Sure, there's some dogs out there (hey, just like scotch!!) but in recent years there have been many bourbons released that are ranked among the best whiskies in the world.
So my question is this, why do you think that as a general rule, bourbon isn't taken seriously?
This question is really intended for those of you who are enlightened (ie. those that have had the pleasure to explore and come to know the wonderful bourbons that indeed exist). If you don't like bourbon and have no respect for it, the question is rather moot.
I think that it is partially because of the general scarcity of premium bourbon around the world. The BC LDB lists over one hundred types of Scotch but only seven types of bourbon, and because of marketing, Jim Beam white label is by far the most popular even though most people on this board probably wouldn't think of drinking it. If there were more single barrel and older bourbons distributed to the rest of the world, its popularity would certainly rise.
It's not that scarce, one of my regular haunts, Constantine Stores in Cornwall, has a list of 84 American and Canadian whiskies available.
Going back to your original question, I do have some respect for it, but don't like it. Cut out some of the sweetness and try again.
Bourbon is a hugely popular drink, so why "cut out the sweetness and try again" for anyone's benefit?
I am not the biggest bourbon fan in the world, as I don't know that much about it, but it certainly doesn't lack bite. In fact, it has more bite than most scotches. It's not a more "simple" drink than scotch. It is a great drink, with its own history and traditions.
Sweetness ? I guess Bourbon is sweeter than Scotch in general but there are some excellent (and very dry) American rye whiskies out there for people who don't like dessert. Ardbeg 1977 is a very sweet whisky (one of my favourites) but I've never heard anyone knock it for it.
The maltmadness website says all Bourbon is rubbish, yet the author has hardly tried any. I find his ratings and tasting notes to be of little use anyway (but that's a different story).
Personally I'm an equal fan of Scotch and Bourbon - Scotch has more variety and my top 50 whiskies would contain a lot more Scotches than Bourbons but my top 3 whiskies are all American.
The reason I say that is because the terms used to deride it are reminiscent of those used to rubbish America and particularly American culture in general. Bourbon is often described as lacking complexity (shallow ?) and overly sweet (like junk food). When I hear people, in the UK, talking about America and Americans, there is the same lack of evenhandedness that is meted out to American whisky. People seem to forget that the same America that gave us McDonald's, and diluted pop culture also gave us Herman Melville and put people on the moon.
There is snobbery too of course. Many wine connoseurs rightfully feel uneasy about american wines but unfortunately do the same for much else. There are som facts that are easily established though and that is the american home markets preference for sweet and/or perfumed character in beverages. But that's a matter of taste more than what is right or wrong.
I'd like to try a bourbon but given the enourmos choice of scottish whisky I think it won't happen in the nearest future though - accidentaly this affects my lack of knowledge and experience of irish whiskey too.
Maybe the Old Potrero which a friend of mine speaks highly of!
Someone was kind enough to send me a sample of Old Potrero (thanks!) and I really like it. I would buy a bottle of the 3 yr old if I came across it. It really is unique. This is a reason I can't wait to try some good ryes. I was in the U.S. last week, but couldn't find the Sazerac there. I think it sells for only $40 over there when it's availalbe.
One of the great things about Jim Murray (and others) is that he champions "world" whiskey.
By the way, I know I discussed this with you before, but I had the last bit of Elijah Craig 12 from the bottle a few weeks ago. It was really superb. I think it really benefited from a bit of air in the bottle for a while, although its taste changes for me all the time.
If you're in New York - Park Avenue Liquors. Excellent shop, very friendly and helpful staff.
The only bourbon I brought back was a Makers Mark, which I love. It's the red top one.
That said, while I find bourbon to be the best grain whisky made for the most part, I don't find it is comparable to scotch. It can be compared to Canadian and scotch grain whisky but not malt whisky. I prefer malt whisky. So I guess I'm a scotch snob too but I tell you it is not because I haven't tried and enjoyed some bourbons; I have! I just don't like them enough to buy them regularly, while I DO like scotch enough to buy it and drink it regularly.
