5 Key Difference Between Scotch and Irish Whiskey [Updated]

Feb 15, 2023 - Views: 859

Rating: 4.6 - 53Votes

What is the difference between Scotch and Irish whiskey?

Indeed, Scotland and Ireland are among two of the most well-known manufacturers of Whisky/Whiskey in the world. 

Although they are neighbors, they work in quite different manners.

Keep reading to learn how these two differ from each other!

A full guide on the difference between Scotch and Irish whisky

A full guide on the difference between Scotch and Irish whisky

What Is Scotch Whisky?

Scotch, usually known as Scotch whisky, is a distilled alcoholic beverage produced in Scotland. 

Water and malted barley (or other grains) are combined to create all Scotch whisky.

It is then matured for at least three years in oak barrels in one of five regions in Scotland: Lowland, Campbeltown, Speyside, Highland, and Islay.

Scotch whisky comes in 5 varieties: single malt, single grain, blended grain, blended malt, and blended.

Scotch whisky

Scotch whisky

If you have a Scotch whisky bottle but don’t know what to mix with Scotch, check our suggestions!

What Is Irish Whiskey?

For a spirit to be called Irish whiskey, it must be made from malt, cereal grain, and barley, then distilled, matured, and bottled in Ireland.

In addition, it must spend at least three years maturing in wooden casks.

When Irish whiskey is stored in less typical barrels, such as sherry casks or rum casks, its more subdued, malty flavor really comes through.

Based on the ingredients and distillation process, this kind of spirit can be divided into 4 types: single malt, single grain, single pot still, and blended.

Irish whiskey

Irish whiskey

What Is The Difference Between Scotch and Irish Whiskey?

Some people might think that the spelling is the most obvious distinction between Scotch whisky vs Irish whisky. 

Though true, it is not enough. 

History

Even though Scotch sells more globally than Irish Whiskey, Irish Whiskey lovers will always be able to claim that Irish Whiskey was the first!

Despite the fact that there is no written evidence to support it, it is generally accepted that monks brought distilling methods from southern Europe to Ireland in the 11th century.

The earliest documented written record of whiskey in Ireland is from 1405, but the alcohol isn't mentioned until 90 years later, in 1494. 

Scotch whisky was fast to follow up, and it eventually grabbed control of the whisky market once Scotland introduced the column still in the early 1800s.

Spellings

Irish whiskey is spelled with an E, while Scotch whisky is written without an E. Why does the same word have two different spellings? 

What is the difference between Irish whisky and Scotch?

What is the difference between Irish whisky and Scotch?

Simply said, it's a translational inconsistency. The Scottish omitted the extra letter, whereas the Irish added one.

Later, as whisky became more popular over the world, several nations adopted the spelling they had originally encountered.

For example, Irish immigrants brought whiskey to America predominantly in the 18th century, American "whiskey" retained the Irish "e." 

However, the majority of other English-speaking nations kept the "e" out, following Scotland's lead.

Ingredients

A single-grain Scotch is sometimes used to describe whisky created from a single grain other than malted barley, even if malted barley is added to initiate the fermentation process.

Contrarily, Irish whiskey is available in four different varieties: single malt, single grain, single pot still, and blended, though the single pot still is arguably the most intriguing. 

It denotes the use of both malted and unmalted barley in its production.

Irish whiskey vs Scotch whisky has different ingredients

Irish whiskey vs Scotch whisky has different ingredients

Distillation Process

In general, Scotch whisky goes through two distillations while Irish whiskey goes through three.

The extra distillation stage used in Ireland is said to provide a smoother-tasting and lighter beverage.

Nevertheless, certain Irish single malts are triple distilled, and you may even find several triple-distilled Scotch's in the Lowlands, like Auchentoshan Single Malt.

Taste

As a result of the different distilling techniques, Irish vs Scotch whiskey taste differs.

Rob Caldwell, the worldwide brand ambassador for Teeling Whiskey, claims that Irish whiskey is known for creating a smoother, lighter-styled dram when compared to single malt Scotch.

