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Bourbon vs Scotch vs Whiskey vs Brandy (2024 Updated)

Bourbon vs Scotch vs Whiskey vs Brandy

Last Updated on March 20, 2024 by Lydia Martin

When it comes to spirits, people are having difficulty spotting the differences between Scotch, bourbon, whiskey, and brandy. In fact, we’ve been receiving many requests to compare four of the most famous liquors worldwide.

We hear you, so here’s our take on bourbon vs Scotch vs whiskey vs brandy. Which spirit suits you better? Read on and find out!

Brandy, Bourbon, Scotch, & Whiskey Comparison

Brandy, Bourbon, Scotch & Whiskey 

Bourbon, brandy, Scotch, and whiskey are all in the same family of liquors. Yes, the liquors are related because they belong to the family of grain drinks. What’s more amazing is that brandy and Cognac are made from fermented grapes (Ugni Blanc) until they become wine. 

While bourbon, brandy, Scotch, and whiskey have a fair share of similarities, they also have differences from each other. People get confused about these facts: All bourbons are whiskey, but whiskeys are not always bourbons.

All Scotches are whiskey, but whiskeys are not always Scotch. Lastly, all Cognacs are brandy, but brandy is not always Cognac. So, what’s the deal?

Key Differences

Key Differences

Maturation Process

The maturation process is an important thing for any distilled liquor. The spirit must be aged in oak barrels for three years when it comes to whiskeys. Bourbons should be aged for at least two years in new charred American oak barrels.  

On the other hand, Scotch must be matured in wooden casks for at least three years, while brandies that are 90% pot-distilled should be aged for three years in French oak barrels.  

Production Process

Oak Barrels

The UK highly regulates the production of Scotch that it must be produced in Scotland, distilled from grain mash bills, and fermented by adding yeast [1]. Bourbon is distilled twice to boost the alcohol content of the liquor and to remove impurities from fermented grain mash. It can be made in Bourbon County, Kentucky, or any part of the US as long as it passes the bourbon standards.

Whiskey is either double distilled or triple distilled using copper pot stills [2]. Liquors become purer and lighter because of the distillation process, giving higher alcohol content. On the other hand, brandy undergoes double distillation before its aging process in wooden barrels.

Base Ingredients

The base ingredients of whiskey, brandy, bourbon, and Scotch give distinct taste and profile to each distilled spirit. Bourbon is made from a grain mash bill with at least 51% corn, while whiskey is made from malted barley or other grains. 

On the contrary, Scotch is made from a mash of cereal grains and malted barley, and brandy is made from wine, and the wine is commonly made from grapes grown in Southwestern France or other fermented fruit. 

Flavor Notes & Aroma

Scotch Whiskies

Disclaimer: There are endless flavors and aromas in each liquor type, but for comparison purposes, we only included some flavors to mention in this section.

Bourbon whiskey has a sweeter flavor than other whiskeys, and it has notes of caramel, oak, and vanilla. The four major categories of bourbon flavor notes are as follows: nutmeg forward, cinnamon forward, caramel forward, and grain forward. Brandy has a subtly sweet taste, but because of new oak casks, it has flavor notes of French oak. 

Compared to bourbon, Scotch whiskey has a sharp and distinct flavor. It is smoother, buttery, spicy, and malty with oak, dark chocolate, and peaty notes. On the other side, whiskey is salty, smoky, malty, and has a deep complexity. 

Alcohol Content

Bourbon whiskey is bottled at 40% – 50% alcohol by volume (ABV) or 80 to 100 proof, and to achieve it, it has to undergo distillation twice. Scotch maintains 40% – 43% alcohol by volume (ABV), but you can find scotch whiskies up to 57% ABV. Based on UK Law, it should not be lower than 40%. But how many calories are in a Scotch?

Not all types of whiskey are the same, but the alcohol content to be called whiskey should be in the range of 40% – 68% alcohol by volume. On the other hand, brandy should meet the 35% – 60% alcohol content requirements to be considered one.

Also Read:

Requirements For Labeling

Proper Twelve

When it comes to bourbon, it should be 51% corn, distilled with a maximum of 80%, and barrelled at a maximum of 62.5 %. It should also be matured in new charred oak barrels. Scotch must be distilled in Scotland, and its mash bill should contain malted barley and other grains.