There is nothing at all wrong with not liking bourbon. If you don't like it, you don't like it.
I think the thrust of this thread is that it is often described as inferior or not as complex or intellectually stimulating...
By the way, there are American single malts, rather than "bourbon" single malts. Lex knows a great deal about these.
Restricting yourself to single malts is liable to lead to perpetual debates over peat vs sherry whilst drinking forgettable, thin spirits in between the odd great bottle. I know - I was there myself once. Bringing pot still, corn, bourbon, rye and even blended Scotch into my life broadened the range of flavours, delights and experiences open to me. It also had a massive advantage that many of these styles are decidedly cheaper than classic malts.
The reality is that good bourbon is a quality product equal to malt whiskies, and I enjoy them both. Perception is often more important than reality and people convince themselves to like what they think they should like. After all very few like any whisky at first taste.
In the first place i have the same feeling as Harry about the matter without the Bourbon is inferiour part . Yet i find Nick's point more in common with my own opinion.
i totally disagree however with Peatreeks view (sorry about that).
In my opinion all whiskies are of the same quality generally speaking. I have the same affection and interest in blends, vatted, single malt- and grain, bourbon,Rye, irish whiskey etc. and would like to know all of them. However, even though they all inspire me that doesnt mean i find them all equally good in taste. Thats a matter of personal taste, and thats the solution to this topic i believe.
Americans are grown up with bourbon and rye, so it is only logical they have a natural favor for them. They grew in the distinctive flavor of those just like we belgians grow up with the different kinds of beer. However, here in europe (im gonna narrow it down to only Belgium cause then i know what im talking about) we learn to taste blends, then single malt, and only then is the step taken towards Bourbon and Rye.
The simple fact that we first grow in the malt flavors and learn to apreciate its complexity before we get confronted with the very sweetish corny flavors of bourbon is probably what causes many to put bourbon down. It tastes so very different then other whiskies that it needs time to develop. I must say, i try regularly a new bourbon but i still havent found my way in it. I keep sampling new ones because i realise its a flavor you must obtain (at least i hope so).
So i think its a matter of personal taste and the fact it tastes so different then other whiskies that makes it quite hard or unaccesseble for the common "european" whisky enthousiast to apreciate Bourbon.
Snobistic behaviour has nothing to do with it IMO.
The answer may be in the fact that it is called whiskey, and in calling it whiskey it is bound to be compaired with the best - scotch. If bourbon was called 'bourbon' and nothing else then it would stand in a class of it's own, as indeed rum does. Whisk(e)y is produced all around the world and no one could argue against the fact that, on average, the Scots produce the best. That then sets the benchmark against which all other whiskies are judged.
The bourbons that I have tried I'd find hard to rate above 5 out of 10, and yet the drink in front of me now (Ardbeg 10) I'd rate 9 out of 10, and that's just the standard bottle available everywhere - even Tesco! I have yet to taste a bourbon that has made me want to discover more about it, it's different expressions etc. So, maybe, it is just an inferior product, and that is why it has a bad name.
Or I could be completely wrong and need a guiding hand to introduce me the wonderful world of bourbon.
PS: If a like or dislike a drink it has nothing to do with where it comes from.
the best - scotch... no one could argue against the fact that, on average, the Scots produce the best.
Paul, do you see? You're assuming that the Scots make the best. And you're implying that you'd deny the use by others to use the term whiskey simply on those grounds, none other. I could see your point if any whisky from outside of Scotland tried to label itself "Scotch" (which used to occur). No offense, but you're like a bible thumper claiming the bible is true because it says so.
