By Richard Thomas
While bourbon barbecue sauce is a staple of restaurants and the sauce industry, the use of scotch to add more flavor to barbecue sauce goes largely overlooked. This is probably because the bastion of barbecue is found in the American South and not Scotland, but even so, that doesn’t mean other forms of whiskey have nothing to add to a homemade or home-doctored barbecue sauce.
The main question here is what kind of scotch to use, and there are three main flavor aspects to consider: sweet, smoky, and woody. If sweet is what you want, forget scotch and go straight back to Four Roses, Jack Daniel’s, or something like them. Sweet scotch tends to be floral, malty or citrusy, and the sweetness you want in a barbecue sauce is syrupy, so scotch is all wrong for a sweet whiskey sauce. For smoky and/or woody, on the other hand, it works just fine. A smoky scotch adds to any smoky barbecue flavor, whereas a slightly astringent woodiness can put some sharp balance on any big raw sugar, maple, or molasses flavors. VAT69 and Famous Grouse are good ideas for capturing the desired flavors.
If you want to make your own sauce from scratch, follow my sauce recipe and simply substitute the scotch of your choice for bourbon. However, you can choose to simply doctor a commercial barbecue sauce with scotch instead, and use that as a marinade. In the pictured example, all I did was use Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce with two tablespoons of DYC 8 Year Old (a scotchy Spanish whiskey) mixed in. The result was as good as any whiskey barbecue sauce I’ve tried to date.