Unlike Irish whiskey, the taste of Scottish whiskey varies based on the brand and distillery from which it is sourced. 

It will be richer, heavier, and more complex.

If you are a big fan of this strong-taste beverage, you may try Black Dog Black Reserve. A variety of warm and luxurious aromas may be found in this aged and distinctive Scotch whisky.

Irish vs Scotch whisky comparison

Irish vs Scotch whisky comparison

What Do Irish And Scotch Whiskies Have In Common?

What features do Scotch and Irish whiskey share?

Despite the variations in production processes, there are some similarities between Irish Whiskey and Scotch, especially in taste.

Given that Scotland has more than 130 distilleries, it is not unexpected that several of them share flavor profiles with Irish distilleries. 

(Not to mention that Ireland was the first country to brew single malt!)

Irish whiskey vs Scotch whisky taste is sometimes similar

Irish whiskey vs Scotch whisky taste is sometimes similar

Related: What to mix with Fireball whiskey?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Which is better Scotch or Irish whiskey?

It depends on your personal preferences. 

The bare minimum of two distillations makes Scottish whisky stronger. Yet, thanks to the third distillation, Irish whiskey is softer and more neutral.

2. Should you drink Scotch straight?

The simplest way to drink whisky is neat, with a few sips of chilled water in between. In order to enhance the flavors of their whisky, some people may add a few drops of water.

3. Which is more expensive: Irish whisky vs Scotch?

Scotch has traditionally cost more than Irish Whiskey, despite the fact that prices widely vary by brand, age, and variety.

Final Thoughts

Last but not least, both liquids are distilled beverages that have been matured for at least three years in oak after being prepared from fermented grains. Additionally, they are equally tasty. Despite that, it is still worthwhile to take into account the difference between Scotch and Irish whiskey.

Rating: 4.6 - 53Votes

11 Comments

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  1. Manuel Davidson

    Manuel Davidson

    Can someone please give a quick rundown on the top scotchs and Irish Whiskeys. Is Macallan or Glen Moray good? Woodford? I do not know much about whiskey, I imagine someone will tell me that scotch and Irish whiskey are different or something. What is your favorite? what would be a good gift? Any help at all would be fantastic!

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    1. Jonah Klein

      Jonah Klein

      You might go with the Moray, its good and cheap, a typical speyside. I haven't found anyone to not like it. They have a chardonnay cask that is interesting.

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    2. Manuel Davidson

      Manuel Davidson

      Thanks for the advice

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    3. Nilam Munshi

      Nilam Munshi

      Irish whiskey is like scotch, but triple distilled so its kinda boring (imo) in comparison. Macallan was good, they're on a downward spiral. Woodford makes bourbon and rye and is not well regarded, although I like it personally.

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      1. Sona Mistry

        Sona Mistry

        Irish whiskies are also made usually from partially unmalted barley.

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  2. Ashley Parker

    Ashley Parker

    I mostly drink Scotch and Irish whiskey and am looking to get into bourbon. Where do I start?

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    1. Charandeep Chaudhary

      Charandeep Chaudhary

      Go with Elijah Craig small batch. Fabulous... Very drinkable and affordable. 94 proof.

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  3. Bailey Turner

    Bailey Turner

    Any recommendations for books about the history of scotch and Irish whiskey? It sounds off topic but still hope someone will answer

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    1. Charandeep

      Charandeep

      "A Glass Apart" by Fionnán O'Connor is probably the definitive book on the history of Irish whiskey. It's only got the first edition out, so his section on current whiskies is a bit outdated due to the recent boom in the industry, but the rest of the book is amazing.

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    2. Lydia Webster

      Lydia Webster

      For single malts or " scotch " folks say the go to is Whisky: The First Definitive Book on Whisky by Aeneas MacDonald.

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    3. Bailey Turner

      Bailey Turner

      Will give it a read. Thank you!

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