Jonwin wrote:Is there a way to pin point the difference in the taste between a good American rye whiskey and a good malt (blended or single) whisky?
Any 'real' rye whiskey worth its salt will exhibit a distinctive bittersweet 'snap' that cuts through whatever overt sweetness the whiskey (American, Canadian or perhaps from somewhere else) might otherwise display. This flavour characteristic (often somewhat analogous to a combination of fruity sweetness and gingery bite, and periodically reminiscent of cranberries) is miles from what one finds in most Scotches.
Jonwin wrote:Is the Nikka Pure Malt also as good as the Nikka From The Barrel?
Though I haven't tried the Nikka Pure Malt, I have (on many occasions) enjoyed the Nikka 12 Year Old Taketsuru (a melding of whiskies from Nikka's 2 distillery sites). This one's much less 'in your face' than the Nikka From The Barrel. However, it's still very pleasurable, and not too far off what one might expect to find in a Lowland or Southern Highland malt Scotch whisky. (The Taketsuru is still, however, rather distinctive.)
If, nonetheless, you ever have the opportunity to taste any single distillery Nikka issues (Sendai or Yoichi), don't pass it up!
Jonwin wrote:Are most Bourbons drunk from a low ball glass in an old fashioned manner like a good Scotch?
You can drink Bourbon in a lowball glass (tumbler), especially if you're doing the 'on the rocks' thing. Myself... I usually prefer to taste Bourbon in a standard (whiskey or Cognac) tasting glass, just as I would a Scotch.
Jonwin wrote:A recommendation for a good book on whisky in general (I have the Michael Jackson 6th Edition, but it focuses almost entirely on single malt Scotch)
Lately, I've been perusing the following books quite frequently, and enjoying the read:
WORLD WHISKEY by Charles MacLean - A pretty good primer that covers a vast array of whiskies from around the globe
THE WORLD ATLAS OF WHISKY by Dave Broom - Notable for its tasting notes, which include impressions of new makes (i.e. the whiskies as they taste fresh off the still)
101 WHISKIES TO TRY BEFORE YOU DIE by Ian Buxton - A fun-filled analysis of (naturally) 101 whiskies that's independently spirited (excuse the pun).