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Scotch vs Irish Whiskey: What’s the Difference? (2022)

Last Updated on August 3, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Getting your spirits mixed up is quite too common, especially if they share almost the same qualities, flavor, and sophisticated look. Surprisingly, Scotch and Irish Whiskey aren’t an exception to this.

Our team spent 48 hours researching and compiling the similarities and differences between the two spirits!

Irish Whiskey or Scotch – Primary Differences

Irish and Scotch Whiskey Brands on desk 

One of the primary differences between the Scotch and Irish Whiskey is that Scotch is a product of Scotland while the latter is from Ireland. Aside from that, Scotch whisky is made from malted barley to taste fuller and heavier. 

At the same time, Irish Whiskey is a combination of malted and unmalted barley that gives a smooth flavor and notes of vanilla.  

Closer Look at the Differences

Closer Look at the Differences

History & Origin

Scotch whiskies are made from Scotland. They started to produce them as early as the 15th century [1]. The only way to label your product as Scotch is to produce the whisky in the said country.

On the other hand, Irish Whiskey proudly represents Ireland. The Irish monks had started to produce this during the 1200s when the Mediterranean made the art of distilling spirits across the Irish sea [2]. During the 1800s, Irish whisky has become prominent around the world.  

The Spelling

The Spelling

You probably noticed that the whisky and whiskey of the liquors are different. Many years ago, the distilleries in Ireland dominated the world of whisky. They became known worldwide for producing a drink with Irish spirit.

Scotland also created a “whisky” type of drink and made it even cheaper when compared to the first one. They say that the “e” in Whiskey is the only way to set them apart. 

How It’s Made

Distillation Process

Blends vs Malts

Double vs Triple Distillation

Irish distilleries undergo a triple distilled process that makes the drink smoother and sweeter. It allows the manufacturers to focus not just on the taste but also on the aroma and flavor.

Scotch whisky can be also triple distilled. Any products with malted barley may undergo the distilled process, making most Whiskeys smooth. 

During the process, the fermented wash is heated. Distillers focus on the strength of the alcohol by separating the collected liquids into the heads, hearts, and tails. The third cut the head, heart, and tails, bringing the spirit to 80% ABV.

Blends vs Malts

Single malt Scotch whisky is a single grain Scotch manufactured and bottled in a single distillery. The blended Scotch whisky combines two or more malt and grain whiskies. 

Irish Whiskey, on the other hand, has different types. The first one is a single malt with 100% malted barley at a single distillery. The second is the single copper pot stills with 30% malted and unmalted barley. 

The Irish Blended Whiskey has cereal grains and is made at single or multiple distilleries.

Maturation & Aging Process

The maturation and ageing process of the Whiskey is essential in coming up with a remarkable flavor. Wooden casks are necessary for Whiskey production because this allows the liquor to breathe. Some alcohol spent their time in bourbon, sherry, or oak casks for years; hence, it is crucial to their maturation. 

Irish Whiskey must stay in the cask for at least three years in Ireland, while the minimum years of Scotch whisky age are three up to 50 years. 

Fermentation Process

Fermentation Process

Fermentation is also an essential process in Whiskey cocktails. The single Scotch malt whisky is fermented from malted barley as a result of the distilled procedure in a copper pot still Whiskey. Fermenting single and blended Scotch takes 48 hours and produces a liquid known as wash. 

The sweet wort is added to the yeast when fermenting an Irish Whiskey. It eats the sugar to produce carbon dioxide and alcohol within 48 hours. 

Taste, Flavors & Aromas

Irish Whiskey has a light and fruity flavor profile. An Irish blended whisky has 90% of all Irish Whiskey category production. The grain whisky one is light and from corn, wheat, and grains produced through column stills than the Irish pot still Whiskey of Irish culture. Learn which Irish whiskeys are better drunk straight here

On the other hand, a single malt Scotch usually has a smoky flavor, but it could be fruity and nutty as well.

Style

Style

Whiskey cocktails have numerous styles worldwide. The first one is the blended whiskies that result from combing three styles of Whiskeys. Scotland is famous for making it prevalent in the alcohol industry. 

