two glasses and bottle containing irish whiskey and scotch

What Is Irish Whiskey vs Scotch?

Irish Whiskey and scotch are two different types of whiskies. Many people tend to believe that there is no real difference between them, but the fact of the matter is that they differ significantly in how they’re made, what they taste like, and how they originated.

The most apparent difference is that Irish Whiskey originated in Ireland while Scotch originated in Scotland, and they’re spelled differently. Scotch whisky is spelled without an “e” between the “k” and the “y,” while Irish whiskey includes the ‘e.’ It’s a very minor difference, but one that hints at the unique history behind whisky.

In this Irish Whiskey vs Scotch guide, we are going to talk about many different things about both, including their alcohol content, how they’re made, what their primary ingredients are, and more.

Irish Whiskey vs Scotch: The Main Facts

Irish Whiskey and scotch are two of the most well-known types of alcoholic spirits worldwide. Irish Whiskey’s history dates back to the 12th century, making it one of the oldest distilled drinks in Europe. A group of monks traveled around Southern Europe around 1000 AD and brought back the distillation technique with them to Ireland.

Scotch whisky, on the other hand, is first seen in historical records in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland from 1494, but it’s unclear exactly when it was first produced.

Both drinks range from pale gold to dark amber in color. The biggest difference between the two is how they’re distilled. Scotch is distilled twice, while Irish Whiskey is distilled thrice. This affects their flavors and textures, with Irish Whiskey being smoother and lighter than scotch.

Irish Whiskey generally has a fruitier taste than scotch, which mostly has smoky and woody flavors.

What Is the Alcohol Content of Irish Whiskey and Scotch?

Irish Whiskey and Scotch are both strong alcoholic drinks, and their alcohol content is usually above 40% alcohol by volume (ABV). This is the minimum alcohol content all Irish Whiskeys and Scotch whiskies must-have, which means it can often go beyond this level in many bottles.

What Are Irish Whiskey and Scotch Made From?

One of the main differences between Irish Whiskey and scotch is that the former can be made from either malted or unmalted barley, while the latter doesn’t use unmalted barley.

There are four forms of Irish Whiskey: single malt, single pot still, single grain, and blended. Single malt Irish Whiskey is crafted from 100% malted barley and produced at a single distillery. Single pot still is what makes Irish Whiskey unique as it uses both malted and unmalted barley, which gives it a distinct flavor.

Single grain means the whiskey is made from grains other than barley, such as corn or wheat, but in Ireland, Irish Whiskey must contain at least some malted barley. Blended whiskey uses a mixture of barley and other grains like corn or wheat.

Scotch has three types: single malt, single grain, and blended. Most scotch whisky consumed worldwide is blended scotch, which combines malt whisky and grain whisky.

What Is the Primary Ingredient of Irish Whiskey and Scotch?

The main ingredient used in both Irish Whiskey and scotch is barley. As mentioned above, there can be other ingredients used in the process of making both spirits. For example, Irish Whiskey mostly uses both malted and unmalted barley, while scotch is usually made from malted barley alone.

Both of them can make use of other grains like corn or wheat as well, but Irish Whiskey must always have malted barley in its production.

How Are Irish Whiskey and Scotch Made?

The first step in the production of Irish Whiskey involves milling malted and unmalted barley into a mash by adding water, which produces a sugary liquid called “wort.” Then, yeast is added to begin the fermentation process and produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. After fermentation, a liquid called “wash” is produced, which is distilled thrice to increase purity.

Finally, the whiskey is poured into wooden barrels and aged for a minimum of three years. It is during this time that it develops its flavors and color. Once aged, it is bottled and shipped around the world.

Scotch goes through a similar process, but it is distilled twice.

How Are Irish Whiskey and Scotch Distilled or Filtered?

There are two distillation methods used in the production of scotch and Irish Whiskey: pot still and column still. Both begin with creating a mash of ground grain, hot water, and yeast, which ferments to increase alcohol content. In pot stills, the wash is heated, and alcohol vapor separates from water vapor, condensing into spirit.

Column stills operate continuously, making them more cost-effective but potentially compromising flavor due to higher alcohol concentration.

Can You Make Irish Whiskey or Scotch Yourself?

Technically, it is possible to make Irish Whiskey and scotch yourself, but making distilled spirits anywhere other than a TTB-qualified distilled spirits plant is illegal in the US and can lead to fines and even imprisonment. If you’re planning to make whisky at home, then you must get a license first.

To make Irish Whiskey yourself, you’ll need to mash barley, ferment the mash, distill the resulting liquid in a pot still, and age it in oak barrels for at least three years. This whole process is very complicated, and you’ll need specialized equipment and knowledge of distillation techniques. Also, keep in mind that any whiskey produced and matured outside of Ireland can’t be called Irish Whiskey.

Scotch follows a similar process, but it can’t be called scotch if it’s produced outside of Scotland.

Now You Know the Difference Between Irish Whiskey and Scotch

whisky casks at distillery in scotland

Irish Whiskey and scotch have completely different origins, and they also differ in their production process and taste. The former is made exclusively in Ireland and is usually distilled thrice, while the latter can only be made in Scotland and goes through the process of distillation twice.

These two different production methods result in drinks that offer unique flavor profiles and characteristics.

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