Home » Whiskey » On the Rocks – There’s some Bourbon in my Scotch – Anand Chintamani

On the Rocks – There’s some Bourbon in my Scotch – Anand Chintamani

Yes sure there is. Especially if your favorite Malt tipple is a light Speyside dram or one of the well known, highly peaty Islay Whiskies!

Warehouse filled with whisky laden barrels
Warehouse filled with whisky laden barrels

The Bourbon and the Scotch whisky industry are highly symbiotic or shall I say the Scots actually lean heavily on the Americans! And no I am not talking about the referendum*.

Because bourbon legally has to be aged in brand-new barrels, distilleries can’t reuse them. Instead, many of them are shipped off to Scotch companies who give them a second life aging their own spirits. An estimated 90 % of Distilleries in Scotland use American Oak to age their whiskies, especially the ones in Spey & Islay!

When they’re shipped overseas, several gallons of bourbon—most estimates I’ve heard range from about three to five gallons—remain trapped in the wood. While the barrels are ripped open, to make newer ones for the Scotch industry, there’s still residual bourbon in them! This trapped bourbon mixes in with the Scotch during the aging process, and gives the spirit much of its flavor.

That Bourbon has to be aged in brand –new barrels is a due to an old law** that was passed in 1933 just when America was coming out of Prohibition.

The requirement the timber industry in America was in decline and this was a way to ensure the distilleries would have to order more wood. The use of new barrels is what gives Bourbon its signature flavor profile and makes it sweeter than other styles of whisk(e)y.

Aberlour Tasting_1024

So the next time you’re sipping your favorite Malt, look deep in! There is some bourbon lurking in there & not Nessie’ the Lochness Monster!

Anand Chintamani

*The Scottish Government intends to hold a referendum of the Scottish electorate, on the issue of independence from the United Kingdom, on Thursday 18 September 2014, we know that, don’t we?

**Want proof? See the US Code of Federal Regulations, 27 CFR § 5.22(b)(1)(i) and 5.22(b)(1)(iii)).