Difference Between Scotch and Irish Whiskey

An experienced sommelier can distinguish one whiskey from another without, for example, tasting its aroma or color. But for the less experienced whisky connoisseurs, it is not always possible. So what is the difference between Scotch and Irish whiskey?

The history, traditions, and even the cuisine of Scotland and Ireland are closely linked with Great Britain. This fact is also reflected in the production of the famous spirits.

The first thing that distinguishes Scotch whisky from Irish whisky is its name. The word came from the Welsh language and translates to “water of life”. It sounds the same, but it is spelled differently.

The word “whisky” is used to refer to Scotch from Scotland, while Irish whisky (as well as any other) has been referred to exclusively as “whiskey” since 1970.

Scotch vs Whiskey taste

Herein lies the first significant difference between the drinks. The Scots use peat when drying barley malt, which is the main production raw material. As it burns, it produces smoke with a specific smoky smell, tinged with iodine or heather notes, depending on where the peat is harvested. The smoke impregnates the malt and gives recognizable aromatic and gustatory motifs to the finished whisky. This distinction is much appreciated by connoisseurs of alcohol.

whiskey glasses

In addition, the drink is aged in wooden casks which have been used before, for example for American bourbon, Portuguese Madera or Spanish sherry. The wood has fed off the previous bouquets and gives them back to the distillate. The result is a whisky with unexpected flavors and aromas: honey, caramel, sea salt, apples, grapes, flowers, or spices.

Alcoholic Drinks to Try in the UK

The main taste difference between scotch and Irish whiskey is the pronounced sweetness and butteriness of the former. It is also softer, easier to drink, and leaves a more delicate aftertaste. The sweetness is achieved by adding to the blend of rye or oats by Irish producers, the softness is achieved by the unique technology of triple distillation.

Differences in the production of Scotch and Irish whiskey 

In order to understand the difference between the finished alcohol, it is worth understanding the correct order of production of Scotch and Irish whiskey in one and the other country.

Classic Scotch whiskey is made from barley and barley malt. Barley is sorted, then soaked to germinate, then dried in peat smoke. It is then milled to make wort, and yeast is added and left to ferment for at least two days.

The fermented mixture is passed through a distillation cube twice and left to mature in oak barrels for at least 3 years. Only then is the scotch put through filters and bottled.

This method, while consistent with Scottish tradition, is quite expensive. Therefore the single malt “semi-finished” is often blended with grain alcohol to create alcoholic blends (blends).

Scotland currently has 100 distilleries producing malt whisky and 8 distilleries producing grain whisky. The share of pure malt whisky in the total volume of Scotch produced is only about 8%.

The Irish national drink is made a little differently. One of the differences concerns the raw materials: in addition to barley, the mash may contain ground rye, oats, and wheat grains. But the main difference between Scotch and Irish whiskey is that the latter undergoes triple distillation.

The technology uses both modern distillation stills and old copper alembics. Triple-distilled whiskey is purer and softer, but it also has a less pronounced flavor. And here everyone is free to choose to his or her own taste.

whiskey glass

The minimum period of aging is the same as for scotch and amounts to three years. But the Irish are quite loyal to the preservation of the classic taste of “water of life” – they like bold experiments. That is why today you can find Irish whiskey with honey, herbs, chocolate, and other ingredients which set off the basic bouquet.

Currently, in Ireland, there are only three full-fledged distilleries for the production of whiskey. That is why the assortment is quite different from the Scottish whiskey. Nevertheless, it is here where the famous Pure Pot Still is produced – a unique pure whiskey produced directly from the distillation cask (Redbreast, some Jameson, and Green Spot varieties).

When considering the difference between Scotch and Irish whiskey, it is also worth mentioning the way casks are stored in the cellars. The Scots are the adherents of a long tradition, so they stack the casks with the future whisky horizontally. The Scots, on the other hand, keep it in vertical containers. There is an opinion that this difference has a certain impact on the whisky’s taste. At least experienced whiskey tasters are able to distinguish these nuances.

Famous Irish whiskey: 

  • Jameson, 
  • Kilbeggan, 
  • Bushmills, 
  • Tullamore Dew, 
  • Connemara, 
  • Paddy, 
  • The Sexton, 
  • Method & Madness.

Judging which whiskey is better, Irish or Scotch, is up to the consumer in any case. There are millions of fans of both pungent provocative classics from Scotland and pleasant Irish gentleness. The main thing is to choose a quality whiskey that can fully convey the idea put into it by the manufacturer.

Famous Scotch whiskey: 

  • Johnnie Walker, 
  • Grant’s, 
  • Talisker, 
  • The Ardmore Legacy, 
  • Ledaig, 
  • William Peel, 
  • Craigellachie, 
  • Aberfeldy, 
  • The Balvenie DoubleWood.