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Ask A Pro: What is the Difference Between Whiskey and Scotch?

Fundamentally, there is only one thing that makes a whisky/whiskey* a scotch: it’s made in Scotland.

*You may have noticed that some people spell it whisky and others whiskey and this, too, mostly comes down to geography. In Scotland, Canada, India, and Japan it is generally known as ‘whisky’ while in Ireland and America it is generally ‘whiskey’ although there are exceptions on both sides and generally the spelling doesn’t mean much.  

Back to scotch. Put simply, to be called a scotch, a whisky has to be made in Scotland. Scottish whisky has far more strict regulations about how you produce and label whisky then many other countries, but regardless of how a whisky is made, if it is not made in Scotland, it cannot be called scotch.

In addition to being made in Scotland, scotch whisky must satisfy the requirements for one of the following categories: single malt, blended malt, single grain, blended scotch whisky, and blended grain. All of these categories must be bottled at a strength of at least 40% alcohol by volume.

Here’s what each of these categories mean in brief:

Single Malt: Only malted barley from a single distillery, distilled in a pot still.

Blended Malt: Only malted barley distilled in a pot still allowed, but from multiple distilleries.

Single Grain: Only one distillery, but can use other grains in addition to malted barley, and does not have to be made in a pot still.

Blended Scotch Whisky: A blend containing both single malt and grain whisky.

Blended Grain Whisky: A blend of grain whisky from multiple distilleries.

That’s it. Stay tuned for future posts, as I explore some of these categories in more detail.

Do you have questions about wine, beer or spirits that you’d like us to answer? Send your questions to [email protected] to be featured in a future segment!

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