December 11, 2013

Why American whiskey is better than Scotch.

"[M]any [Scotch] whiskies are... matured in Spanish barrels that used to hold sherry, which have often been treated with sulphur candles... Another suggested reason for the reduction in quality is the addition of caramel, a colouring agent. Bourbon, by contrast, is matured in virgin oak casks, which do not require sulphur treatment, and the industry is banned from using caramel."

According to the author of "Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible."

35 comments:

madAsHell said...

I cured myself of Scotch when I was 15.
It wasn't pretty.

Brian said...

Many old world distillers are using once-used bourbon barrels now.

Tibore said...

Yeah, this topic will start an argument.

Funny thing is, I don't know which way my liquor-fan friends will lean. I can see them crying "HERESY!!", and I can see them saying "DAMN STRAIGHT IT'S BETTER!". I honestly don't know how they'll react.

Bob said...

Using Sherry (and Port, too) barrels was simply good economics for the thrifty Scots, Scotland having been de-forested for centuries when the practice began. The sherry and port casks add to the flavor profile, also.

Brian said...

There is always an argument where whisky is concerned...even right down to the spelling of the word. It's a harmless field in which to exercise the urge to purge --- like bitching about the designated hitter rule.

Rusty said...

I have just recently become acquainted with moonshine which my nephews friend makes. It is surprisingly smooth.

John said...

It seems like there is a lot of romance around certain drugs like alcohol.

Why don't we just call them what they are, a toxin that people drink solely for the purpose of creating an imbalance in their bodies.

Getting drunk, shitfaced, sozzled, schnockered etc.

Or, to put a better spin on it, to get a buzz, a glow or high.

So tell me again how come a poison like alcohol is a good thing with billions of dollars spent annually on it?

And why weed, which is not even a poison, is such a horrible thing that even a small amount can send you to jail and ruin your life.

John Henry

rehajm said...

American distillers have certainly upped their game in recent years. Simply more small batch producers obsessed with producing superior products.

I can't say I've had a Scotch experience more intense than this.

Brian said...

"tell me again how come a poison like alcohol is a good thing"

No. Nobody owes you an explanation for liking things you don't.

John said...

If you are going to drink alcohol, the only decent drink is rum. Not that nasty cuban style rum by Bacardi. That has to be mixed with Coca-Cola or in a piƱa colada, daquiri or some other thick sweetish liquid to mask the taste. It is getting drunk rum, not drinking rum.

Good Puerto Rican rum like Don Q is best on the rocks. Perhaps a twist of lime or maybe a splash of water. Pure ambrosia. It makes the best whiskey taste like stale hog piss.

Hard to find but if you can, Ron del Barrilito is the best there is. You may be able to find 2 star in the upper 50. They don't make enough 3 star to export. And if you are a friend of the family you might be able to get a bottle of their 5 star private stock. I've had a couple of tastes but never a bottle.

I gave up all alcohol in '84 but I still sometimes dream of Barrilito.

John Henry

R.A. Crankbait said...

Scoth also gets it's distinctive flavor from having the damp malt dried over peat fires in the malting process. I like a good bourbon (and never cared for rye), but like nothing better than to sip a fine single malt scotch on a cold winter's night, perhaps with a wee drop or two of water.

Lauderdale Vet said...

I've always preferred bourbon to scotch. Caramel notes > charcoal.

My favorite is Bulleit. I highly recommend it.

Mostly, however, I am a wino.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

So tell me again how come a poison like alcohol is a good thing...

It's gotten me laid.

Any more questions?

Dan said...

I enjoy Scotch. I enjoy bourbon. And I enjoy rum. But, I agree with rehajm. Pappy's 20 year old is the benchmark for me.

clint said...

Shameful to post this without at least top ten list of your favorite bourbons!

Moose said...

Well gee - I guess I'm going to have to stop liking Scotch...

EDH said...

Bourbon, by contrast, is matured in virgin oak casks...

Sounds kinda "rapey".

tim in vermont said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chef Mojo said...

I enjoy Scotch. I enjoy bourbon. And I enjoy rum.

Works for me.

@ John Henry:

Zacapa 23 is the rum that does it for me when I want a wonderful sipping rum. Pussers for daily summer rum use.

I switch liquors with the seasons.

Sigivald said...

He is, of course, entirely wrong.

American whiskey (what kind, for the love of God?) is not "better than Scotch".

It's different than Scotch whiskey.

"Better" is purely a matter of taste, as the response at the end of the article points out.

(Myself, I like Scotch. And Bourbon. And ryes. And even Irish whiskey.

His idea that "everyone thinks Scotland makes the best whiskey" is baffling...)

Sigivald said...

John: "Toxin" describes a large number of foodstuffs and things not worth getting in a tizzy over, too.

