Swap Bourbon For Islay Scotch For A More Peated Old Fashioned

The old fashioned is known as one of the best and simplest cocktails to ever exist. It exemplifies the true craft of minimalist mixology. Because there are so few ingredients that go into the drink, each one must perform at its best. At its core, it's a glass of bourbon mixed with Angostura bitters and some sugar. Within these limited confines, bartenders the world over have concocted some very fine variations. Why don't we try one now?

Islay is a sea-strewn island west of Glasgow with a total population that could fit comfortably within a mid-sized music venue. Its foot traffic may be small but its reputation in the whiskey world looms large. Islay scotch is known for its peat-forward flavor, combining the rich amber notes of malted barley with the primal earthiness of smoked peat. For those who don't know, peat is the layer of organic material that sits at the top of marshes and bogs.

Like many things from the Gaelic countryside, Islay scotch has an air of mystery and ancient history. By subbing out the sweet corn of bourbon for a wizened old pinch of Islay, you can transport your old fashioned game to new heights. Go light on the bitters, as the scotch will bring plenty of complexity, but keep the sugar added constant. If the drink comes across as too bold, peel the skin off an orange and pinch it to release the oils in a citrus spray over the glass.

The land of liquid gold

If you're wondering which Islay scotch to use instead of bourbon you're in luck. Although there are plenty of excellent distilleries to choose from, there are a few which stand above the rest. Ardbeg and Laphroaig are two well-known distilleries that you should have little trouble finding and each is an excellent introduction to the genre, especially if you're looking for the island's more peated products. They also happen to be on the more affordable side, which is better for cocktail experimentation. The Lagavulin 16-year-old is another easy recommendation. Although it's a bit higher up on the price scale, it makes up for that difference with its smoky and rich flavor.

Of course, there are too many Islay distilleries to name here and each has something unique to offer. For this cocktail, any of these will do. While we may not personally choose to pour a $300 bottle into an old fashioned, that's really between you and your bank account.

If you have a whiskey collection and are looking for something fun to do with it, grab a friend and make a bourbon old fashioned alongside an Islay old fashioned. Comparing the two will give you a better understanding of what makes the Scottish dram so much different from its American counterpart.