Interviewer: It’s the formula for crafting the perfect whiskey, a recipe consisting of very clean water and high quality barley but if this concoction is brewed outside of Scotland you can’t call it Scotch. So what’s a distiller to do? Spirits Connoisseur Charles Passy is here to explain, welcome to you.
Charles: Hey, Hey
Interviewer: It’s really interesting because you know i didn’t know that you can’t call it Scotch if it’s not made in Scotland.
Charles: Yeah there are rules, the Scotch Whisky Association has it’s own rules and protects them but even in individual countries like in the USA the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) controls alcohol and they say you can’t call something Scotch if it’s not made in Scotland. So there are very stringent rules governing this.
Interviewer: OK but the distillery you visited was in Denver, Colorado, and you said it’s really hard to tell the difference between this and Scotch because it tastes like Scotch.
Charles: Well yes and no, what I would say is that the ingredients are the same, you know malted barley is a pretty good grain to make malted whisky from and the basic formula for making whisky is malted barley and a good source of clean water and you can do that pretty much anywhere around the world. Is it the same as Scotch? Well yes and no, it can almost be like Scotch but there are different ageing techniques.
Part of what’s going on here is the kind of barrels you put it in, the temperature of the room where the whisky is kept, a lot of that influences the final product. You could say that this is Scotch like, but it may not be exactly like Scotch.
Interviewer: Ok and it’s not only here in America they are also making Scotch or “Psuedo-Scotch” or “Faux-Scotch”… there are a lot of different terms for it.
Charles: They are making this from France to Australia to other parts of the United Kingdom, and pretty much every country is getting in on this Scotch game. In fact in Japan it’s such a huge seller that there are some actually suggesting that the Japanese version of Scotch is better than the Scotch version of Scotch.
Interviewer: OK what do you think?
Charles: Well I would say that the Japanese stuff is quite good but that is almost in the exact style of Scotch, what you have here in America is, and Stranahan’s is a pretty good example of it, is you do taste some of the malted barley you do get the taste from the grain but what you also get is a different taste from the wood. They use a different type of wood than you would find in Scotland they use New American Oak so you get a little bit more impact, one person I interviewed called it a lumber-yardy taste. I know that sounds negative but he meant it in a positive way, you get that kind of fresh wood taste layered in with the grain. You know their would be echoes of Scotch because you’ve got the malted barley but you know it’s got its own thing too.
Interviewer: And for those of you who can’t be here you’ve got that aroma.
Charles: Exactly and you really do get the wood on the nose and there’s a certain amount of sweetness that comes through, I mean yeah absolutely.
Interviewer: OK well lets drink! O man yeah their is a sweetness there.
Charles: Yeah and I would say a lot more sweetness than you would get with say a Scotch. Scotch is typically made with ex-bourbon barrels, so they have barrels which have been used once to make bourbon. So in some ways it’s like you’re getting the echo of that wood flavour in Scotch, here you’re getting it much more of the direct wood flavour but you know there are other formulas for making this American Scotch too. I mean Stranahan’s goes at it one way. There are other ways of doing it too.
Interviewer: OK so there’s a real trend of people getting into this business, right?
Charles: Right, I mean it’s a huge business in general, I think whiskey is a huge business in general right now we’ve seen it with bourbon, we’ve seen it with Scotch sales. Particularly in Scotch with the single malt sales category and it kind of makes sense that other people would want to jump in on this with our own version of Scotch. Again barley is one of the worlds most universal grains it’s not really hard to find barley so it’s not hard to make this type of whiskey throughout the world.
Interviewer: What I like about this is that it does have a sweet edge to it but it’s very authentic as opposed to some of the newer things that you see coming out in the whisky market like watered down with honey.
Charles: No this is not a flavoured whisky or whatever this is its own thing. What’s nice about Stranahan’s is that it’s under the 50 dollar mark, well under the 50 dollar mark, a lot of Scotch is well over the $50 dollar mark these days so it’s an affordable luxury I would say.
Interviewer: OK thank you Charles Passy always a pleasure to have you on, you always bring the good stuff, thanks a lot.