What’s The Difference Between Scotch and Other Whisky?

4 bottles of Scotch whisky in display

Let’s take a deep dive into the world of Scotch and Whiskies, discovering how their ingredients, location of origin, and specific requirements set them apart from each other.

So, what’s the difference between Scotch and other whisky? First of all, Scotch is a kind of whisky. Regarding other kinds of whisky, it all comes down to the place of production, cereals used, and even the minimum aging period.

 

Sipping this article:

  1. Scotch Whisky vs All the Others
    1. Scotch Whisky & Co – The Labelling
    2. The Place of Origin Matters!
    3. How Scotch Whisky is Made
    4. The difference between Scotch and Other Whisky – A List
  2. The History of Whisky

4 glasses of scotch and other whiskies aligned on a wooden table

Scotch Whisky vs All the Others

Scotch Whisky & Co – The labelling

Labelling can get a little confusing, but yes – Scotch Whisky is simply the label name for Scotch. Technically, there is no such spirit called Scotch, only Scotch Whisky. Although colloquially know as Scotch, Scotch Whisky is a type of whisky itself.

Usually, the name of the whisky is simply where it’s produced, like Irish Whiskey, Canadian Whisky, or Japanese Whisky. There are some exceptions, however, as American producers tend to label their products as “Whiskey” only, or “Bourbon Whiskey“. So, the first difference between Scotch and other whisky is the place of origin itself.

Other whisky products can include Rye Whisky, which have unique ingredients, presenting unique flavors. What’s most important is that if you’re looking for Scotch at your local liquor store, it will be labelled Scotch Whisky.

 

A Quick Clarification

You may have discovered differing spellings of whisky, as it is sometimes referred to as whiskey. The extra ‘e’ doesn’t mean anything, it’s just the American and Irish spelling.

 

The Place of Origin Matters!

As we said previously, the main difference between Scotch and other whisky is the place of origin. Scotch is made exclusively in Scotland, from entirely Scottish products. Similar to the Champagne region’s sole ownership of Champagne sparkling wine sale rights, Scotch, legally, can only be produced in Scotland. If a whisky is produced with the same ingredients and method as Scotch, but in another part of the world, it cannot be called Scotch. The same goes for Irish Whiskey, for example, which can only be produced in Ireland.

As for how the country of origin influences sales, the United States, Japan, and India lead the worldwide whisky production, according to Beverage Trade Network’s USA Spirit Ratings 2019.

Beverage Trade Network placed Scotland’s production of Scotch Whisky at 700 million liters (around 185 million gallons) per year, the second largest annual production of whisky, behind India’s 3.46 billion liters (or 916 million gallons).

Lagavulin's Distillery, located in the Isle of Islay, Scotland.
Lagavulin’s Distillery, located in the Isle of Islay, Scotland.

 

How Scotch Whisky Is Made

Firstly, there are several types of Scotch Whisky, in which the ingredients and the production process are different – Single Malt and Single Grain, Blended Scotch, Blended Malt and Blended Grain.

Single Malt Whisky, the more common of the five, is made exclusively from malted barley, whilst single grain, for instance, can use other cereals such as wheat, rye, or corn.

 

Know more about the 5 types of Scotch Whisky!

 

The second stage of production is malting. It involves adding hot water to the cereal to initiate germination, which converts the grain’s starches into soluble sugars, essential in the production of alcohol. Yeast is then added to malted grain and undergoes two rounds of distillation.

The end product of the distilled liquid is finally transferred to treated oak casks, maturing for a minimum of 3 years.

Scotch Whisky production is, ultimately, a relatively simple process, yet requires time, craftmanship, and quality ingredients. Scotch is mainly set apart by its simplicity, but ability to create complex and delicious flavors.

 

The Difference Between Scotch and Other Whisky – A List

The guidelines to whisky created outside of Scotland are much broader. Whilst the same process of malting and distilling are usually used, the ingredients differ greatly, and maturing can be for a much shorter time.

