here’s why bourbon drinkers should embrace single-malt scotch

There’s no denying that bourbon has become the brown spirit most American drinkers prefer over any other, but what these drinkers may not realize is that this American whiskey has a lot in common with its Scottish cousin, especially in the ways in which it is made. And that means if you’re fond of bourbon, it’s high time you gave single-malt Scotch a try.

Scottish single malt and bourbon are created in very similar ways. While they may not use the same base-grain ingredients — single-malt Scotch calls for 100 percent roasted barley while bourbon must be at least 51 percent corn — once distilled, these whiskeys both are placed in oak to be aged. They even often wind up in the same barrel! That’s because while bourbon requires that all white whiskey be placed in new charred American oak barrels in order to age and take on its brown color, Scotch does not. While a bourbon producer can only use each barrel once, Scotch producers can use the barrels as many times as they want. What do bourbon producers do? They sell their used barrels to Scotch distilleries. Meaning most of the single malts available on the market were actually aged in American bourbon barrels.

And the similarities don’t stop there. If you’re a drinker of bourbon, unless you’re consuming a single barrel variety such as Blanton’s, your bourbon was made by blending many different barrels together in order to achieve the exact flavor the blenders were looking for, and that’s exactly the same for Scotch. While many might assume a single malt comes from a single barrel of whisky, that is in fact not the case. Single malts simply come from a single distillery, but are made by blending many different barrels at that distillery. In both cases, the final liquid in the bottle is meant to be an expression of the distillery and its blenders, not an expression of what happened inside one single barrel of whiskey.

But what if the reason you avoid single-malt Scotch is because you don’t enjoy smoke, preferring the sweeter style of bourbon? Here, too, you’re in luck, because not all Scotch is smokey. In fact, some distilleries don’t use smoked peat at all in order to dry and toast their barley, and that means the whisky is lighter and a bit sweeter, much like a bourbon. If this is the flavor profile you prefer, look for Scotches that come from the Lowlands. These tend to be on the lighter and sweeter side. Our favorites are Glenkinchie and Auchentoshan.

If you love bourbon, it’s high time you gave single-malt Scotch a try. The similarities are much more common than you’d think.

best bourbons not from kentucky?

Despite what the drinking masses seem to think, Bourbon does not have to come from Kentucky, even though 95 percent of America’s native Whiskey hails from the Bluegrass State. If you take a look around the country, you’ll find a small but growing bounty of good bourbon, including this diverse coast-to-coast selection. There's easily another dozen worth seeking out. We're just suggesting you start here.

Dry Fly 101

Dry Fly Distilling's Straight Washington Bourbon 101 is aged in 53-gallon barrels for a minimum of three years, with a four-year release on the way. While the "101" may signal that it's your introductory class to Washington State–produced bourbon, it actually signifies its proof, bottled at 50.5 percent ABV. It's a wheated bourbon made from a mashbill of 60 percent corn, 20 percent wheat and 20 percent barley, showcasing notes of vanilla bean, biscuit, corn and baking spices. 



FEW bourbon is made from a traditional mashbill of 70 percent corn, 20 percent rye and 10 percent malted barley. Like with many craft distilleries, the quality of its whiskeys have been on the uptick, as it has not only honed its techniques but has been able to age its product more patiently. Expect a mix of classic dry spice and oak with sweeter undertones. All the better that it comes from Evanston, Ill., a famous onetime home of the temperance movement. 


Hillrock Estate Solera Aged

What's an estate distillery? It's a distillery that grows its own grain right on-site, and in the case of New York's Hillrock Estate, it even floor-malts its own barley. More unique yet is that Hillrock solera-ages its bourbon (including a stock of mature "seed bourbon") and this year will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the release as the first ever solera-aged American whiskey. 


Hudson Baby

Hudson Baby from New York's Tuthilltown Spirits is a high-corn bourbon, made with a whopping 90 percent corn and 10 percent malted barley. It uses a range of cask sizes for aging and bottles at 92 proof. Now that the whole distillery has been acquired by William Grant & Sons, as opposed to strictly the Hudson brand itself, expect to hear plenty more from these guys in the near future. 


John J Bowman

Virginia's A. Smith Bowman Distillery offers this single-barrel, 10- proof bourbon with a typical age between nine and 11 years. This bold bourbon lays out rich vanilla and oak flavors with a big, chewy mouthfeel. Considering its age and price but still growing reputation, it's a sneaky sensation in the making. The same base whiskey is also offered as a younger small-batch edition called Bowman Brothers which showcases lighter and fruitier characteristics. 



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