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Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey: Scotch vs Bourbon vs Whiskey

Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey – What Is Whiskey?

Difference between Bourbon and Whiskey Whiskey is an alcoholic spirit.  It is fermented and distilled using a combination of wheat, corn, barley, and rye.  Then it is aged in wooden barrels. Whiskey is made around the world.  Famous varietals include Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, Bourbon, Canadian whisky, and rye.  Whiskey is spelled whisky without an e outside the US and Ireland.

A whiskey mash is a mixture of fermented grains used in the distilling process. A mash bill identifies what grains are in the mash. Most whiskeys have requirements on what can make up their mash bill. For example, Bourbon’s mash bill must be 51% corn.  A sour mash is when a portion of a previous batch of the mash is used in making a new batch. Some distilleries use this to ensure even flavoring, as a type of quality control. Despite the name, this adds no sourness to the flavor profile of the final whiskey.

Whiskey is the broader beverage category that other spirits like Scotch, Bourbon, and Rye whiskey fall into. It is most often aged in wooden barrels which impart color and flavor.  There must be no added flavoring for a whiskey to be a whiskey.  All the flavor must come from the barrel the whiskey is aged in and the fermented grain mash. When first distilled, it is clear in color and referred to as moonshine or white whiskey. The real differentiation comes from the type of grain that’s used in the fermentation process, as well as a place of origin.

Whiskey Origins

The earliest written account of whiskey making dates back to the late 1400s.   The actual origins are murky as both the Scottish and Irish lay claim to its invention. Essentially, whiskey is fermented from a mash of cereal grains like wheat, barley, corn, rye, then aged in wood barrels.  It’s one of the most diverse and widely-crafted spirits in the world.  Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Japan, and the United States are the biggest commercial producers.

Individual styles may impose particular specifications.  Irish whiskey, for example, must be made with malted barley and matured in oak for at least three years.  Even the spellings can be different.  Expect to see whisky on bottles from Scotland, Canada, and Japan.  Americans and the Irish go with whiskey.   Whiskey is a broad and flexible category that includes a number of iconic styles including Scotch, Rye, and Bourbon.

What is the Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey?

As it turns out, the difference is a legal one, and it is set in stone. Official guidelines, some dating back to 1897’s TK Bill, specify a strict list of requirements in order for a spirit to qualify as bourbon. According to Jim Beam, the guidelines say that:

  • Made in the USA – Bourbon must be made in the US (and 95% of it is made in Kentucky!)
  • 51% corn – It must be made from a fermented mash of at least 51% corn, though most are closer to 70% corn
  • 80% maximum alcohol content – Bourbon must be distilled at no more than 160 proof, and be stored at no more than 125 proof
  • Minimum aging requirement – Bourbon is aged for at least two years in a new, charred white oak barrel
  • No additives – Last but not least, bourbons never contain additives, like color or flavor

Scotch vs Whiskey – The Difference Between Scotch and Whiskey

What is Scotch?

Scotch is whisky from Scotland spelled without an in whisky.  Scotch is typically aged longer, which causes it to develop a distinct smoky flavor.  Some consider Scotch an acquired taste.  On the first sip, it is apparent that Scotch means serious business. It’s often served straight or on the rocks.  Due to its unique flavor, it is not commonly mixed into cocktails as frequently as the other spirits.

Does Scotch have to come from Scotland?

Yes. Take champagne for example.  Producers must make their sparkling wine in the Champagne region of France before they can label it as such. Distillers who want to call their product Scotch likewise must produce their whisky in Scotland. But that’s only one stipulation.  The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009, legislate the production, bottling, labeling, packaging, and advertising of Scotch whisky.

What are the different categories of Scotch whisky?

The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 define five types of Scotch whisky. Here’s how the types of whisky differ:

  • Single malt Scotch whisky must be distilled at a single distillery.
  • Blended malt Scotch whisky is a blend of two or more single malt Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.
  • Single grain Scotch whisky is also distilled at a single distillery but made from cereal grains rather than just malted barley.
  • Blended grain Scotch whisky is a blend of single grain Scotch whiskies, which have been distilled at more than one distillery.
  • Blended Scotch whisky combines one or more single malt Scotch whiskies with one or more single grain Scotch whiskies.

What is Rye Whiskey?

Rye is another type of whiskey that is made from a mash that contains at least 51 percent rye.  What is rye? It is a type of grass that is a member of the wheat tribe and closely related to barley. The finished product is less sweet than bourbon. It is often used as a substitute for bourbon and adds a spicy flavor to a cocktail. Aside from the grain and origin technicalities, the key difference between bourbon, Scotch, and rye is taste.

How Rye Is Made

For a spirit to call itself American rye whiskey, it has to conform to a strict set of legal regulations. First, the mash that provides the sugars for fermentation has to be made up of at least 51 percent actual rye grain. The bill’s remaining 49 percent usually winds up being a blend of corn, wheat, or malted barley.