Bourbon Whiskey originated from America and is made using Bourbon barrels. Most bourbons are aged for over four years. Meanwhile, the single malt whiskey is produced mostly by the Irish. It has undergone a single distillery from a fermented mas bill and 100% malted raw barley.

Also Read:

Types

Irish blend combines raw grain, single malts, and pot still Irish Whiskey with unmalted and malted barley. A single malt from Ireland is double distilled with charred oak barrels. 

The single malt Scotch has undergone one distillery process in a pot still and was achieved from burning peat. The drink is considered high-end in Scotland because of the malting process it went through. Their blended grain Scotch is also distilled not just once but achieved through double distillation or more!

Regions

Regions

Ireland is known for many things, including the drinks they make together with American Whiskey and Japanese Whisky. There are 31 operating Irish distillers, including Shed, Bushmills, Royal Oak, Tullamore, Burren, and across the British Isles.

On the other hand, there are five Scotch whisky regions in Scotland. They are Campbeltown, Highland, Islay, Lowland, and Speyside. Each of the regions offers a distinct taste of Whiskey.

Read: Scotch, Whiskey, Bourbon & Brandy Comparison

Alcohol By Volume Level

The alcohol content of Whiskeys can smack you down if you are not aware of the quantity. Most Scotch Whiskeys like Johnnie Walker have 40% alcohol by volume (ABV). It is aged from ten to twelve years or more that it makes the taste smooth, smoky, and malty, good for straight-up shots.

An Irish Whiskey usually comes with a 40% ABV of 120 proof. One of the famous Irish Whiskey worldwide is Jameson. But, how many calories are in scotch whiskey?

Price & Value

Whiskey glass and money on table

The price and value of Scotch whisky and Irish Whiskeys depend on the brand you are planning to buy. The cheap Irish Whiskeys may range from $34 to $45 for a 700ml bottle. An Irish Whiskey called The Emerald Isle Collection was once sold for around $60,000. Here’s a list of the most expensive Irish Whiskey bottles to date. 

On the other hand, Scotch has standard and premium prices too. The average price of a blended Scotch is roughly $23. Meanwhile, single malt is priced at around $40. 

Read: Comparing Jameson & Bushmills Whiskey

How Are They Similar?

One of the similarities of the whiskies is their use of oak casks, where the maturation and the aging process happen. Scotch Whiskey and Irish Whiskey may use Bourbon casks that produce a sweeter flavor or Sherry casks that gives fruity and spice notes to enhance the taste and mix the blends well. 

The two Whiskeys can be in the same style. Depending on your taste buds, you can buy and drink Irish and Scotch Whiskey as single malted or blended. But, what’s the difference between Bourbon and Irish Whiskey?

FAQs 

Is Irish Whiskey more like Scotch or Bourbon?

Irish Whiskey is more of Bourbon than Scotch. Both of them are aged for over four years in American oak and are aged in used bourbons, sherry, or rum barrels. However, Irish law states that you need to distill the Whiskey in Ireland to be called Irish Whiskey.

Is Scotch healthier than Whiskey?

Drinking Scotch is healthier compared to Whiskey. Experts say that Scotch can help lower your chance of developing dementia. It can also lessen your chance of having a heart attack, blood clots, and stroke. It can even aid in weight loss because it does not contain any fat or calories.

In Summary 

Scotland and Ireland have their own ways of enhancing the taste of their drinks. Irish Whiskey has fruity notes and styles of corn, wheat, and grains, while Scotch Whiskey has a smoky flavor and fruity and nutty taste.

The maturation and aging process of the Whiskeys in wooden barrels and casks is also necessary to enhance their flavor. The alcohol content of the two liquors has a minimum of 40% and can range up to 120 proof. 

No matter the similarities and differences between Scotch and Irish Whiskey, these bottled spirits are enjoyed and shared by millions worldwide, no matter where they are produced!

References:

  1. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Whiskey
  2. https://theculturetrip.com/europe/ireland/articles/a-brief-history-of-irish-Whiskey/

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