Difference Between Scotch and Whiskey

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Scotch and Whiskey

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Often we choose a food or drink because we like its taste, smell or even appearance. When it comes to alcoholic beverages, some other factors influence our decision, for example, the strength of the liquor, the brand name, etc. But how much does an ordinary person know about the different kinds of beverages? If three people were to go to a bar and order bourbon, scotch and whiskey, do they realize that they are essentially ordering the same thing?

This article will provide some general information on the different kinds of scotch and whiskies, the production processes of the beverages, their strengths, types, etc. In addition, it provides a comparison between scotch and whiskey.

The terms "whiskey" and "whisky" are both used to refer to the same drink. The spellings vary according to geographical locations. In America and Ireland, it is whiskey, while the Japanese, Canadian and Scottish version is called "whisky." In this article, when talking about Scotch whisky (the Scottish whisky), it is written as "whisky", and when talking about whiskey in general, it is spelt "whiskey".

The world of alcoholic beverages contains a horde of technical terms. Hence, for better comprehension of the article, some of the technical terms used in this article are given below with their definitions and explanations.

Fermentation- is a chemical process involving the breakdown of molecules like sugar, glucose or yeast by microorganisms, thereby converting them into a new substance.

Distillation- is the method used for separating the various components liquid of a mixture. This separation is achieved by a method, of heating and cooling. The heating process vapourises the different components of the liquid mixture. Immediately after this, the vapour is cooled using cold water in a condenser.

Stills- A still is equipment that is employed to distil liquid mixtures. It functions on the same concept as the distillation equipment but on a much bigger scale.

Malt and Malting- Malt refers to grains that have been softened by immersing in water and then germinated. The procedure of converting the grains into malt by soaking them in water is called malting.

Peat- It is a spongy natural material formed due to the accumulation of decomposing plant materials over many years. Mainly, it grows in wetlands. In Scotland, peat is used as fuel in the fire for drying malt barley.

Alcohol Proof- is a unit of measurement used to ascertain the quantity of ethanol in alcoholic beverages. The higher the number of alcohol proofs is, the stronger the drink. Based on the country, alcohol proof is, calculated differently. In the United States, it is calculated as twice the alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage. Therefore, if a drink contains 50% alcohol, the proof would be 120. In France, they use the Gay-Lussac scale. The alcohol proof is calculated as equal to the Alcohol by Volume percentage. Therefore, a drink in France containing 40% alcohol would have 40 degrees of proof. The rest of the world mainly uses the European scale to find alcohol proof. This method is also called the ABV standard. For this, conversion to proof is not needed. Therefore, a drink with 60% alcohol would have 60% ABV.

Scotch vs Whiskey

First and foremost, Scotch IS whiskey! It's like saying all dogs are animals, but not all animals, are dogs. In the same way, "all scotch is whiskey, but not all whiskey is scotch.” To elucidate, scotch is a subcategory of whiskey made in Scotland, hence the name.

Having said so, they are several differences between scotch whisky and other kinds of whiskey. In Scotland, scotch is produced in specific legally recognised regions. There are a lot of legal requirements that need to be met for a drink to be called scotch. They are generally an expensive drink.

Whiskey is produced all over the world. It does not need to meet any requirements, and are cheaper than scotch.

Difference Between Scotch and Whiskey in Tabular Form

Parameters of Comparison Scotch Whiskey
Place Must be distilled, fermented and aged in Scotland Can be made anywhere in the world
Types Single malt, single grain, blended malt, blended grain and blended scotch whisky American whiskey, Japanese whisky, Canadian Whisky and Irish Whiskey
Restrictions Has a lot of legal restrictions and requirements No such requirements
Ingredients Grains, Water, Yeast, and Caramel colouring Barley, Wheat, Corn, Rye
Proof 40% ABV, 80 proof 40- 45% alcohol, 80 – 90 proof range.
Barrels used for ageing Oak barrels that previously stored bourbon or sherry Wooden barrels like oaks, with their insides charred
Price Varies, but is more costly than other types of whisky drinks. Varies, but whiskey is cheaper than scotch whisky.