Not all whiskey is the same regarding labeling requirements, which applies to types of whiskey like rye whiskey, Irish whiskey, Tennessee whiskey, and corn whiskey. Aside from specific mash bills, wye whiskey should be aged for a minimum of 2 years, while Tennessee whiskey must undergo Lincoln County Process (sugar maple charcoal). 

Brandy should be made from distilled fermented grapes (fruit wine) or other fruits. It should undergo twice distillation and be stored in charred oak barrels to be good for the taste buds. 


The price of each spirit depends on the base ingredients, origin, production process, and maturity, but of all the four spirits, Scotch is more expensive than bourbon. 

On the other hand, brandy is cheaper than whiskey (Irish whiskey, rye whiskey, and blended whiskey). The grape varieties, distilled wine, and production costs for spirits make it more expensive than other alcohols. 

Read: Rye vs Bourbon

Are There Similarities?

Are There Similarities?

Bourbon & Brandy

Bourbon and brandy are two different distilled liquors that work great when served as cocktails. You may want to try out different straight bourbon and brandies cocktail recipes. 

Since brandy is a white wine aged in American charred oak barrels, it gives a distinct brown color, almost the same as bourbon. In addition, bourbon and brandies have almost the same flavor notes. 

Scotch & Whiskey

Redbreast 12 year

Not all whiskey is considered Scotch, but Scotch is considered a whisky (but without e) because they share the same base ingredients – malted grains. While there are certain restrictions to consider Scotch a Scotch whisky, both Scotch and whiskey use grains like barley, malted rye, and wheat.

In addition, both whiskey and Scotch are best consumed neat because of their exceptional taste and floral notes. Also, how do you order whiskey at a pub?

Is Bourbon Considered Brandy?

No, bourbon is not considered a brandy but a type of whiskey. Brandy is made from fermented wine (usually red wine), while bourbon is made from distilled fermented grain mash. It may have similarities in colors and taste; you cannot consider bourbon a brandy and vice versa. 

According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, an “authentic” bourbon must be produced in the United States, while brandy does not have a restriction on its production location.

In addition, whiskey bourbon is more expensive than brandy because it needs to be aged for at least two years.

Is Scotch The Same As Whiskey? 

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Yes, Scotch is the same as whiskey. However, it should be made in Scotland only. Scotch is made from the base ingredients of whiskey, but unlike whiskey, Scotch has its own regulations to be considered one.

There are different types of Scotch whisky depending on its mash, but single malt Scotch and blended Scotch are the two most famous types of whiskey made from the same distillery. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you mix brandy and whiskey together?

Yes, you can mix brandy and whiskey together. Combining these alcoholic beverages, you can make a Saratoga by adding equal parts of whiskey (bourbon, too) and brandy and sweet vermouth, ice, and bitters to blend. It seems like you are drinking a mix of Manhattan and Metropolitan drinks. 

Is brandy smoother than whiskey?

Yes, brandy is smoother than whiskey because brandy is made from fermented fruits (and wine), while whiskey is made from fermented grains. It is smoother to drink, on a sweeter side, and does not burn, unlike whiskey. 

Which is better, brandy or Scotch?

Determining whether brandy or Scotch is “better” is subjective and depends on individual preferences. Brandy is a distilled wine or fermented fruit juice, offering a rich and fruity flavor profile. It can vary from light and delicate to dark and robust. On the other hand, Scotch refers specifically to whiskey made in Scotland, typically known for its smoky and peaty characteristics. The choice between brandy and Scotch depends on personal taste preferences, as both have diverse styles and unique qualities.

Is Jack Daniel’s a bourbon?

No, Jack Daniel’s is not classified as a bourbon. Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee whiskey. While bourbon and Tennessee whiskey share similarities, there are distinct differences in their production processes.

Both are American whiskies, but Tennessee whiskey, like Jack Daniel’s, undergoes an additional charcoal filtering process known as the Lincoln County Process, which involves filtering the whiskey through sugar maple charcoal before aging.

Is bourbon a Scotch or whiskey?

Bourbon and Scotch are both types of whiskey, but they have different production methods and geographic origins. Bourbon is a type of American whiskey, primarily made from at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels.

