Monday, April 30, 2012

Reader Poll: Scotch vs. American

In my first poll, I asked readers to decide between Irish and Canadian whiskeys. Now I figured I would go for the big Kahunas: Scotch or American whiskey. So here are the rules. You must pick between Scotch and American whiskey. If you pick Scotch, all Scotch will remain available, but all American whiskey will disappear, rapture-style, from the earth. Similarly, if you pick American whiskey, all of the Scotch will disappear.

For purposes of our little game, Scotch includes all Scotch whisky: single malts, blends, grain whiskey, etc. American whiskey also includes everything: bourbon, rye, corn whiskey, craft distilled malt and spelt whiskey, all of it.

So, which will it be and why?


Jason Pyle said...

I think you know what I would pick. I'm a specialist. That's the drawback of being OCD.

Make mine American in a landslide - not even close for me.

Jason Pyle said...

Failed to mention the "why" Part. Sorry for that. I tried to do so, but had a user error. So here goes again.

Simply put, variety is a big factor. Yes the craft whiskey movement is riddled with horrid bottlings, but there's no doubt things have dramatically gotten better in the last 12 months. Talking with so many of them, I'm always impressed with just how much they know about what they are doing. It will continue to improve. Until then, there's no doubt the world of whiskey is better for it.

Rye is the most underrated segment globally. Fantastic stuff. Now that some supply is catching up, we'll see this continue I believe.

And is there any better whiskey value in the world than great bourbon? It's not even close.

On top of it all, American whiskey is the most exciting in the world right now. It wins hands down for me. I'd miss my weekly single malt fix, but not enough to select Scotch.

Thirsty South said...

While I appreciate the range and sophistication of many great Scotch whiskeys, I have to vote American (thanks to rye most importantly).

spinningrecords said...

My vote goes to American Whiskey. There is just something about bourbon in particular that really floats my boat. The vanilla and caramel just can't be beat.

Ryan said...

I vote American.

I have to disagree with Jason though about variety - Scotch definitely delivers more variety of flavor. I have two reasons for American:
1) Price - American is so cheap, much better value than Scotch, and
2) Bourbon is simply a more delicious and enjoyable drink than Scotch. I can't make myself care about all the subtle complexities; just give me a good drink, please.

Anonymous said...

What Ryan said. Price & taste. Plus Americans are beginning to incorporate some of what lends more variety to scotch (e.g. barrel finishing). American for me.

- Parkersback on SB

Tim Read said...

Difficult choice!

Though honestly, not so difficult.

I'm going to throw the first vote in for scotch.

I love American whiskies. Price can't be beat; I think there's much more inventiveness in general.

However, the average bottle of scotch is, in my opinion, better than the average American whisky. You have to generally nudge towards the premium offerings to get into really good American whiskies; you can get really good scotches quite easily.

Now, I will say the most transcendent whisky I've ever had was American (though there is an old Islay bottling that is now putting that into deep question), but I look back on my scores and I've had far more scotches tip into the "Excellent" category for me. Among those, quite a difference in taste.

So, while I would miss some of the variety in American spirits, I've gotta go with scotch.

Dustin said...


I wonder if the location of the voter influences the vote. Will more Europeans vote for Scotch? We'll have to see in the morning.

sku said...

D, for people who enjoy both, there is certainly a cost issue based on location. European bourbon prices can be absurd whereas American whiskey prices are much cheaper than Scotch for us. (Interestingly, I don't think we pay that much more for most Scotch than they do).

AaronWF said...

I'm full steam ahead on American whiskey. Scotch has been nurtured by society for its entire existence, whereas American whiskey is still feeling the impact of Prohibition. Though I lack the objective experience to know it's true, I've heard it said elsewhere: Now is the time of the American whiskey renaissance. And it won't be cheaper than it is now.

For me, scotch is like a great tv series that I've only seen a few episodes of; I have something to look forward to should I ever get tired of the continuing saga that is American whiskey. I've seen some great scotch episodes and am happy to continue in that manner, except in the case of Sku's rapture, of course, I'll marry American.

NP said...


Not because it is "better" but because I perceive american whiskeys as more joyful, less intellectual, more pleasurable.
The same reasons really why I would prefer to drive a muscle car rather than a vintage jaguar if I had to choose.

Florin said...

Sku, I didn't mind the Irish vs. Canadian that much, but now you've done it! This is an apocalyptic scenario, much scarier than whatever Hollywood will come up with over the summer. You cruel, cruel man! Sophie's Choice and all that. My vote goes with Scotch. That may well be due to the cask strength Laphroaig that I'm sipping. If it were instead a Willett single barrel, who knows?

Steffen said...

I refuse to answer this question :-)


Jason Beatty said...

American whiskey. Apart from growing up in KY, I love the corn in bourbon!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sku
Thanks for all your input. This is really easy for me. For consistency, I say scotch, but for greatness, I say, American hands down and for really bad, I say American too. Scotch is consistently not as good as great bourbon and ryes.
Easy, Whiskey>Whisky! Jean

Lazer said...




I mean, uhhh..., bourbon tastes good, scotch tastes bad. I'm not sure I understand the question.

Josh Feldman said...

Scotch all the way. I concur that in terms of innovation and new distillery development Scotland can't hold a candle to the USA, but Scotland has a huge lead in regional variation in flavor profiles, the clear signal of terroir, the wide range of flavor profiles manifested by more complex barrel management - particularly different barrel finishes, and the variations in peat and maritime flavors put Scotland ahead of the world in sheer range of flavors.

I deeply love bourbon, and would never actually choose. But if I had to there's simply much more to explore in Scotch.

James said...

Although bourbon's value is tough to beat, for sheer variety of flavors and overall quality, scotch gets the nod from me. While there are some great bourbons out there (BTAC, Pappy, etc), my top 3 whiskys of all time are all scotch.

Tom said...

I have to go with scotch. The greater variability of flavor profiles as well as just a greater variety of established distilleries with impressive and old stocks... Depending on the rules of this game, I may have to change my mind to American if there were no longer bourbon barrels for scotch producers to use for maturation (after all, American whiskey is gone as we know it). I guess there's a benefit to using new oak.

Allen said...


Anonymous said...

Thought this woule be a run away victory for Scotch, but glad to see American Whiskey holding its own.

Cast another vote for American!!