Difference Between Scotch and Whiskey

Perhaps the most trivial question for the unseasoned whisky drinker, ‘the difference between Whisky and Scotch Whisky’ is both, the simplest and the most complicated to understand.

The term, ‘All Scotch is Whisky but not every Whisky is a Scotch’ perfectly sums up one of the most misunderstood classifications outside the Whisky drinking world. Let us try and decode what truly separates Scotch Whisky from Whisky;

Country of Origin

Scotch, as the name suggests, is the name used to refer to Whisky that has been prepared, distilled and bottled in Scotland. No other country can lay the claim to it nor use it to market their Whisky.

Scotland is divided into five distinct regions, and the labels of Scotch Whisky brands must carry the name of the region it was distilled in. The Lowlands, the Highlands, The Speyside, Campbeltown and Island of Islay are the five regions.

Whisky on the other hand, can be used to describe the product created in any other part of the world. Countries such as Canada, Japan, India and Australia also call their malted and grain spirits Whisky, whereas the Irish and Americans call it Irish Whiskey and Bourbon Whiskey respectively. Know more on the difference between Whisky vs Whiskey.

This is one of the key aspects that outline the difference between Scotch and Whisky.


Scotch Whisky is prepared using a mash that contains malted barley and other grains in varying quantities whereas Whisky or Whiskey in other countries often employ other grains or grain combinations to produce their spirits. The finest Scotch whisky does employ a significant amount of malted barley in their mash.

The preparation of Irish Whiskey does not necessitate the use of malted barley, but it does require the use of malted cereals.

American Bourbon Whiskey is prepared using a mash that is at least 51% Corn and other grains such as Rye, Wheat and Barley in varying quantities.

Distillation and Maturation

The difference between Scotch and Whisky is further highlighted by the difference in their method of preparation.

Scotch Whisky must be fermented using the action of yeast, and matured for a period of three years in oak barrels. It should contain no added colors or flavors except food grade caramel coloring.

Irish Whiskey too follows the same basic principles and requires Whiskey to be aged in Ireland, for a minimum period of three years and allows no added coloring or flavoring besides caramel coloring.

American Bourbon Whiskey on the other hand has no specific aging duration, but must be aged in new, charred Oak barrels.

Thus, the difference between Whisky and Scotch Whisky is that if it is prepared in Scotland, it is Scotch Whisky but if it is prepared anywhere else, it can’t be referred to as Scotch.