Scotch, on the other hand, is whisky made in Scotland and often aged in used barrels, with various styles including single malt, blended malt, and single grain. While both fall under the category of whiskey, they have distinct characteristics and production regulations.

Is brandy considered a whiskey?

Brandy and whiskey are distinct categories of distilled spirits. Brandy is made from fermented fruit juice, typically grapes, apples, or pears. It has a diverse range of styles, including Cognac and Armagnac.

Whiskey, on the other hand, is a distilled grain spirit, with variations such as bourbon, rye, and Scotch. While both brandy and whiskey undergo fermentation and distillation, their base ingredients and production processes differ significantly.

What is the healthiest alcohol to drink?

The concept of the “healthiest” alcohol is complex and depends on various factors. In moderation, some studies suggest that red wine may offer certain health benefits due to the presence of antioxidants, like resveratrol.

However, these potential benefits should be balanced with considerations such as alcohol content and individual health conditions.

It’s important to note that excessive alcohol consumption can have negative health effects.

Clear spirits like vodka, gin, or tequila may have fewer congeners, compounds associated with hangovers, compared to darker spirits.

Ultimately, the healthiest alcohol to drink is one consumed responsibly, in moderation, and in consideration of individual health circumstances.

Which is stronger, whisky or brandy?

The strength of whisky and brandy is measured in terms of alcohol by volume (ABV). Both spirits can vary in strength, and the determination of which is “stronger” depends on the specific brand and style. Typically, whisky and brandy have comparable ABV levels, ranging from 40% to 60%.

The strength of each drink is influenced by factors such as the distillation process, aging period, and whether any dilution or blending has occurred. In general, the alcohol content is a critical factor in assessing the strength of both whisky and brandy.

Why is it called bourbon?

Bourbon gets its name from Bourbon County in Kentucky, USA. The origin of the name is linked to the whiskey’s historical production in the region. While Bourbon County is no longer a major center for bourbon production, the term has persisted.

To be legally labeled as bourbon, the whiskey must meet specific criteria set by the U.S. government, including being produced in the United States, made from at least 51% corn, and aged in new charred oak barrels.

Is Jim Beam a bourbon?

Yes, Jim Beam is a bourbon. Jim Beam is a well-known American whiskey brand that has been producing bourbon since 1795.

It is one of the best-selling bourbon brands globally. Jim Beam adheres to the legal requirements for bourbon production, including using a mash bill with at least 51% corn, aging the whiskey in new charred oak barrels, and meeting other stipulations to be classified as a bourbon.

What qualifies as bourbon?

To qualify as bourbon, a whiskey must meet specific legal requirements outlined by the U.S. government. These criteria include:

Location: Bourbon must be produced in the United States.

Mash Bill: The mash bill, or grain mixture, must contain at least 51% corn.

Distillation: Bourbon must be distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume) and entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof.

Aging: Bourbon must be aged in new charred oak barrels.

Bottling Strength: Bourbon must be bottled at a minimum of 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume).

Meeting these criteria ensures that a whiskey can legally be classified as bourbon. It is worth noting that these regulations contribute to the unique characteristics and flavor profile associated with bourbon.

Can I use Scotch instead of brandy?

While Scotch and brandy have distinct flavor profiles, they are both types of distilled spirits and can be used in certain contexts as substitutes for one another, depending on the recipe.

However, it’s essential to recognize that Scotch is whisky produced in Scotland, and it often has a smoky and peaty flavor due to the production process. Brandy, on the other hand, is a fruit-based spirit with a diverse flavor range.

When substituting one for the other, consider the impact on the overall taste of the dish or cocktail. It’s advisable to experiment and adjust quantities based on personal preferences.

Bourbon Vs Scotch Vs Whiskey Vs Brandy

Knowing the difference between whiskey, brandy, bourbon, and Scotch is important because it hints at what’s inside the bottle and if it’s worth the price tag. 

From main ingredients, maturation, production process to price point, the four spirits are related but still different from each other.  

Do you have your favorite types of whiskey, Scotch, bourbon, or brandy? Comment down below!  


  1. The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009

  2. Distilling: How Does It Work?
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