Difference Between Scotch And Bourbon

Difference Between Scotch and Bourbon

Bourbon is produced in the U.S. and is primarily made from corn mash. Scotch is produced in Scotland and is primarily made from malted grains.

When it comes to whiskey, enthusiasts often have strong opinions about scotch and bourbon. Even though they are both whiskeys, the two drinks are distinct.

What is Scotch?

Scotch is a popular drink made of either malt or grain whiskey from Scotland. Initially, manufacturers used malted barley to produce it. Still, the new age of brewers also used wheat and rye to make this rye whiskey called scotch

Scotch is an “acquired taste,” and you can tell this from the first sip. Due to its distinctive flavor profile and taste, people typically drink it plain or on the rocks. It isn’t blended into cocktails as commonly as the other spirits.


What is Bourbon?

To be officially branded, sold, and exported as bourbon, the production must happen in America and adhere to several requirements. It includes maturing in charred oak barrels, keeping in the barrel for maturing at no more than 125 proof, and bottling at 80 proof or above. 

The charred barrels influence the quality of the spirit, which is particularly significant. Since Congress designated bourbon as the country’s exclusive domestic spirit in 1964, manufacturers cannot market spirits produced elsewhere as bourbon in the United States.

See Also:  Difference between Mocha and Latte

Even though Jack Daniels‘s ingredients and distillation method meet all the criteria for being American bourbon whiskey, it is not a “bourbon.” The extra step Jack Daniels adds to this Tennessee whiskey-making process is why it isn’t referred to as a bourbon.

Difference Between Scotch and Bourbon - Scotch on the rocks in front of an oak barrel.

Difference Between Scotch and Bourbon

Scotch vs Bourbon
Composed mostly of malted barley Ingredients Made with a minimum of 51% corn
Scotland Origin United States
Peppery and smoky tastes Flavor Has a sweet taste of caramel
Aged inside oak barrels for a minimum of at least three years Aging Aged in oak casks from four months to two years
Has a very smooth finish Finish

It can have either a smooth or harsh finish to it
Can be costly Price Usually less expensive than scotch
40% to 95% ABV Level 40% to 80%

While there are many delectable whiskey or whiskey variants, scotch and bourbon are two of the more popular. While both are well-known internationally and closely linked to their home countries, there are no more parallels. The main variations between the two different types of whiskey are below:


One of the most strict requirements set forth by the U.S. government for bourbon is that it must contain a grain blend that has 51 percent corn. Wheat, rye, and malted barley often make up the remaining portion of this alcoholic beverage. 

On the other hand, malted barley, which serves as the principal component of scotch whiskey, must also go in its fermentation, alongside water and yeast. Producers of scotch can add additional whole cereal grains for coloration.

See Also:  Difference Between Pilsner and Lager

Place of Origin

Bourbon production can happen anywhere, despite what the general public thinks. However, it must be produced legally in the United States to be recognized as bourbon. 

Similarly, you cannot call a whiskey scotch unless the production happens in Scotland. For instance, Japanese whisky and scotch are comparable in many aspects. But since the production takes place in Japan, it is not scotch.


Both scotch and bourbon can have smoky, charred flavors, but they acquire these characteristics in unique ways. Scotch’s smoky or peaty flavor mainly derives from peat burned during the barley malting process. Bourbon’s oaky, vanilla-like notes come from the burnt surfaces of the containers in which it matures.

But keep in mind that not every scotch has a smoky flavor. Just two of the five locations that produce this Scottish spirit have distinctive smokiness.


There is no minimum age requirement when it comes to bourbon. But to be called straight bourbon, a unique quality differentiation, your product must mature for at least two years and contain no additional flavoring, coloring, or spirits.

On the other hand, scotch must mature for at least three years.

However, there are also other variations within scotch. For example, a single grain malt scotch whisky is produced at a single distillery using malted barley in pot stills. A blended scotch is created in column stills by blending numerous single malt scotch with some other whiskies.

In addition, scotch often matures more than bourbon, with several well-known whiskies arriving on store shelves after 12 to 25 years in barrels. This is due to the different climates.

See Also:  Jam vs Jelly

Most bourbon comes from Kentucky, which has a warm summer temperature that causes more rapid evaporation of the spirit. Bourbon becomes more expensive the longer it ages.


When poured into casks for age in freshly charred oak barrels, bourbon must contain over 62.5 percent alcohol. While scotch matures in old oak barrels, including those holding sherry, beer, and bourbon, it should have an ABV of less than 94.8 percent.

Why Is Jack Daniels Not A Bourbon?

Even though Jack Daniels‘s ingredients and distillation method meet all the criteria for being American bourbon whiskey, it is not a “bourbon.” The extra step Jack Daniels adds to this Tennessee whiskey-making process is why it isn’t referred to as a bourbon.

Should You Drink Bourbon or Scotch?

With flavors of caramel, wood, sugar, grain, nutmeg, and cinnamon, bourbon is sweeter and more mellow. Unlike bourbon, scotch has a robust and distinctive flavor that takes more time to get used to. Blended scotch has a smoother, meltier taste with a peppery aftertaste.

But there are many varied characteristics present in different bourbon varieties; one expert divides them into four main groups: grainy, nutmegged, caramelized, and cinnamony.

It depends upon you when it comes to choosing the drink of your choice. Scotch and bourbon have distinct tastes, and you can pick one per your preferences.


Vanessa is passionate about written communication, especially after beginning her career as a middle school English teacher. She’s an experienced content marketer as well. Vanessa loves to analyze, compare, and contrast, which is why she writes for ContrastHub. Besides writing, Vanessa is a wife, mom, entrepreneur, spicy food enthusiast, comedy nerd and lifelong learner.

Recent Posts