Bartenders Shout Out The Best Scotch Whiskies For Bourbon Fans

Many whisk(e)y fans are creatures of habit. You know, the sorts of drinkers who exclusively stick to rye, Tennessee whiskey, scotch, or bourbon, depending on their personal preferences. We get it, of course — tried and true is tried and true for a reason. But the world (especially the whiskey world) is far too full of vibrant flavors and experiences to pigeonhole yourself.

Today, we’re reaching out to bourbon fans and urging you all to stretch a little. We get that you love your corn-based whiskey, aged in American oak, with its sweet vanilla and caramel notes. It’s always there for you with its famed “Kentucky hug.” But we’re here to put you on to the joys of scotch whisky — which can present similar flavor profiles.

If you know where to look, that is.

“Keep your eye out for scotches produced in the Highland Region of Scotland,” says Zach Wilks, bartender at Anthony’s Chophouse in Carmel, Indiana. “Highland scotches tend to be a little bit sweeter.”

To drill down a little further and get some specific bottle recommendations, we asked a handful of bartenders for their favorite scotch whiskies for bourbon whiskey fans.

Glenmorangie Nectar D’or

Jarred Craven, founder of Craven Cocktails and USBG bartender in Los Angeles

I’ve long been a bourbon drinker, but one of my early forays into scotch was Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or. I still think it was the right choice. The dessert wine cask finish boosts the sweetness, spice, and vanilla — all the things a bourbon drinker will love about this Scotch.

Compass Box Hedonism

Peter Fielder, bartender at The Club at Wingtip in San Francisco

The best scotch whisky for fans of bourbon is Compass Box Hedonism. The use of aging in former bourbon barrels, blend of grain whiskies, caramel, vanilla coconut will resonate with bourbon fans.

The Glenrothes Bourbon Cask Reserve

Frederic Yarm, blogger for CocktailVirgin and USBG bartender in Boston

The Glenrothes Bourbon Cask Reserve utilizes solely first fill bourbon barrels, which provides a better flavor parallel to the American spirit than traditional scotch aging in various barrel types. Glenrothes’ nutty, honey, and spice notes — without much detectable peat smoke — is very understandable to an American whiskey drinker seeking to enjoy traditional American oak-derived flavors complementing the malt ones.

Bowmore 15

Jackie Keogh, bartender at The Lobby Bar at Four Seasons Resort in Orlando

My love of whiskey has grown immensely over the years and I owe the transition from bourbon appreciation into the realm of scotch entirely to Bowmore 15. It has the iconic peat of an Islay scotch that is mellowed by its time spent aging in bourbon barrels and then finished in Oloroso sherry barrels. The combination of malt, peat, and style of aging produces a complex whisky with a smoky nose, rich toffee flavors, and sweet sherry finish.

Bowmore 15’s complexity and balance would be a welcome treat for any avid bourbon drinker and is a must to add to your list of whiskies to try.

Glenlivet Founders Reserve

Carlos Lopez, bar manager at Stiltsville Fish Bar in Miami

Glenlivet Founders Reserve is aged with American oak casks — giving it a more approachable taste to an American bourbon palate. It’s creamy, sweet, and full of flavors that appeal to bourbon fans.

The Singleton Glendullan 12

Jess Thorson, bartender at TORO Kitchen & Lounge in Snowmass, Colorado

The Singleton Glendullan 12. It’s a single malt that’s been matured in oak barrels used for bourbon. It’s great for bourbon fans because of its sweet, caramel, and vanilla flavors with subtle hints of cinnamon.

The Dalmore 12

Zach Wilks, bartender at Anthony’s Chophouse in Carmel, Indiana

The Dalmore 12 is my go-to for highland whisky. It spends its first nine-years in bourbon barrels, so it picks up a lot of those characteristics of vanilla, caramel, and subtle char.

The Balvenie 12 Year Doublewood

Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami

The Balvenie 12 Year Doublewood has a very smooth flavor due to the dual maturation of the same single malt. Peatiness can deter bourbon drinkers from enjoying scotch, but this bottle is mild in peat while not losing that characteristic taste entirely.

Glenfiddich Bourbon Barrel Reserve 14

Jeremy Allen, bartender at MiniBar in Los Angeles

Glenfiddich does a 14 Year finished in bourbon barrels — which is the perfect bridge for those on the path from bourbon to scotch. While it’s aged for 14 years in ex-bourbon barrels, it’s finished in charred, new American oak barrels to give it an extra kick of flavor.

The Dalmore 15

Andy Printy, beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis

The Dalmore 15 Year will blow most bourbon drinkers’ minds. The body is exquisite. The nose is sweet spice and dank lumber. As you put it to the tongue, it surges with warm toffee, caramel, and almost no heat. The finish is easily as smooth and honey-like as any “allocation” bourbon on the market.

Lagavulin 12

Efren López Fernandez, bartender at Banyan Tree in Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Lagavulin 12 is my pick. I like the smoky notes and the malt flavor. It’s a great gateway for bourbon fans who want to get into smokier whiskies.

Aberfeldy 12

Gabriel Urrutia, co-founder of Drink Miami and USBG bartender in Miami

I love Aberfeldy 12 with its use of first-fill bourbon barrels. It also comes in at a great price point — so you’re comfortable drinking it on the rocks, neat or in a cocktail. The bourbon barrel gives it the added flavors of toasted caramel and sweet vanilla.