The world of spirits is vast, but whisky drinkers have the tendency to stick to one category. For scotch lovers, even bourbon can prove to be a bridge too far. That’s a shame, as there is a lot of distilled deliciousness to discover.
Scotch is the golden liquid of the gods, and once imbibers go down its path, many never deviate. This is understandable, because Scotch—and whisky in general—is an immensely diverse spirit. So much so that even the most experienced whisky drinker can experience something new after a lifetime of immersion.
However, if you’re feeling adventurous, there is a whole world of booze to discover outside of whisky. Depending on your preference as a whisky drinker, we can find you a spirit, be it one made from grain, grapes, agave or molasses.
So what do you say? Are you feeling adventurous? Great! Let us help you ease into some of the other wonderful spirit categories. These alternatives won’t make you get rid of your Macallan, but they will easily sit alongside your precious single malt, earning your respect one sip at a time.
Sherried & Rich
Don’t we all love a proper sherry bomb every once in a while? A thick, syrupy, oloroso matured Scotch, filled with aromas of red fruit and (if you’re lucky), some of that savory rancio. It’s the reason that some whisky aficionados dabble in the world of sherry.
But have you ever thought about grape distillates? Often distilled with impeccable craftsmanship, in an old Alambic à repasse or Alambic Armagnacais, these spirits mature in high-quality European oak casks. Here are some armagnac, cognac and brandy selections that are similar in character to those sherry matured whiskies that you’ve grown to love.
Floral & Fruity
Some of the most legendary Scotch whiskies are the ones that display an incredible amount of fruitiness. Think of an abundance of orchard fruit deliciousness. If you’re a sucker for a fruity dram, maybe try your hand at a fruit distillate. Could be a classic calvados, or a fruit brandy from a different part of the world.
Peaty & Smoky
That all Scotch is smoky (a very persistent prejudice) is far from the truth. However, it is one of the more popular subgenres of Scotch. Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin are some of the biggest brands, and for a good reason. Smokiness is something you can find in other spirits as well, like a good mezcal for instance. We’ll only include two aged examples here, as to not to stray too far from your comfort zone.
Malty & Spicy
If you’re in the mood for some nuanced sipping, look no further. These suggestions are probably the alternatives most resembling whisky, as these they are distilled from grains. We’re talking of course about Genever. These examples are distilled from different grains (often rye, corn and barley), with only a restraint use of botanicals.
Filliers 1997 Single Estate Pure & Rare Barrel Aged Grain Genever – As close to a Speysider as possible
Zuidam 5 Year Zeer Oude Genever – Lots of oak with subtle spices
Bols 6 Year Corenwyn – Malty with vibrant spices
So there you have it. We’ve given you more than a dozen recommendations that should get you started on your journey outside of Scotch whisky. Now it’s up to you to be open-minded, and get to discovering.