Bourbon – Why you have to try it


Bourbon rack house

The way we bang on about the great Scottish whiskies that are available, you would be forgiven for thinking they’re the only ones we love to tipple but you’d be very, very wrong.

Yes, we’re going to talk to you about the whiskey delights that come from our American friends… and there are so many to choose from.

For some Scotch whisky purists, the idea of taking a drink from across the Atlantic might be a difficult one to consider, but trust us when we say that you’re missing out if you don’t sample at least a couple.

So for the rest of this blog, we’ll stop saying “whisky” and start saying “bourbon whiskey”. Deep breaths, Scotch whisky lovers.

When most of us think about bourbon, there are normally two names that spring to mind – Jack Daniels and Jim Beam. They’re the big brands that everybody knows.

Here’s a little nugget for you. If you thought Jack Daniels was a bourbon whisky, then you have to get to the back of the class because it’s actually a Tennessee whiskey. Don’t you look silly now?

We’re not going to start criticizing anyone who enjoys these drinks, that’s not our style, but the bourbon category is just too damn varied to stop at the big well-known brands.

Bourbon is as important to America’s South as our single malt whiskies are to somewhere like Islay. They’re engrained in the culture, if you pardon the pun.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be produced in the South – its spiritual home (woops, another pun) – but it does have to be made from at least 51 per cent corn and aged in charred new white oak barrels to be a genuine bourbon.

Of course there are plenty variations on the drink now, and these can blur the lines, but them’s the rules for the producers who are really serious about it.

Why would you drink bourbon over a Scotch whisky? Well, that question is a bit like asking why you would drink a Sauvignon Blanc over a Port. Bourbon whiskies offer something completely different to our Scotch whiskies.

The obvious difference – and the one that people always talk about – is that bourbon whiskey tends to be much sweeter than Scotch whisky, although this is not always the case.

A wise whisky connoisseur (perhaps even wiser than us) once said that bourbon is for those who would pick cookies over beef jerky. It’s safe to say he was American and it’s a nice way of summing it up.

Don’t just think that bourbons are all about sweetness though. The good ones can be just as complex, subtle, bold, exciting and intriguing as a good Scotch whisky.

How do we enjoy ours? Much like with Scotch, it’s hard to see past a good bourbon with a little bit of ice for company.

So, let’s raise a glass of America’s finest and say thanks to our cousins across the water. Bourbon is most definitely a drink to celebrate.

Three of our favourite bourbon whiskies

Elijah Craig 12YO Bourbon

There is a beautiful sweetness with notes of toasty oak, toffee, spicy stewed fruits, a touch of resin and a lovely crème anglaise character on the nose.

Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon

Lots of orange notes that hold on well into the finish. A joy to drink!

Larceny Bourbon

Larceny is a smooth bourbon that uses wheat as the secondary grain rather than the more conventional rye.