Whilst Irish Whisky is made with a similar adherence to requirements as Scotch Whisky does (with simple ingredients originating in Ireland and matured for at least 3 years), Bourbon Whisky uses corn, along with a wide range of other ingredients and no minimum time of fermentation.

A great deal of whiskies are named for the place they were invented; Scotch, Irish, Japanese, Indian, and Canadian to name a few. For some, however, this does not mean they are made exclusively in that country, as Japanese and Indian whiskies can be made anywhere in the world.

So, what is the difference between Scotch and Other Whisky? Here’s a list!

Scotch Whisky – Exclusive to Scotland, it must be made with only malted barley and aged at least for 3 years. Usually, it is a light and fruity whisky, with strong starchy flavors originating from the single malt. Sweet aftertaste.

Irish Whiskey – Exclusive to Ireland, it must be aged 3 years at least, and using only one type of grain. From an Irish whiskey, you can expect good middle ground between spicy and sweet, intermediate level spirit.

Bourbon Whiskey – Exclusive to the United States, it must be made with at least 51% corn. It has, mainly, caramel aroma and taste, butterscotch and sweeter notes, with a hint of spice. Can range from mellow brown flavors, such as Four Roses, to spicier creations like Fireball whisky.

Tennessee Whiskey – Exclusive to the state of Tennessee, USA, it must be made with, at least, 51% corn, as it happens with bourbon. It also must be filtered according to the Lincoln County Process and have to be aged in new charred oak. Regarding the taste, it has a toasted oak and charcoaled first taste, but also sweeter notes as vanilla and caramel.

Japanese Whisky – No legal location obligation, but it usually comes from Japan, as the name states. Any grains can be used and it has no aging requirements. Anything goes! About the taste of Japanese Whisky, it can have a bitter scent, smokiness notes, quite sweet throughout, reasonably easy drinking.

Indian Whisky – Due to the looser definition on EU or USA legal stances, Indian Whisky has no location exclusivity, no aging or grain requirements, similarly to the Japanese. Dominant molasses and brown sugar flavor profile, one of the sweetest whiskies available.

Canadian Whisky – Exclusive to Canada, any grain can be used and it must be aged at least 3 years. The flavours are, usually, a distinct cool caramel, with some nuttiness, adding a winter note. It can be said that is a sweeter Rye Whisky.

Rye Whiskey – Usually produced in the United States, but there are no rules about the location of this tipe of whisky; Canadian whisky might also be called Rye Whiskey, but only for historical reasons. It must be made with at least 51% rye. This spirit is the spiciest whisky, strong burn after a sweet initial taste. Heavier starch taste.

Corn Whisky – No location exclusivity, must be made with at least 80% corn. This spirit has a sweet flavor, little to no burn, with a clear corn taste.

Several kinds of whisky in display to enumerate the difference between Scotch and other Whisky
From Irish to Japanese Whisky, there are several distinct traits that separate them from Scotch.

 

The History of Whisky

When talking about the difference between Scotch and other whisky, it’s interesting to understand that the several kinds of this spirit are also have different historical paths.

The first written mention of whisky, however, came in 1405, from writings of an Irish clan member. 89 years later whisky begin mass production. The 1600’s brought the first licensed Irish whiskey producer, and colonizers of America begin experimenting with new grains.

Bourbon, on the other hand, was introduced to the markets in 1783 in Louisville, Kentucky in 1783. In 1823, Tennessee whiskey separates itself from Bourbon.

Regarding blended whiskies, it became a possibility in 1850, thanks to Andrew Usher.

 

Summary

In order to tell what’s the difference between Scotch and other whisky, one must know what is Scotch in the first place. Scotch Whisky is a type of whisky made exclusively in Scotland, from a single type of Scottish grain. Whiskies are assorted, generating a large catalogue of flavors, from a diverse range of ingredients and processes.

Hopefully, you are now equipped with the knowledge of what the differences are, what Scotch Whisky really is, and which whisky to choose for whatever and whoever you’re buying for. Go immerse yourself in the world of spirits!

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