What’s the Difference Between Scotch and Whiskey

What's the difference between scotch and whiskey?

Scotch is a whiskey with a distinct smoky flavor from its distilling and storage process. It is also called scotch because it is entirely produced and bottled in Scotland, whereas whiskey is produced elsewhere.

Scotch and whisky are two widely consumed alcoholic beverages all over the globe. However, many people can’t tell the difference between the two spirits. 

What is Scotch?

Scotch is a type of whiskey that comes from Scotland, much like bourbon whiskey that mainly comes from Kentucky. Scotch is a subtype of whiskey with several regional differences, cultural customs, and legal constraints that result in a vast range of tastes. 

While some scotches are smoky, briny, and savory, others are sweet with overtones of caramel and vanilla.

Scotch whisky is generally produced with malted barley, which is barley that has been steeped in freshwater, slightly germinated, and then dried, as opposed to American whiskeys that are usually manufactured from maize and rye. 

Because of this, the germination stops just before it begins to generate flavor, giving scotch whisky a distinctive malty scent that sets it apart from bourbon and rye whiskey.

Scotch being stored in barrels
Scotch must age in oak casks.

What is Whiskey?

Whiskey is a spirit that comes from fermented grains. Early in the process, you follow steps similar to brewing beer from grains, but then you boil it to generate more potent alcohol. 

Manufacturers also use barley, corn, wheat, rye, and other grains to make whiskey. The mash bill is the mixture of different grains used to create a particular whiskey. Each grain gives the final whiskey a varied taste profile.

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After distillation, whiskey makers, called master distillers, frequently age this grain whiskey in oak barrels with internal charring. Barrel-aging significantly influences the taste and general personality of the whiskey. 

The whiskey darkens and develops an amber hue as a result of interaction between both the distillate as well as the barrel’s wood. The whiskey gains tastes of caramel and vanilla from contact with the wood.

What’s the Difference Between Scotch and Whiskey?

Scotch vs Whiskey
 In Scotland and accordance with various laws  Production  No strict rules govern it, although manufacturers use copper
 Initially, only malted barley was used, but now unmalted whole wheat and rye grains are also used. Grains Used  Wheat, corn, rye, malted rye, barley, and roasted rye
 Single malt Blends  Includes mixing several whiskeys and spirits
 Oak wooden barrels that previously held wine or liquor like sherry or bourbon Maturing Period  Charred white oak barrels
 Smoky flavor Uniqueness  Tennessee whiskey has a charcoal flavor, Irish has unpeated malt, and Japanese has little peat.
Usually more expensive than mainstream whiskey Pricing Usually less expensive than Scotch

Here are several factors that play a crucial role in differentiating the two from each other:


Scotch production takes place at one distillery and strictly follows the law. It must go through a distillation process in Scotland and only fermented using yeast. It must age in Scotland in unadulterated oak casks.

No such laws govern the production of any whiskey. The copper employed in whiskey stills eliminates sulfur-based chemicals from the alcohol that otherwise make the drink unpleasant to consume.

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Grains Used

The sole ingredients used to create scotch, a malt whiskey, are freshwater and malted barley. Scotch whiskey matures for at least three years, but it often ages for a minimum of eight to ten years in the woods, smoothing out its flavor.

The process of fermenting grain mash produces whiskey. To make the distilled alcoholic beverage, malts of many grains, including corn, wheat, barley, and rye, are utilized and matured in charred white oak barrels. Whiskey does not continue to age once bottled, unlike wine.


Blended whiskey involves mixing several whiskeys and spirits varieties made with various grains, colors, and flavors. Usually, it involves blending expensive whiskeys with more affordable spirits. Scotch that has only undergone one distillery’s processing is single malt scotch whisky.


The maturing procedure is the sole factor other than the grains that make whiskey and scotch taste different. Since the flavor of the grains ages and the beverage’s color grows golden, the alcohol gets smoother as it ages. Even the slightest modifications to the maturing process can affect how the alcohol tastes.

A whiskey aged in American white oak with a mellower, finer scent would have a different flavor than one aged in European oak, which contains tannins and a more powerful aroma. And this is another area where the rates vary.

Unique Flavors

To give scotch its signature smooth flavor, producers “malt” the barley grain, converting the starch into glucose during fermentation. Some add peat, which provides food a smoky and peaty flavor.

On the other hand, the charcoal used to filter Tennessee whiskey comes from sugar maple. Irish whiskey nearly always contains unpeated malt. Malted barley is dried in furnaces and heated with a bit of peat to make Japanese whisky.

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Scotch whiskey costs more on average than other varieties of whiskey, even though cost varies widely by brand, age, and variety. Whiskey, on the contrary, costs much less. 

Old Fashioneds are whiskey-based cocktails.

Best Way to Drink Scotch and Whiskey

You can enjoy scotch and whiskey in various ways, with varied flavor characteristics created by the fermentation and distillation processes. Some individuals prefer their scotch on the rocks, which are ice cubes in this instance.

An Old Fashioned cocktail is popular and includes whiskey, a sugar cube, rye, bitters, and an orange twist. Another well-liked alcoholic beverage is the Rob Roy, a variation on the Manhattan that substitutes scotch for the rye in a martini glass, vermouth, tonics, and a maraschino cherry.

All in all, the most famous and diverse whiskey style is scotch, which is entrenched in history and tradition. Every time you taste a scotch, whether you like a flowery, sweet Speyside or a smoky, salty Islay, you are experiencing centuries of Scottish expertise condensed into a single bottle.

If you found this article interesting, check out our post comparing two of your favorite types of beer.


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.

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