What is Scotch?

In a word, scotch is a subcategory of whiskey, a distilled alcoholic drink. Depending on their production and ingredients whiskey is divided into many categories, and scotch whiskey is one of them. The whisky made in Scotland is called whisky in Scotland, and to the rest of the world, it is known as "scotch.

How Is Scottish Whisky Or “scotch” Different From The Rest?

All whisky is a combination of grains and water. In the case of Scottish whisky, Scottish barley is the main product for making the alcohol. Usually, the process of making whisky involves stripping and cleaning the grains and mixing them with water and into the mash.

In the case of scotch whisky, there are a few additional steps. The grain or barley is first malted. Then it is dried over fires created using peat.

Types of Scotch

Broadly, two types of scotch are there- single malt and single grain scotch whisky.

But in the year 2005, The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) announced names for five different styles of scotch whiskies

Single Malt Scotch Whisky

  1. The main component of the single malt scotch is malted barley (peated and unpeated)
  2. The malt is distilled at a single distillery by employing copper pot stills.
  3. For conversion single malt uses an infusion mash
  4. Distillers yeast and brewers’ yeast are the ingredients taken for the process of fermentation
  5. For ageing purposes, charred oak casks, previously used for storing bourbon or sherry, are used.
  6. Examples of single malt: The Macallan, Lagavulin, Glenfiddich, etc.

Single Grain Scotch Whisky

  1. Whisky produced from one distillery
  2. Distilled from either one grain or multiple grains (wheat, corn and a few malted barley)
  3. 20% malted barley, 80% grains(ex: wheat, corn)
  4. For conversion, single grain follows, mash cooked proceeded by conversion stand.
  5. Distillers yeast is the ingredient chosen for the process of fermentation
  6. To help the ageing process, charred oak casks previously used for storing bourbon or sherry are used.

Blended (vatted) Malt Whisky

  1. It is made from a blend of multiple single-malt whiskies from different distilleries.

Blended Grain Whisky

  1. It is made from a blend of multiple single-grain whiskies from different distilleries.

Blended Scotch Whisky

  1. A blend of multiple single malt and single grain whisky from different distilleries
  2. It contains a combination of 20%- 40% single malt and 60%- 80% single grain.
  3. Examples: Dewars, Johnnie Walker.

The Making of Scotch

  • Step 1: The barley is cleaned and immersed in water.
  • Step 2: Afterwards, it is scattered on a broad surface in a malt barn to germinate. These sprouting grains are stirred regularly to prevent them from overheating.
  • Step 3: After a week, the now malted barley, is dried by a heat source at 158 degrees Fahrenheit or 70 degrees Celsius. The fuel used for this fire is Peat.
  • Step 4: Distillation
  • Step 5: Aging in oak caskets for a minimum of 3 years.

Proof Range of Scotch

As a requisite, all scotch whisky must be distilled to have an alcohol strength which is less than 94.8%, that is 190 proof. The finished product of scotch whisky should be at the minimum 40% ABV, that is, 80 US proof.

Requirements For Whisky To Be Called Scotch

According to the Scotch Whisky Order and The Scotch Whisky Act, for a whisky to be called Scotch whisky, it should meet the following requirements:

  1. The whisky spirit needs to be produced at a distillery located in Scotland
  2. It should be produced with a combination of malted barley and water. Only whole grains or cereals can be added to this mixture.
  3. The whisky spirit should be processed in the same distillery into a mash
  4. Only endogenous enzymes can be used for converting mash to fermentable mash.
  5. The process of fermentation can be done only by adding yeast.
  6. The whisky spirit should be distilled to have an alcohol strength which is less than 94.8%. This is so that the distillate alcohol will still have the taste and aroma of its raw materials.
  7. Oak casks which are less than 700 litres should be used for the maturation process. Further, it should be matured for at least three years, before merchandising.
  8. The whisky spirit should preserve the taste, aroma, and colour of the original raw materials.
  9. No other products besides water and spirit caramel can be included.

