Difference Between Scotch Whisky And Irish Whiskey

While most novice whisky drinkers may fail to see, understand or even care about the distinction, Scotch and Irish whiskey are a lot more different than believed to be. The mention of either could result in a fistfight, or a heated argument at the very least so if you really must know the factors that set Scotch and Irish whiskey apart from each other, you have come to the right place.

Of course there are some of the more obvious and less complex distinctions and difference between Scotch and Irish whiskey, like the way they are spelt and the countries they are produced in but there is a lot more to this conversation than meets the eye.

If you are prepared to know your whiskies like a true connoisseur, let us begin understanding the complexities that can help you raise the conversational benchmark and get you started when it comes to ‘truly knowing your whisky’;

Scotch Whisky

Countries of Origin of the Whisky

The first and foremost piece of information that you need to know about the difference between Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky is that they come exclusively from Ireland and Scotland respectively. A whisky/whiskey manufactured outside Scotland, can’t be called Scotch and a whiskey manufactured outside Ireland and Northern Ireland, cannot be referred to as Irish whiskey.

Spellings of the Whisky/Whiskey

You must have noticed the way the Irish and the Scottish choose to spell their spirits. While the Irish prefer to use Whiskey with an ‘E’, the Scottish chose to drop the ‘E’. Why? Tough to say but it does help identify either of the two with ease. While the United States chose to follow the Irish spelling of the word, India, Canada and many other countries prefer to go for Scotland’s version of the word.

Legal definitions of Whisky

In order to classify itself as an authentic Irish whiskey, a spirit must adhere to strict protocols and guidelines. One of the most primary and important ones is that it must be distilled on the islands of Ireland and/or Northern Ireland.

The mash should be a mixture of malted and unmalted grains, fermented by yeast and distilled at a strength of 94.8% alcohol by volume. The spirit must be matured in a wooden cask that holds no more than 700litres for a period of three years or more.

No added colors or flavors except caramel coloring (E150a) is allowed, and maturation must take place in Ireland.

Scotch whisky too employs some similar guidelines in order for a whisky to receive the Scotch label. It must be produced at a distillery at the five regions of Scotland, and must be processed and distilled at a distillery in Scotland.

It has to be distilled at alcohol strength volumes 94.8% or lower, and matured in oak barrels not exceeding 700 liters of capacity. No added coloring or flavors except caramel coloring (E150A) are allowed and the finished product must be bottled at 40% alcohol by volume (80 US proof).

Ingredients of the Whisky

Irish whiskey can be classified into many different categories but they all use the following ingredients such as malted barley, unmalted barley, corn and other unmalted cereal grains.

Scotch whisky too uses malted barley with some amounts of wheat and rye. The composition of the ingredients differs based on the brand, distillery and the type of Scotch whisky but these are the most commonly used ingredients.

Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve

Types of Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky

Irish whiskey is categorized into four different types, namely;

a) Single malt Irish whiskey, b) Single pot still whiskey, c) Grain whiskey and d) Blended whiskey.

Scotch whisky too has as many as five different categories that are;

a) Single malt Scotch whisky, b) Single grain Scotch whisky, c) Blended Scotch malt whisky, d) Blended grain Scotch whisky and e) Blended Scotch whisky.

Tasting Notes and Flavors of the Whisky

Irish whiskey is known to be distilled thrice as compared to Scotch whisky that is distilled twice. Although there are certain exceptions, the thrice distilled Irish whiskey is much smoother, lighter and subtler in its flavors.

The use of corn in some capacity also lends a slightly sweeter finish to the Irish whiskey, whereas Scotch whisky has a little smokier flavor to it due to the use of peat.

Popular brands of Whisky

Glenlivet 12

Jameson Whiskey, Michael Collins, and Kilbeggan are some excellent choices of Irish whiskeys.

Chivas Regal, The Glenlivet, Ballantine’s, 100 Pipers and Teacher’s Highland Cream are all delightful choices of Scotch whiskies.