Ask the Professor Whiskey

Ask the Professor: Bourbon Suggestions for a Scotch Fan

Jim M. writes in to ask:

I'm a Scotch fan, but if I wanted to try some bourbons, what should I pick?

Maker's Mark is the bourbon that a lot of people start with. It's one of the best made whiskeys around: balanced, flavorful and very tasty. It's a milder, wheated bourbon, though, and if you're an experienced whiskey drinker it might not have the zing you're looking for. But it's damn good stuff.

Knob Creek is another old standby, considered by many a step up from Maker's Mark – bolder and zestier, without the mellower, sweeter wheat flavor. Like Maker's, it has a classic bourbon profile that most people enjoy.

I asked a friend who's a real bourbon expert (unlike me, a pretend bourbon expert) and he recommended Blanton's or Basil Hayden's. They're both complex and spicy, with flavor profiles that a Scotch fan might enjoy.

If you're an Islay/peat fan, you might want to try a bourbon that has a high rye content, like Old Grand-Dad, Bulleit or Four Roses Single Barrel. Of those, my favorite is Four Roses Single Barrel.

My two favorite bourbons currently are Elijah Craig 18 Year-Old and Eagle Rare Single Barrel. Sadly, the former has been discontinued, although you can still find it on some shelves. Eagle Rare should be easy to find. These were the two winners of the bourbon taste test I conducted a while back.

There are several highly acclaimed bourbons that get all the accolades – e.g., Van Winkle, Parker's Heritage, George T. Stagg, Black Maple Hill – but they're hard-to-find and expensive, and probably not the best place to start.

Let me know how it goes!


Many thanks to Chuck Cowdery and Lew Bryson, whom I consulted before writing this post. Photo is from Bourbons Bistro.