Go visit bamber and he'll walk you though a couple of good bourbons that can compete with Ardbeg 10 any day of the week.
hpulley wrote:It comes down to this: bourbon is grain whisky, not malt whisky. In scotch circles, malt whisky, especially single malt whisky made in pot stills in a 'traditional manner' (whatever that is) is thought of as the best. Grain whisky made in patent or column stills is seen as a lower form of whisky. Since there is no single malt bourbon that I'm aware of, scotch drinkers who place single malt scotch at the top of the rankings will not think much of any grain whisky, no matter how good.
I agree with Harry. I think people who are used to drinking whisky based on Barley (Scotch & Irish) would have some problems with whisky dominated by corn. Corn whisky is usually looked down upon compared with single malts - the corn whisky being the component of the hated "blended whisky" that many people dislike. If you don't like blended whisky, and Bourbon has a fair amount of "small grain" in it, you probably would look askance at it.
Aside from this, I also think there's a "new world" component to this lack of general acceptance of Bourbon. My father (dedicated scotch drinker) would look at a glass of bourbon as though someone was trying to poison him. On the other hand, my step-father who likes Cdn whisky quite likes the stuff. But try telling my step-father about the virtues of Irish whisky, and he'll look at you like "what're yer try'n ta do ta me"?
Hmmm... I forgot about Japanese whisky. I've only had Yamazaki, but it's a treat too.
Malt is an extremely likeable taste in it's many forms and in my opinion will always rule hands down no contest.
Ardaíonn ár ngrá muid féin níos airde i gcónaí!
I just noticed this thread. Where to start?
Bourbon and scotch are very different beasts and it is difficult to compare them. An apples and oranges sort of thing. Just as it is silly to dislike oranges because they don't taste like apples it is silly to dislike one style of whisky/whiskey because it doesn't taste like another style. Of course, you may prefer apples and always eat them in preference to oranges. Perhaps you may eat an orange from time to time for variety or because you are out of apples. But to say that oranges are 'bad' or 'inferior' because you personally don't like them as much as you like apples is kind of ridiculous. Taste is subjective, not objective.
MrTattieHeid wrote: Nevertheless, I try (not always successfully, alas) to be respectful of other people's choices, and I have read enough interesting things about bourbon here that I nearly bought a bottle last week.... Ah, too much good Scotch yet to be tried. One of these days.
Too bad I just read this. If I had known this when you visited TO, I would have suggested a couple of pubs/restaurants that sell good quality shots of the stuff. I guess I figured that living in the US, you'd probably have tried bourbon previously, and came to your own conclusions.
Without getting into the seemingly incoherent better/worse debate, I was able to detect only subtle variations in the nose or palate in the various bourbons that I had. Sure, a Makers Mark was different from a Jim Beam white label, but they did taste like siblings, or at least cousins.
In my limited exposure to bourbon, I have not come across variety like say, Ardbeg v/s Glenkinchie. The spectrum seems a lot narrower.
bond wrote:In my limited exposure to bourbon, I have not come across variety like say, Ardbeg v/s Glenkinchie. The spectrum seems a lot narrower.
1) I agree with what Bond said. It's not a comparison of quality comment, just an observation that I think is spot-on. Makers Mark and Bookers would seem to be the biggest gulf in terms of differences in taste. Scotch seems to have a wider variation in my experiance.
2) Bourbon is usually aged for less than scotch is. It doesn't have to be aged for 15yrs to be good. Scotch on the other hand has the age proudly displayed on the bottles. Who wouldn't be impressed by "Longmorn 15yrs old" as opposed to "Woodford Reserve" with no age statement.
I guess with the longer ageing advertised, the scotch has this cache that says "if you can afford me and my longer age, I'm worth it". Whisky enthusiasts tend to know better, but people buying gifts or buying for conspicuous consumption might want something more "flashy".
Just a thought.
I agree that there is a strong family resemblance among bourbons. However, speaking for myself, the differences are pronounced rather than subtle. There are 'cousins' that I really love to spend time with and other 'cousins' that I would rather not have at my table.
Ps. Oh, yes, of course, there is enormous range in Scotch. Amazing really.
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