When one is considering spirits, they may find themselves struggling to understand: what is scotch whiskey? And what is the difference between it and other spirits, especially whiskey or bourbon? While they have some similarities, some differences make whiskey stand out. Of course, a person must know what these differences are because some manufacturers like to confuse consumers by using terminology interchangeably.

So What Makes a Scotch, Scotch?

Scotch whiskey, which is referred to as scotch, is created in a specific way. For it to be labeled as scotch, it must adhere to the proper distilling practices. It is produced in Scotland, and the UK has legal regulations in place for the manufacture of all Scotch whiskey brands. Per the legislation, to classify as a “scotch,” the blend must:

  • Be made in Scotland.
  • Have a distillery of mash malted barley and other grains.
  • Must be fermented with yeast only.
  • It must be 90 proof or 94.8 percent ABV or less and have a minimum 40 percent ABV.
  • The only permitted additives into the scotch blend include caramel coloring and water.
  • The scotch must be matured in an oak cask for a minimum of three years.

What is Real Scotch Made From?

Scotch is made from malted barley. Some commercial distilleries, per Wikipedia, are now using wheat and rye. However, some categories determine what the scotch is made from. These classes include:

  • Single Malt: A single malt is made in a single batch and has only one grain, which is malted barley.
  • Single Grain: The single grain is created from individual batches, but has malted barley mixed with one grain or more.
  • Blended Malt: A blended malt has two or more individual grains of Scotch made from separate distilleries.
  • Blended Grain: The blended grain scotch has two or more single grains that were made from different distilleries.
  • Blended: One single malt is blended with one single grain scotch to create a blended whiskey.

Most grain whiskeys made in Scotland are used to create a blended Scotch whiskey. On average, the blended whiskeys have 60 to 85 percent grain. There are some higher-quality varieties as well.

The blended malt whiskey, which was formerly labeled as vatted malt or pure malts, are the least common type of Scotch; therefore, a consumer is unlikely to find one today. Blended malts do not have any grain whiskeys.

Blended scotch is what makes up for approximately 90 percent of the whiskey in Scotland. Blended includes brands like Teacher’s Highland Cream, Chivas Regal, J&B, Whyte and Mackay, Dewar’s, and Johnnie Walker.

What Does a Good Scotch Taste Like?

The type of whiskey will determine the flavor, smoothness, and sweetness of the spirit.

When one is tasting scotch, they should only pour one ounce to try. Then, they should sit and smell the scotch before sipping. Smelling the scotch brings out different flavors than when the scotch is tasted. To the nose, individual characteristics and profiles are detected, and during the first taste, a person should sip only enough to cover the tongue. Then, after holding the whiskey in the mouth for 10 seconds, they can swallow. After drinking, the finish presents itself, which is a smooth, lingering flavor that does not burn.

If a scotch whiskey burns, then it is not a quality scotch. A good scotch is one that is smooth, has distinct flavor profiles, and piques the interest of the taste buds.

What is the Difference Between Whiskey and Scotch? What About Bourbon?

Since it is labeled “scotch whiskey,” scotch is often confused with whiskey. Whiskey, however, is the category of spirits that bourbon and scotch fall into. Whiskey is considered any type of distilled spirit made from grain. A whiskey maker uses malted barley or other cereal grains to create their spirit.

There are particular types of true whiskeys, such as:

  • Tennessee Whiskey
  • Irish Whiskey
  • Canadian Whiskey
  • Rye Whiskey

Bourbon is a type of whiskey too. However, while all bourbon is whiskey, not all whiskey is bourbon. In fact, the United States regulates manufacturers on what they can label as bourbon. Per Wikipedia, a bourbon is only labeled as such if it was made in the United States, comes from a grain that includes 51 percent or more corn, aged in a charred oak container, and is distilled for no longer than 160 proof.

What About Whiskey versus Whisky?

Whisky versus Whiskey is nothing more than a regional preference. In the United States, it is referred to as “whiskey,” while in the United Kingdom, the term is “whisky.”

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