguishable from SMSW.

    Another very important factor explaining the diversity of SMSW is the Scotch whiskey market. Most Scotch is blended, so there is a market for more unusual malts, since they can be used to add a bit of flavor or character to a blend, even if the Scotch-drinking public at large might not embrace such a malt full-strength as a single. Most American whiskey is sold for consumption in its natural form, not for blending. So, it is not too surprising that practically all bourbon is aimed at a similar, middle-of-the-road flavor profile. (I seem to recall hearing somewhere that Seagrams makes (or made) some unusual whiskies that went into Seven Crown, but were not sold on their own. Intriguing, if true.)

    Remember, a generation or two ago, malt distillers (with a very few exceptions) didn't even bother selling their product directly to the public because it was perceived that nobody would want pure malt whiskey because it was so strongly flavored.

    As to whether the range of bourbon flavors expands, that will depend probably on the results of some of the experiments being conducted right now---Ken Weber has alluded to numerous barrels of experimental spirits aging in the BT warehouses, and of course Heaven Hill is bringing out their straight wheat whiskey this year. If departures from the mainstream are accepted in the marketplace, then we should see more of them. As tradition-bound as the whiskey industry is, this may be a golden opportunity.

  4. #24
    The Boss
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    Re: Scotch/bourbon, one better than the other?

    Rob's original question and the preponderant response seem to be about non-bourbon. We have a forum for that.

  5. #25
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    Re: Scotch/bourbon, one better than the other?

    I would say that even if bourbon becomes vastly more popular the majority will still fall in a midrange flavor profile. This, I believe, is due to the restrictions on what bourbon is defined as. Now if you open up the subject and call it "American Whiskey" then I would say there would be a great increase in flavors and styles.

  6. #26
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    Re: Scotch/bourbon, one better than the other?

    Rob, Interestingly, most of the replies (myself included)are from bourbon drinkers who enjoy Scotch. But to your point, how many Scotch drinkers would say they enjoy bourbon?
    I'm glad you asked that, because that is exactly the feeling I've been getting when I read all your answers (thanks everyone) on this forum: bourbon drinkers are more open to Scotch than vice versa. I honestly think that's great.

    I should be able to say to my wine snobs, or the single malt afficianados "I love bourbon" with out a befuddled look of bedeviled bewilderment.

    You nailed it right on the head! This is a major source of irritation for me (yes I know - I should not care at all, just enjoy what I do and not care what others say, but I can't help myself! ). I really think that as a whole, the American bourbon market has more quality to offer than the whole Scottish single malt. Sure, I do not like Jim Beam White or the Rye, I do not care much for the 4-year-old Ancient Age etc, but generally, America is the Mekka/Heaven/Hell/Nirvana - whatever catches your fancy - of quality whisky.


    But part of the appeal to some luxuries for a few people is the "look at me and how refined I am" attitude. Me, I just enjoy what the good Lord has blessed us with.
    I hear you loud and clear. I could not agree more. If you have time to kill or waiting for the wife to..., you may get a kick out of reading my columns ("Rob's column") on my site.

    /Robert

  7. #27
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    Re: Scotch/bourbon, one better than the other?

    My take on this, based on, ahem, sociological observations made at my home front is that what we´re dealing with is ignorance and insecurity masked as cocksure snobbery.

    I recently learned that Sweden is, in proportional terms, the leading single malt Scotch consumer of the world. That may be flattering but most of the people behind these statistics are Johnny-come-latelys.

    Two or three years ago these people gulped down Jim Beam and Ballantine´s but now they regard themselves as having moved one step up the ladder. Part of this "promotion" is to regard Bourbon and blended Scotch as more or less undrinkable.

    Now, you are hard pressed to find any more zealous adherents than recent converts. They "know" the truth, period. The last thing they need is some smartarse informing them that Jim Beam also offer premium bottlings and that the 17yo version of Ballantine´s is actually a world class whisky.

    This kind of information shakes their very foundations so it just bounces off them. A fascinationg psychological phenomenon which I have encountered on many an occasion.

  8. #28
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    Re: Scotch/bourbon, one better than the other?

    I don't mind trying Scotch. My problem is I have never tried any that tastes good. I kind of wish I could actually find a Scotch that I enjoy. Now on the other hand...I enjoy almost all bourbon.

  9. #29
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    Re: Scotch/bourbon, one better than the other?

    I don't mind trying Scotch. My problem is I have never tried any that tastes good. I kind of wish I could actually find a Scotch that I enjoy. Now on the other hand...I enjoy almost all bourbon.
    Brian, do you like strong flavors?? Kick ass chili? Booker's? Strong BBQ?? If so, try Laphroaig 10 yo. It is monsterously peaty. Scotch drinkers will tell you not to try this until you have spent years developing a Scotch palate but it's like the second Scotch I ever tried and I love it.

    Let me know,

    Ken

  10. #30
    Bourbonian of the Year 2010 and Guru
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    Re: Scotch/bourbon, one better than the other?

    I have been drinking bourbon since...well let's not get into that as I was much too young, but I didn't really "get" scotch until I had Highland Park 12yr. After drinking many scotches and not really disliking them just not really liking them enough to pony up the cash to have them at home, that is the one that opened my eyes

 

 

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