(To be pedantic, we're talking poisons more than toxins in their technical sense, here.)

Used the way you use it, it's a pejorative, telling me that you're trying polemic, not science or medicine.

Paracelsus was right about one thing: The dose makes the poison.

Drink enough water, you die of it. Eat a handful of salt, you die of it. I suspect, however, you don't think either is "a poison". But they plainly are, aren't they, since they'll kill you, right?

Please spare us the pot-activist lecture about the evils of alcohol, okay? Lecturing against alcohol doesn't make people like weed better, and isn't helping that cause one bit.

You'll do better crusading for people's right to get high however they want.

(And "imbalance"? What does that even mean, other than being a term of abuse?

... which I note should apply equally to getting high off a joint.)

John said...

" My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil's brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life's great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise."

Noah Sweat 1952

John said...

Sigvald,

I thought I have been pretty clear that I am a liberal (or libertarian) and I absolutely support an adult's right to do with their body as they wish.

That includes both alcohol and recreational drugs such as MJ and others. I have plenty of experience with a wide variety of them back in my youth.

I do not recommend them but I do support everyone's right to use them.

My problem is less the drug than the mystique of them. Most people can't tell the difference between a $5 wine and a $500 wine yet they make a big deal of it. Used to be just wine, then beer, then vodka (by law tasteless) now whiskey. Where will it end?

John Henry

John said...

In an experiment at UC Davis which has a large wine program, they once served a number of wine experts several different wines and asked them to identify type.

The wines were served in opaque black glasses and the experts did not fare well at all. They couldn't even tell whites from reds by taste.

Back in the 90's I did some work in a huge brewery which shall be nameless. They made over 70 different national and regional brands, most of which most people will have heard of. One brand most people think of as coming from Germany. Another is thought of as a craft brew.

They made them all from 6 basic recipes. Some brands would have a bit of additive for distinction but most just used one or another of the recipes straight up.

In other words, other than the label, Brand A would be the same beer as Brand B. And yet people will fight over which is better.

John Henry

Sam L. said...

Scotch is my ethnic drink. What ho? The pipes are calling for a dram!

Captain Curt said...

Most Scotch whiskey is aged in used bourbon casks from America. If it has been aged in used sherry or port casks, it is noted and advertised as such.

I was recently talking to a representative from the Highland Park Scotch distillery, and he told me that since sherry drinking has been going out of style, there are fewer casks, so they are more expensive for the Scotch distilleries to buy, and they must sell the sherry-aged Scotch at a significant premium now.

Captain Curt said...

Most Scotch whiskey is aged in used bourbon casks from America. If it has been aged in used sherry or port casks, it is noted and advertised as such.

I was recently talking to a representative from the Highland Park Scotch distillery, and he told me that since sherry drinking has been going out of style, there are fewer casks, so they are more expensive for the Scotch distilleries to buy, and they must sell the sherry-aged Scotch at a significant premium now.

James Pawlak said...

I will avoid relevant comments as those submitted overwhelm any I might offer. I have little doubt that those whose brains have the benefits of good whiskey and good other like beverages, in moderation, have generated those superior comments.

Bob R said...

I think most proscriptive rankings of sensory impressions are bull. Sure, within very narrow categories almost everyone has the same preferences, and educated evaluators can agree a lot of the time. But Scotch vs. Bourbon is like French Cabernet vs. Australian Syrah. You can tell me what you like, but it doesn't tell me anything about the booze. It tells me about you.

Tom said...

If you line Bourbon, try Noah's Mill. It has an unbelievable flavor. Truly awesome!

Rusty said...

Drink the best you can afford. With friends.Or enemies.
It doesn't matter.

lge said...

To me, bourbon is bland and without distinctive character. And I've tried good brands.

I like scotch much better. My favorite-- Speyburn.

Mitch H. said...

Bourbon vs. Scotch is a matter of taste (I'm rather strongly on the Bourbon side of that one), but for God's sake, avoid French whiskey like the plague. I bought a bottle of Bastille on a friend's recommendation, and it tastes like bottom-shelf brandy.

SGT Ted said...

It's just sales propaganda. "Oh their barrels are USED and ICKY!!"

If the ATF allowed US bourbon companies to use recycled wine/sherry casks to age their whiskeys, they would do so, because of the market they could get into that is currently occupied solely by the Celtic whiskey companies, by virtue of the law.

Otherwise, they would be using sherry or wine casks to age their liquor, because the tradition of whiskey was brought here by the Scots and Irish people that emigrated to the US. But they cannot, due to the law, not because it's "bourbon".

Mitch H. said...

Sgt Ted, that French whiskey is aged in wine casks. That's almost certainly where the unsettling, cloyingly fruity "brandy" flavor is coming from...