Top 5 Entry Level Scotches for a Bourbon Lover
Today we thought we would switch things up a bit and focus on our brother spirits from across the pond. I’ve always enjoyed scotch, but I never really knew exactly what I was drinking. In college, my go to scotch was Johnnie Walker Black, but that was all I really knew. I still enjoy JW, but thanks to my brother, my eyes have been fully opened to the wonderful world of scotch. We get asked all the time what scotches we recommend, so I figured today was the day to set the record straight. These are the Top 5 Entry Level Scotches for a Bourbon Lover.
To start us off I’m going with Oban 14. The Oban Distillery is located in the Highland area of Scotland. They call themselves West Highland, the perfect mix of the smokier sides of the Scottish Islands and the sweetness of the Highland style. Oban 14 is a single malt, which means that everything in bottle came from a single distillery and is made of solely malted barley, and this bottle comes in at 86 proof. What I love about the Oban 14 is that you get a stellar mixture of smokiness and sweetness. I think a lot of bourbon drinkers get pushed off of scotch because of the deep smoky flavor, or peatiness that comes with something like a Lagavulin or Laphroaig. This Oban has just enough smoke to get your feet wet without making you jump into the deep end. Expect to taste some citrus and pineapple with a bit of caramel and baking spice, and a hint of that salty smoke that makes this incredibly balanced. Expect it to retail for around $70. This bottle was a birthday gift from a few years ago and I just don’t want to finish it yet.
We are going with the Balvenie 14-year Caribbean Cask for our number 4. This was the very first scotch my wife ever bought me. She went to Churchill’s and told them her boyfriend was a bourbon guy but wanted to try scotch, and this is what they recommended back in December 2011. The Balvenie Distillery is a Speyside distillery located in Dufftown, Scotland. This 14 year single malt is interesting because it’s been aged for 14 years in traditional oak casks then they finish it in Caribbean Rum casks. This might be the sweetest scotch on my list. You will definitely get a lot of creamy toffee and rich vanilla with a hint of citrus. I recommend this Balvenie first for anyone who only drinks bourbon. The sweetness that the rum cask gives really helps bridge the gap between our American bourbons and those Scottish single malts. This retails around $80 now and is 86 proof.
Old Pulteney 12 comes in at number 3 on our list. I’d venture to guess that this was the most unknown scotch on the list until last year. My brother sold at least 15 cases at Calandro’s in 2018, so I think it’s a lot more popular now in Baton Rouge. Old Pulteney distillery is located in Pulteneytown of Caithness in the Highland area of Scotland. When tasting this, you’ll get a good amount of honey and cream with a fair amount of salt and a touch of spice. It’s very drinkable, especially at 80 proof. It’s the cheapest scotch on the list, coming in in the $40/$45. I definitely recommend you check it out soon.
Second place is none other than Glendronach 12. Glendronach Distillery is unique to this list as they are the only one owned by an American company, Brown-Forman. You have all enjoyed something from Brown-Forman before. They own Old Forester, Woodford Reserve, Early Times and Jack Daniels. Glendronach Distillery is in Aberdeenshire in the Highland area of Scotland. Their 12-year scotch is aged for 12 years in both Spanish Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso Sherry casks. The Oloroso Sherry is a medium dry wine whereas the PX sherry is a sweet, almost dessert wine. Double sherry finished scotch is commonly called a super-sherry. It’s non-chill filtered (which is relatively uncommon in scotch) and bottled at 86 proof. It retails for $50 or so right now. While enjoying this one you’ll get lots of creamy vanilla and ginger, tons of warm spiciness. This bottle made number 2 on my list for good reason, it’s not something you should sleep on.
The top spot on this list is the absolutely delicious Mortlach 12. I’m sure a fair amount of y’all have had Mortlach before because it’s the key component in several of the Johnnie Walker lineup. Mortlach Distillery is also located in Dufftown in the Speyside region of Scotland. My brother made me do a scotch tasting with him last month, and since then I’ve been enjoying tons of scotches. Every scotch I enjoyed, I kept on comparing to this Mortlach 12. Even weeks after, I’m still thinking about this fantastic single malt. I get a ton of lemon and buttercream on the tongue, and it has the best finish of any on this list. It is bottled at 86.8 proof and retails for $50. I feel like this is the best deal of any on this list because I would pay double for this scotch. It truly is one of the best scotches I’ve ever had. This is the definition of a scotch you do not want to ignore.
Well here’s my list of the best scotches to start with. Obviously, I focus on Highlands and Speysides as they fit my flavor profile. They really offer a great mixture of sweetness and smokiness. If you want to pick any of these up, go check out affiliates page on the website. There are some great retailers in the area who have been supporting BSoBR for years. Let me know your thoughts on the list and if you have any suggestions!