What is the difference between whisky and whiskey? What are the differences between scotch and whiskey? These are frequently asked questions and the answers usually come down to geography. Commonly the amber nectar from Scotland (or other parts of the UK) and Japan use whisky. The US, Canada and Ireland adopt the extra letter with whiskey.

Each location is often renowned for a particular type of whisky/whiskey, therefore types and locations are intertwined. 

Click the types of whisky/whiskey below to learn more.

Rye is a type of grain that often has ‘spicy’ or ‘fruity’ attributes. It is often associated with the US and Canada. In the US, Rye whiskies must be distilled from 51% or more rye grain. In Canada some whiskies are labelled as rye whiskies but actually don’t have to use rye and are often blends of other compositions.

Did you know corn is used to make whiskey? This is the main ingredient used for making the famous US spirit. Bourbon is often associated with southern American states, in particular Kentucky. US law states that all Bourbon distillers must use new oak casks. This is important as it gives the drink a distinct smoother taste and distillers in other countries, such as Scotland, buy the barrels to then reuse for their own products to add more flavour.

Heard of Jack Daniels? Probably. This is a Tennessee whiskey. This is often classified as a Bourbon and some trade agreements cite it as the same but some distillers want to differentiate two types of whiskey, even though the distillation process is exactly the same.

People often ask ‘what is single malt in whisky?’ or associate single malt whisky as scotch. While many jump to Scotland in their minds when they hear of single malts, they can come from other places including Wales, Japan, India or Ireland. It simply means that it is malt whisky from a single distillery. Barley is the grain used and it needs to be, as it says on the tin, malted. This means that the grain is germinated and then dried to prevent full germination.

This is essentially a term that defines most whiskies, except for malted barley. Wheat, Rye and Corn are all examples of grains that are used to make whiskies, as noted in the different descriptions on this page. Malted barley is used as a catalyst to release enzymes of grains to help with the mashing part of the distillation process.

As it says on the tin really, blended whiskies are a combination of two or more spirits together. This is usually done to establish different colours and flavours but also, and mainly, to create a cheaper product that can be sold at scale. This is done by mixing a higher quality spirit with a lower quality spirit.

Why is scotch whisky so special? A commonly asked question. Scotch is Scottish whisky. Single malts, grain and blended whiskies can all be scotch so long as they originate in Scotland. Despite Scotland being a relatively small place, there are over 120 distilleries. Different parts of Scotland, for example Speyside or Highlands, tend to have a signature tastes (although not always the case). It’s perhaps a combination of variety, number of distilleries and history that makes scotch whisky so special.

Ireland is one of the oldest and well known countries for distilling. There are a number of varieties of Irish whiskies which often include malt, pot still, grain or blended. More often than not, Irish whiskey is not ‘peated’ which is more commonly associated with Scottish whiskies. This means that Irish whiskey often has a smoother taste.

Japan has similar traits to that of Scotland when it comes to whisky just on a much smaller scale. Single malts and blended whiskies are common products of Japan.

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