April 27, 2012
The Toast: Scotch vs. Bourbon
By David Draper
When it comes to the brown liquor, I’ve never been too fond of bourbon. I don’t mind it in a cocktail such as an Old-Fashioned (though, even then, I prefer a rye or Canadian blend), but neat or on the rocks—it’s just not my thing. For Field & Stream deputy editor Colin Kearns, however, not liking bourbon is akin to not liking America. So when he learned I’m more a Scotch man, he scoffed: “I’ll take bourbon over that stuff any day of the week.” Well, what better day of the week than Friday, when we could all use a drink. So, what’ll you have: Scotch or bourbon?
David’s Talisker 10-Year
There was a time when I thought any brown whisky tasted like dirt. Of course, I also once considered Mad Dog 20/20 and Keystone Light the recipe for an awesome night. Thankfully, I got older and maybe a bit wiser and learned to appreciate the finer things in life. Good scotch whisky being one of them. A smooth blended bottle like Famous Grouse was my gateway to Scotch and still the go-to pour for casual drinking, but for special occasions, say to commemorate punching my elk tag, I tip a little something better into my glass, such as Talisker 10-year, or maybe if I’m flush, the 12. Rattling the rocks a few times, I inhale the ancient aromas of smoke and peat--redolent of a crisp, fall morning. But it’s that first sip that catches the heart and flutters the stomach, not unlike the feeling you get when you first catch a glimpse of that bull as he slips through the timber.
Colin’s Four Roses Single Barrel
I love Four Roses for the same reasons William Faulkner did: because it’s affordable and easy to find. And because it’s just so damn good. There’s sweetness from the vanilla and honey. There’s spice from the cloves and anise. There’s char from the oak barrel. This is my favorite bourbon, but it’s hardly the best bourbon. The best bourbon is whatever’s there when the occasion arises. That one time when we were all sitting around the campfire, listening to country music and cracking jokes, it was a plastic bottle of Old Charter. That night in North Carolina, after I’d killed my first-ever deer, it was Woodford Reserve on the rocks alongside biscuits drowning in molasses. Or that first evening at duck camp, when one of the other hunters broke out his mandolin and starting singing John Prine’s “Paradise,” it was Wild Turkey 101 in Styrofoam cups. In those moments, you can have your peaty—and insufferably smoky—single-malt. Give me the bourbon, the best you’ve got.