Also, certified rye whiskey’s initial alcohol content can’t be any higher than 160 proof (roughly 80 percent alcohol). Once the liquor has been distilled from the fermented mash, it gets diluted to no more than 125 proof, or 62.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). Then, the liquid gets piped into charred, new oak barrels, and left untouched to age.

How Rye Tastes

Rye is known for its peppery bite.  There should be a spicy splash of flavor that washes over the palate with every sip. Some are more aggressive than others depending on the recipe and process.  However, with rye grain making up the majority of the malt bill, there should be an inevitable bite of rye flavor.

Rye vs Bourbon Taste

Rye whiskey tends to lean more toward the savory side in contrast to corn-based liquors like bourbon.  As an analogy, think about the difference between rye bread and cornbread.  Thet’s the same difference to expect between rye whiskey and bourbon.

Taste Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey and Scotch

Whiskey’s flavor will vary depending on what type of whiskey—Irish, Japanese, and so on.  As a result, it’s tough to provide exact tasting notes for whiskey.  In general:

Bourbon usually has strong notes of vanilla, oak, and caramel. These pleasant, often smooth notes make bourbon tasty and enjoyable straight on the rocks, as well as in cocktails. Bourbons made with a higher amount of wheat tend to be mellow and softer.

Bourbon vs Scotch Taste

Scotch and Bourbon are both types of whiskey. Bourbon is produced in the United States and mainly made from corn mash.  Scotch is produced in Scotland and typically made from malted grains, especially single malt Scotch.  In terms of nutrition, bourbon and Scotch are identical. A standard 1.5-ounce (43-ml) shot contains 14 grams of alcohol and 97 calories each.

Though identical in terms of calorie and alcohol content, they’re produced from different grains. Bourbon is made from a grain mash that contains at least 51% corn, while Scotch whiskeys are typically made from malted grains. These differences give bourbon and Scotch slightly different taste profiles. Bourbon tends to be sweeter, while Scotch tends to have a more intense smokiness.

Rye vs Bourbon Taste

Rye whiskey, like its name suggests, is a whiskey that is distilled from at least 51% rye.  The taste of rye should be like a spicy, grainy, hard-edged version of bourbon.

Rye vs Scotch Taste

Rye whiskey can come from either the U.S. or Canada and is distilled from mash using at least 51% rye.  Scotch is made from malt or grain (or a blend) and has to be aged for at least three years.  The difference between rye and Scotch from a taste perspective is that rye tends to be a little spicy.  Scotches have a bit more of a honey flavor. Irish whiskies are generally sweet and oaky, and a good Canadian single malt should have a vanilla taste.

Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey – Frequently Asked Questions

Can bourbon be made outside of America?

No, the federal standards governing the identity of bourbon dictate that it is a ‘distinctive product of the United States.  The word bourbon shall not be used to describe any whiskey or whiskey-based distilled spirits not produced in the United States.

Does bourbon have to be made in Kentucky?

Bourbon is intrinsically linked to the Bluegrass State of Kentucky.  It’s easy to think the spirit is exclusively made there. According to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, 95 percent of the world’s supply comes from Kentucky. However, the reality is that it can be produced anywhere in America.  New bourbon distillers are popping up across the country all the time.

 Where does the name bourbon come from?

The origins of the name bourbon are uncertain. However, the most prominent contenders are Bourbon County in Kentucky and Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Both take their names from the House of Bourbon, a European royal house of French origin.

Difference between bourbon and whiskey – What’s Canadian whisky?

Canadian whisky is also spelled without an e.  It is actually interchangeable with the term rye whisky in Canada. Canadian whisky, as compared to other whiskies, is typically lighter and smoother. Plus, Don Draper drinks it. It’s usually made with different grains, but corn is often the most prevalent. For a while, rye was a popular addition, hence the name interchangeability in Canada.  Canadian tastes like plain, smooth whisky. A solid choice for whisky novices. thrill

What is bottled-in-bond?

Bottled-in-bond relates to an American-made distilled beverage that meets the legal requirements laid out in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. The act dictates that spirits must be the product of one distilling season from one distillery and bottled at 100 proof. It must also be aged for at least four years in a federally bonded warehouse.

Up Next: Who is Yvonne Strahovski?

Yvonne Strahovski
Australian actress Yvonne Strahovski,
By Joits, License CC BY 2.0

Yvonne Strahovski is an Australian actress. She plays Sarah Walker in the NBC spy series Chuck and Hannah McKay in the Showtime drama Dexter.

Yvonne Strahovski was born on July 30th, 1982, and raised in Australia. Her parents were Polish immigrants. She attended Santa Sabina College for her high school education. She then went on to study Performance at the University of Western Sydney’s School of Contemporary Arts, graduating in 2003. Shortly afterward, she landed her first role on television in an episode of Double the Fist: Fear Factory (2004). Her next role was also on Australian television, appearing in several episodes of Headland (2005). In 2007, she made her big-screen debut in Gone (2006). This performance caught the attention of casting directors in Hollywood. She decided to move from Australia to Los Angeles.  Three days after her arrival in the USA, she landed her breakthrough role as Sarah Walker in Chuck (2007).

 

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