Understanding a Whiskey Difference: Bourbon and Scotch

Whiskey, or whisky, is a favorite among spirit enthusiasts and novices alike. It’s a unique spirit that warms not just your body, but your heart as well (ok, we realize that’s a tad dramatic, but we stand by the statement). While many people enjoy whiskey, a lot of people struggle to understand the difference between bourbon and Scotch.

Let’s start with the basics: the “e” in whiskey really does make a difference. Traditionally, whiskey is from Ireland and the word itself comes from Gaelic that translates into “water of life.” The United States and Ireland produce whiskey while Canada, Japan, and Scotland produce whisky. In the late 1800s, Scottish whisky was very low quality so the Irish producers wanted to differentiate between what they were making and what was coming from Scotland. However, that’s not the only difference. Here’s where it gets a little technical:


Bourbon is a type of whiskey. Whiskey manufacturer Jim Beam, likes to say that all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon. U.S laws regulate that in order for something to be labeled as bourbon its mash must be at least 51% corn. Bourbon can also only be produced in the U.S and must be aged for at least 2 years.


Scotch is whisky and produced in Scotland. Scotch whisky is distilled from barley and other grains. Much has changed since the late 1800s and the debate between which is better, scotch or whiskey, can get spirited (pun intended). Scotland actually has more distilleries than any other country and a single malt whisky is the most popular whisky you can find. To be considered scotch, then, the whisky must be distilled and matured in copper pots at a Scottish distillery.

The other big difference between bourbon and scotch has to do with the climate. Due to the higher temperatures in Kentucky, bourbon matures much quicker than scotch. So, whether you’re enjoying a nice dram of whiskey or a nice dram of whisky, we’re sure you’re enjoying it.