As our American visitors – past present and future – settle down around the table this November for what invariably promises to be a celebratory Thanksgiving dinner of epic proportions, we thought we’d take a wee look at the Scottish drams with tasting notes that focus on the sweet, spicy, vanilla flavours imparted by maturation in Bourbon casks.
American bourbon whiskey (that’s whiskey with an e!) is always matured in first-fill American oak barrels – whiskey-making law in the USA states that a barrel can only be used once to mature the water of life. Luckily for Scotland, it means that there are plenty of American oak barrels for Scotch whisky distillers to use – the softened oak characteristics lingering from the first fill giving the Scotch whisky a beautiful, and very distinctive flavour.
Are you a big bourbon fan? Here are a few whiskies from across the Scottish regions that you might well enjoy…
The American Oak is part of this Lowland distillery’s core range, and one you’ll often see on tour here at the Scotch Whisky Experience. Triple distilled and therefor lighter than most malts in character the classic toasted oak flavours of vanilla and coconut from the ex-bourbon casks come to the fore more than most.
Islay’s smallest distillery (though not smallest for much longer) is more known for its richly sweet sherry-matured peated malts. Machir Bay, named after a white sandy beach less than a mile from the distillery, has had some maturation time in Bourbon barrels, giving it notes of tropical fruits and soft vanilla that are a real game-changer alongside that classic Islay smokiness.
From Scotland’s highest distillery comes a Dalwhinnie that requires no introduction. Gently matured over 15 years, this bottling has classic bourbon-inspired notes of vanilla alongside the classic Highland heather flavours, the Dalwhinnie 15 has become a firm favourite with single malt enthusiasts worldwide.
Situated less than an hour from some of the central belt’s key cities, Deanston’s typically floral Highland aromas are complimented beautifully by some time, not just in ex-bourbon casks, but also in new or ‘virgin’ oak barrels sourced from a Kentucky cooperage. Such is the appeal of this Deanston staple that it’s become a favourite of the distillery’s many North American visitors throughout the year, and can be found as part of the tasting post-tour.
Similar to Deanston’s Virgin Oak, Tomatin’s non-age-statement Legacy spends its maturation time in both ex-bourbon casks and in new oak – a maturation technique that gives an extra boost of vanilla sweetness. . The result is a smooth whisky with softly sweet aromas of tropical fruits and freshly baked sponge cake.
The first fully-certified 100% organic whisky from a distillery that brand their Stillman ‘the fourth ingredient’, this virgin American oak-matured Speyside Scotch has flavours of sweet, ripe banana, white pepper and a lingering sweet fruitiness.
A staple ingredient for the key flavours of so many well-loved bourbon whiskies, we couldn’t leave out what’s become a really special example of a single grain Scotch. Haig Club’s distinctive blue bottle means you can’t miss it on the shelf, this cocktail-friendly whisky’s fresh, clean flavours of spicy wood, with notes of toffee, tropical fruit and butterscotch are ones you’ll immediately recognise among your favourite elements of a good Bourbon.
All these whiskies are available in our onsite Scotch Whisky Shop, or if you live in the UK, you can grab yourself a bottle via our website. (Over 18s only, please drink responsibly).