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What Exactly is the Difference Between Scotch and Bourbon?

Are you trying to learn the difference between scotch and bourbon? If yes, you should check out our comparative guide right here.

There’s nothing better than a smooth drink after a long day. It’s no secret that a sip of your favorite alcoholic beverage is the perfect way to take the edge off. 

Scotch and bourbon are drinks that can be enjoyed alone or with friends, no matter the season or time of day. The key is to sip them slowly as you relax and watch the sunset.

This article takes a look at the difference between scotch and bourbon. After all, you might love them both, but these two drinks are actually quite different from each other. Keep reading to discover insight into bourbon whiskey vs scotch, how they are made, and the qualities that separate them.

One is “Whiskey”, While the Other is “Whisky”

That’s right, bourbon is whiskey and scotch is whiskey. This spelling difference might seem silly, but it’s for real. 

“Whiskey” is traditionally used for American and Irish spirits, including bourbon. “Whisky”, on the other hand, is used by most of the rest of the world, including Australia, Japan, Scotland, and the rest of Europe.

They’re Made In Different Parts of the World

Here’s the thing, you can’t make bourbon or scotch just anywhere and call them bourbon or scotch.

In reality, if you want to call a spirit bourbon, it has to be made in the United States. But for a spirit to be called scotch, it has to be produced in Scotland. It’s just that simple.

Take Japanese whiskey, for example. It’s actually very similar to scotch, yet because it’s not produced in Scotland, it’s not scotch. 

The Aging Processes are Different

Both of these spirits must go through an aging process before they’re ready for consumption.

First of all, there’s no minimum aging period for bourbon in general. Yet it must be aged for no less than years in order to meet the specific distinction of quality required for it to be called Straight Bourbon. This type of bourbon also cannot contain any added flavors, coloring, or spirits.

Scotch, on the other hand, must be aged for no less than three years and is typically aged longer than bourbon. In fact, the most popular whiskeys in the world have typically spent between 12 to 25 years in barrels before reaching the shelves.

They Don’t Taste the Same

Bourbon and scotch have different flavors. This is due to a number of individual factors. Though they both typically feature smokey, charred notes, they differ in other ways.

The primary flavor notes in bourbon are produced from the charred surface of the barrel where the spirit has been aged, often for decades. These oaky, vanilla-like flavors are distinct and delicious, and only get better year after year. 

Good scotch, on the other hand, often derives its flavors largely from the peat moss that’s burned during the complicated malting process. Just keep in mind that only the best scotches feature this amazing peaty flavor. 

MaCallan Scotch is a prime example of one of the finest spirits in the world.

ABV Requirements

These drinks also have different ABV requirements.

For example, bourbon must be distilled to no more than 80% alcohol (160 proof). It can also be no more than 62.5 percent when it’s put in new charred oak barrels for aging.

Scotch is different. It must have an ABV of less than 94.8%. It’s aged in used oak barrels rather than new ones. Believe it or not, scotch is often aged in barrels that were previously used to store beer, Sherry, and even bourbon.

The Use of Barley

When thinking about scotch and bourbon, it’s important to consider the use of barley.

For example, in the production of single malt scotch, barley is all you can use. In some instances, the barley is smoked with peat moss (as mentions earlier) and sometimes not. When the barley is mashed and separated from the sweet liquid prior to adding yeast, this removes some of the more intense cereal notes that you’d tend to find in bourbon.

Used vs New Barrels

The use of used vs new barrels has been the subject of great debate for decades. The key difference between the two types of barrels is the fact that used barrels have been previously used to store other types of drinks, thus those flavors soak into the wood and then transfer certain flavor notes into the new batch being stored in those same barrels.

Used barrels are typically used for scotch, while new barrels are favored for the production of bourbon. Keep in mind that every distillery features their own aging process, and yet this use of new vs used is pretty much the universal across the board.

A Complete Guide to the Difference Between Scotch and Bourbon

When it comes to food and drink, there is a whole world of quality spirts to discover and enjoy. Many people have a favorite alcoholic drink, whether it be wine, beer, vodka, or a great whiskey. The key to getting the most out of your drinking experience is to fully understand and appreciate the difference between scotch and bourbon.

Keep in mind that there’s no right answer to picking your favorite. It’s all about choosing the spirit than offers the greatest amount of pleasure for each individual. Fortunately, this guide can help you understand the fascinating differences between these two beverages so that you can make the most of every occasion.

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Written by Marcus Richards

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