Several of the scotch distillery websites have very good videos for describing how scotch is made. Three of the best were Laphroaig, Bowmore and Ardmore (Teacher's). I'm wanting to study how bourbon making differs from scotch making. In scotch distilling, a "middle cut" is taken from the low wines (first distillation) for placing in barrels to age. The "foreshots" and "feints" that occur before and after the middle cut are set back into the low wines for redistilling in the second distillation. There is no mash that is set back into a new mash as far as I know, so scotch differs from bourbon in that regard, but both have a setback component. Some scotch has a very narrow middle cut, such as Laphroaig, so most spirit is set back and most of what you get has been through the spirit still several times in spite of the fact it is called "double distilled". Almost all scotch production uses a wash still and then a spirit still. Only lowland scotches were typically triple distilled, being the most similar to Irish whisky. The wash and spirit stills are usually different in design and are always copper pot stills. Column stills are only used for grain scotch used for blending purposes. Scotch grain whisky is rather sickening to me unless strong malts can knock out the sweet bland flavor in the final blend. Clan MacGregor and Dewar's White Label are examples of blends I find sickening in taste. Hence, my favorite scotch blends have high malt content and are based on Islay and Island malts: Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Talisker and Highland Park.
Are column stills allowed in bourbon production? Do any bourbon makers take out a center cut of the last distillation as all malt scotch makers do, in addition to the setback of mash? Must bourbon stills be made of pure copper as scotch malt stills are, or do they just need copper in the upper arms where the spirit condenses? Are particular heating methods preferred? Copper stills have a limited lifespan and are expensive, and pot stills have low production rates, and then only a middle cut is allowed to pass from the spirit still into storage. Hence, there is no such thing as cheap malt scotch that is any good.
OK, we know that bourbon production MUST use new oak barrels, but scotch production almost always uses secondhand or thirdhand barrels, and usually barrels that held bourbon, but sometimes sherry barrels are used. Some use bourbon AND sherry barrels to get a mix of flavors. The Scots are more experimentive in their use of barrels, and as long as bourbon has to be placed in new oak barrels, bourbon will have less range of flavor from barrel effects on aging of spirit. The Scots can also use new oak barrels if they want to, and they can be American, French, Spanish or whatever. I have heard of them using chestnut and mahogany barrels as well. However, the Scottish climate with low summer/winter temperature gradients slows down aging and drives up prices....again.
Also, the grist that is produced from barley malt for mashing will be produced in several degrees of texture from coarser to finer and according to the distillery recipe as each type of grist, with its own particular name, will produce a certain quality of mash. Does bourbon follow this pattern of milling grist for the mash?
So, without spending a lot of time going through all the bourbon websites, is there a really good bourbon website with videos that explains the bourbon making process as well as those scotch distillery websites I mentioned?
BTW, Highland Park flat out states that the "medicinal" nature of scotch is mostly contained in the peat. Since bourbon is not peated, this means it is far less valuable for "medicinal purposes" than highly peated scotch, unless merely used as a sterilant and solvent. I have allergic reactions to mold, and if I drink some Laphroaig when I start to get the itching and burning in my ears, it will go away in about 15 minutes. Amazing! No bourbon can do this for me, and the low peated scotches also do not do that for me. Of course, Laphroaig "tastes like medicine" according to most who try it, and it continued to be imported into the USA as medicine even though the American bourbon distillers had to shut down. Laphroaig was widely prescribed as a medicine back in those days, and after one whiff, I suspect U.S. authorities were not about to contest the claim. Anyway, Laphroaig sailed right through prohibition making its malt scotch and legally exporting it to the USA, and that's another way it differs from bourbon, or most other scotches for that matter. Many of the other scotch manufacturers had to sell to smugglers outside the country if they got product into the USA. I wonder if anybody tried to label their stuff as Laphroaig and get around restrictions? Probably not many, as the mere mention of Laphroaig would probably scare away most drinkers. To this day, the vast majority of Laphroaig is used in blending, which also makes it different from most bourbon. In spite of the surge in single malt scotch sales, something like 95% of all single malt scotch produced still goes into blends, to make that cheap bland grain scotch somehow palatable.
The fact that you can't get a very good blended scotch for drinking straight until you step up to Johnnie Walker Black at around $40/750ml sort of blows the argument that blending allows good scotch to be sold cheaper. Aberlour 10 y.o. single malt at the same price drinks just as well and many would prefer it over JWB. The lower priced scotch blends is mainly a way to get rid of whisky that would be unmarketable otherwise, and the result is very rarely better than mediocre....and they are best used for mixing or a cheap drunk when you don't want to waste the good stuff.
So, another way that bourbon differs from scotch is that if you only can spend about $15 or less for a bottle, you are going to do a LOT better sticking with bourbon....and this advice is coming from a scotch lover. There are VERY FEW blended scotches in the $20 to $30 range that I would give a second glance to.....and I really like GOOD scotch. White Horse and Teacher's at around $20/liter are as far down the blended scotch ladder as you can go without wallowing in muck. WT101 or JB Black will walk all over most $20-$30 scotch blends and they are sold everywhere. The worm turns somewhere around JWB, but that's too much $$$$ for an everyday pour....although it is also sold everywhere....but very good bourbons are sold in that price range (or lower) as well.
Bourbon is for the working stiff that wants value for money, it would seem. Wanna drink lots of good scotch? Either make lots of money or get used to living "in a small trailer down by the river". Hence, I am looking hard into bourbon right now....but failing that, there is this place across the state line that sells trailers cheap.