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What Is the Difference Between Scotch & Whiskey? (2022)

Last Updated on November 22, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Whiskey is a broad terminology for a distilled alcoholic beverage aged in oak barrels and subdivided into different categories. Scotch is a particular type of whiskey. 

So what is the difference between Scotch and whiskey? Read on to find out. 

Comparing Whiskey & Scotch Whisky 

pouring liqour on a glass

Whiskey and Scotch have different histories and origins, separated by geographical boundaries and production processes. 

There are many types of whiskeys, and Scotch is a type of whisky made in Scotland. It has a different spelling because of its Scottish roots. 

Scotch can be subdivided into single-malt whisky and blended Scotch whisky.

Whiskey can be subdivided into American, Irish, Scotch, and Japanese. 

Key Differences 

History & Origin

Historians found the earliest direct account of whisky making in Scottish records (Exchequer Rolls of 1494) way back in 1494 [1]. 

However, Historians believe whiskey originated before 1494 because Medieval monks brought the distilling method to Scotland and Ireland.

Production & Maturation Process

fermented mash

Distillers should make the production process and maturation process of Scotch inside Scotland. 

The Scottish-made whisky uses fermented grain mash, usually malted barley, and it is distilled and matured in wooden barrels for a minimum of three years. 

Depending on its type, distillers can make whiskey from corn, rye, wheat, or malted barley.

The mash bill is fermented, distilled, and aged for at least two years in white oak barrels and sherry casks.  

Mash Bill & Alcohol Proof

In the Scotch vs whiskey mash bill, whiskey is known to use multiple grains, while Scotch whisky uses single grain or blended grains. 

Bourbon and rye whiskeys often use multiple grains such as corn, rye, wheat, and barley. 

Scotch whisky primarily uses malted barley, and other grains like malted rye, corn, and wheat are added in blended Scotches. 

To be called rye whiskey, it should contain at least 51% rye, while bourbon should be made from not less than 51% corn.

Whiskeys and Scotch should be bottled in not lower than 80 proof. 

Whiskey vs Whisky

whisky on a glass

Whiskey is widely used in American and Ireland whiskeys, while whisky is used in Scotch, Canadian, and Japanese grain spirits. 

Based on Charles MacLean, Scotch whisky expert, the spelling was a marketing strategy of Ireland to distinguish itself from Scotch whiskies. 

Distilleries that produce single malt Scotch whisky, single grain Scotch whisky, and blended Scotch whiskies from Scotch whisky regions use whisky. 

That’s the same for Japanese whisky and Canadian whisky. 

American and Irish whiskey producers use whiskey with ‘e’ as a distinction; however, it is not required, so there is bourbon whiskey, like Maker’s Mark, that uses whisky to honor its Scottish roots. 

Geographic Region

To be called Scotch, the whisky produced should be made in Scotland only, while whiskey can be used by distilleries anywhere in the world. 

Scotch whisky producers should be based in Scotland, and distillers should make every production process there. 

Distillers can make whiskey anywhere; however, there are certain geographical boundaries for American whiskey, Irish whiskey, and Tennessee whiskey. 

Types

You can break Scotch into two types: blended and single-grain Scotch whiskies. 

On the contrary, whiskey types are as follows: American (bourbon, rye, Tennessee, corn, and blended), Canadian, Scotch, Japanese and Irish. 

Scotch, generally speaking, is just another type of whiskey, and it has its standard for distinctions.

For instance, single malt whiskies should be made by a single distillery. 

Whiskey and Scotch display the age statement of the youngest whisky blended. 

Tasting Notes

pouring whiskey on glass from a barrel

Whiskey

Palate: Sweet, buttery, vanilla, caramel, peppery, with clove, nutmeg, and 

Nose: Caramel, honey, vanilla, 

Color: Light to golden amber

Finish: Smooth, mellow with medium to long finish

Scotch

Palate: Malty, vanilla, fruit, caramel, with spicy notes

Nose: Distinct malty aroma

Color: Pale gold to decadent amber

Finish: Smoky, oaky, woody with medium to long finish

Price & Value

In Scotch vs whiskey price and value comparison, whiskey is cheaper than blended and single malt Scotch whiskies. 

Scotch consumption is overwhelming because 80% of Scotch consumed globally is blended.

Smoky and briny Islay Scotch whiskies are well-loved, and popular peated whiskies are widely used in most whisky cocktails.  

On the other hand, whiskeys are cheaper because of the cereal grains used.

Unlike Islay whiskies, it does not have a classic strong smoky aroma but a sweet and oaky aroma and taste. 

FAQs 

Is Scotch easier to drink than other whiskey types?

No, Scotch is not easier to drink than other whiskeys. For instance, bourbon is easier to drink because it has a sweeter and mellower flavor profile. 

It can be consumed neat or used as a concentrated alcoholic liquid for Whiskey Sour. 

On the other hand, you can drink Scotch with mixers like a classic blended Scotch cocktail with sweet vermouth. Read more on scotch vs bourbon here.

Is whiskey stronger than Scotch?

No, whiskey is not stronger than Scotch. Scotch is stronger because of its distinct flavor profile. 

For instance, Speyside Scotches tend to be sweet, but the finished whisky has a stronger kick than whiskey.

Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey that underwent sugar maple charcoal filtration tends to be more mellow and smoother.  

Final Thoughts

Scotch and whiskey may have fair similarities, but they have big differences in geographical regions, production processes, types, and spelling. 

Whiskies generally are concentrated alcoholic liquids, and their distinctions may vary depending on the location, production process, and grains used.   

All Scotch are whiskies, but not all whiskeys are Scotch.

Think of it like this: Whiskey is the mother, and Scotch is one of its children.

Reference:

  1. https://www.britannica.com/topic/whiskey 

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