What’s the difference between scotch and whiskey?
So, we’ve established that when talking about whisky, the addition of one little ‘e’ can actually equate to thousands of miles and hundreds of years of heritage. Plus, we’ve pinpointed the small but very special section of the world that is responsible for every single bottle of scotch.
But there are so many whisky brands and varieties. How can they all be different? Well, the individuality of all Ballantine’s scotch whiskies comes from their carefully chosen ingredients, the way they are crafted and how they are aged. The same is true for whiskies worldwide.
There are many stages involved in how whisky is made including malting, mashing, fermentation, pot stills and distillation. It is the choices made at each phase that create the flavours and finish that characterise each whisky type. Granted, there’s a lot to it, but here’s a handy rundown of some of the key variations:
Types of whiskey
We’ve already explored the scotch vs whisky conundrum, so we won’t explain what defines scotch whisky again, but we thought it was worth highlighting some other whisky types:
Bourbon: Derived from the French Bourbon dynasty, Bourbon is an American whiskey. It must be made from at least 51% corn and be aged in new, charred oak barrels.
Tennessee whiskey: As the name suggests, Tennessee whiskey must be produced in the American state of Tennessee. It is a type of bourbon which is filtered through sugar-maple charcoal before barrelling.
Rye whiskey: Rye whiskey can be made anywhere in the world but is mainly produced in America and Canada. In the United States, it must be made from a fermented mash of at least 51% rye grain.
Irish whiskey: This whiskey is only bottled in Ireland, and has a mixed base of malt, cereal grain, and barley. It has a three-year ageing process and undergoes a triple distillation process.
Japanese whisky: Produced in Japan, this whisky sometimes uses wood that isn’t found anywhere else on the planet and water from nearby mountains. Many Japanese distilleries import their ingredients from Scotland, but the finished beverage is said to be less peaty in flavour than scotch.
Canadian whisky: Many Canadian whisky distillers use a different process to American producers. Rather than mashing all grains together, in Canada they tend to mash, ferment, distil, and age each type of grain separately before combining the finished whiskies.
Types of scotch whisky
Single malt scotch: To qualify as a single malt, a scotch must have been distilled at one distillery and be made from a mash of malted barley. Like other scotch, it must be matured in oak casks for at least three years though many single malts, like Ballantine’s 15 year old single malt, are aged for much longer than this.
Single grain scotch: Like single malt, this scotch must be produced by a single distillery. The difference, however, is that this whisky variety doesn’t have to include malted barley and can be made from another grain such as rye or corn.
Blended malt scotch: Formerly called vatted malt, blended malt scotch is made by combining different single malt whiskies from two or more distilleries.
Blended grain scotch: A blend of two or more single grain scotches from various distilleries.
Blended scotch: Blended scotch whisky is made by blending barrel-aged malt whisky and grain whisky. Ballantine’s Finest, for instance, is a combination of more than 50 single malts and 4 single-grain whiskies.