In addition to these, Scotland has legally recognized five regions that can produce whisky. These are Islay, the Highlands, Speyside, the Lowlands and the Islands.

What is Whiskey?

In a word, whiskey is a spirit that is made from fermented grains. The name “whiskey” is the adulterated version of the Gaelic word “uisgebaugh,” which means water of life. The term “uisge” was first adulterated into “usky.” After several centuries, this term eventually got renamed "whiskey."

Subcategories of Whiskey

Different types of whiskey are manufactured in different countries. They differ from one another in the cereals used and their proportion, and according to the type of still, that is used for the process of distillation.

Broadly, there are two types of whiskies. One is malt whiskey, made predominantly from malted barley. Two, grain whiskey, produced from different types of grains.

According to the geographical area they are produced in there are different types of whiskies.

  • American Whiskey- Bourbon, Single Malts, Rye, Blends
  • Irish Whiskey- Pure Pot Still, Single Grains, Single Malts, Blends
  • Scotch- Single Grains, Single Malts, Blends, Blended Grains, Blended Malts
  • Japanese Whisky- Single Malts, Blends
  • Canadian Whisky- Single Malts, Blends

The Making of Whiskey

All whiskey is in essence just, distilled beer, which was made from grains, water and yeast. The different steps of making whiskey:

  • Step 1: The cereal grains are put into the distiller and smashed.
  • Step 2: Hot water and yeast are added to the mixture. The mixture is now made to ferment, to form beer.
  • Step 3: The beer is now boiled in big stills.
  • Step 4: Alcohol and water have different boiling points. Therefore, the alcohol is vaporised separately. This vapour is then immediately condensed back into liquid form. This process is repeated two more times.
  • Step 5: The condensed alcohol is now collected and put into casks. They are then left to mature.

Proof Range

A majority of whiskies fall in the 80 – 90 proof range. That is they have an alcohol percentage of 40 – 45. Sometimes the phrase "cask strength" is written on the bottle. This means that the whiskey has not been watered down. These whiskies contain about 120 proof. This means that about 60% of the drink is alcohol.


The price of whiskey may range from extremely cheap to extremely expensive. The price is usually determined by three factors. Firstly, the age of whiskey drinks. The older the whiskey is, the more expensive it will be. Secondly, the rarity of whiskey drinks. If the bottle of whiskey is from a factory or farm and is no longer operational, it makes the bottle extremely rare. It is well known that the rarer a substance, the more the people will covet it. Hence, if a whiskey drink is rare, it will be more expensive. Thirdly, the brand of whiskey drinks. This factor is not specific to whiskey. As long as a product is sold by a branded company people will pay more money to purchase it.

Main Differences Between Scotch and Whiskey (In Points)

  • Whiskey can be produced anywhere in the world. Scotch is made only in Scotland, specifically in the five legally recognised regions.
  • The main ingredient in scotch is malted barley. Whiskey is made from a combination of grains, water and yeast.
  • For a whisky spirit drink to be called Scotch whisky, there are a lot of rules and regulations that ought to be met. Whiskey, on the other hand, has no such issues.
  • By law, scotch whisky must be matured for a minimum of three years. Whiskey does not have such a law.
  • Scotch contains 40% of alcohol (80 proof). Whiskey contains 40-45% of alcohol (80-90 proof)
  • The price of scotch is higher than the price of whiskey.


To sum up, both scotch and whiskey are alcoholic liquors. Scotch is a subcategory of whiskey, but it varies substantially from the other categories.

Scotch differs from the other categories in the geographic factor, legal requirements, the alcohol proof range and ingredients used. In addition to these, the process of making scotch whisky has additional steps compared to the others.


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  • https://www.insider.com/guides/kitchen/scotch-vs-whiskey#:~:text=Whiskey%20is%20a%20broad%20term,spelling%20for%20Scottish%2Dmade%20versions
  • https://www.masterclass.com/articles/understanding-alcohol-proof


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"Difference Between Scotch and Whiskey." Diffzy.com, 2024. Mon. 17 Jun. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-scotch-and-whiskey-1266>.

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