Difference Between Irish Whiskey and American Whiskey (With Table)

The process of distillation is a significant one in the preparation of any alcoholic beverage. Earlier, whiskey was not allowed to age, and therefore, it was very raw and harsh in taste as compared to today’s whiskey. It was also not diluted. But with time, it came to evolve into a much smoother drink.

Two of the most common of it are the Irish whiskey and American whiskey. Undoubtedly, both the whiskeys are luscious and widely preferred. As the names suggest, Irish whiskey is made in Ireland and American whiskey is made in the USA.

Irish Whiskey vs American Whiskey

The difference between Irish whiskey and American whiskey is that Irish whiskey is made up of barley as the primary ingredient, whereas, American whiskey is made up of malted corn, rye or wheat.

Both varieties of whiskey are distinct in their taste, flavour, preparation and ageing time.

Comparison Table Between Irish whiskey and American whiskey

Parameter of ComparisonIrish whiskeyAmerican whiskey
OriginIrish whiskey is prepared in Ireland. American whiskey is prepared in the USA, mainly in Kentucky.
Ingredients It is usually made up of barley, and sometimes from a blend of wheat and barley. While it is made up of malted corn, rye or wheat.
FlavourIt has a smooth and light taste. It has sweet and spicy flavours and is denser.
MaturationIt is aged in old wooden barrels. Whereas, it is aged in previously unused charred-oak barrels.
Ageing TimeIt is aged for a minimum of three years. It is aged for a minimum of two years.
DistillationTriple distillation method is followed. Double distillation method is followed.
TypesSingle Malt whiskey, Single Pot whiskey and Blended whiskey are the types of Irish whiskey.Bourbon, Tennessee, Rye whiskey, Corn whiskey, Wheat whiskey and American Blend are the types of American whiskey.

What is Irish whiskey?

Irish whiskey is a type of whiskey made in Ireland. It was once one of the most famous and preferred spirits in the world. But over time, there was a great resurgence in its popularity. Once it had 30 distilleries, the number later reduced to just three.

The whiskey uses Barley as the primary ingredient. It is also sometimes made from a blend of Wheat and Barley to get the malted and unmalted flavour. The method of triple distillation is followed and old wooden casks or barrels are used to age the whiskey for a minimum of three years.

Unpeated malt is almost always used. Coming to the varieties and types of Irish whiskey, it consists of a significant number of it. Single Malt whiskey, Single Pot whiskey and Blended whiskey are the three types.

The whiskey has a smooth and light flavour to it. This is why it is mostly preferred for drinking straight, unlike American whiskey. Irish whiskey is distilled to no more than 189.6 proof and is bottled at no less than 80 proof.

On an interesting note, it was found that the use of straightforward chemometric procedures in Irish whiskeys makes them well characterised by the four higher alcohols that can be easily distinguished from other whiskeys.

What is American whiskey?

American whiskey is a type of whiskey made in the United States of America, mainly in Kentucky. During the American Revolution, the whiskey was used as currency. It is prepared from fermenting cereal grains such as Wheat, Rye or Corn.

The grains are malted for the preparation of this whiskey. Various types of American whiskey have different compositions of these grains. Bourbon whiskey: 51% corn, Corn whiskey: 80% corn, Rye whiskey: 51% rye, Wheat whiskey: 51% and Tennessee has a similar composition to that of Bourbon whiskey.

American whiskey follows the method of double distillation. It is aged in new or previously unused charred-oak containers. Corn whiskey is an exception as it does not need to be aged. All the other types are aged up to a minimum of two years. These usually have a sweet and denser flavour to them, which is sometimes spicy too.

Addition of colouring and flavouring to American whiskeys is prohibited. Only water is added to the final product. The whiskey is distilled to no more than 160 proof and is barrelled at no more than 125 proof.

On May 4, 1964, Bourbon whiskey was granted the designation of a distinct product of the USA by Congress. It remains the only spirit produced in this country to enjoy such protection.

Main Differences Between Irish whiskey and American whiskey

  1. Irish whiskeys are made in Ireland, while American whiskeys are made in the USA.
  2. American whiskey has a sweet and dense flavour, whereas, Irish whiskey has a smooth and light flavour.
  3. Irish whiskey is aged for a longer time.
  4. Old barrels are used for ageing Irish whiskey, while new barrels are used for ageing American whiskey.
  5. Irish whiskey is made from barley and American ones are made from corn, rye or wheat.


Despite having certain similarities in terms of the ingredients used and the colours, Irish whiskey and American whiskey are very different. The difference can be seen not only in the place of origin but also in several other aspects.

The Irish are admirers of flavoured and smooth whiskeys, while the Americans like it the other way. This is why Irish whiskeys are smoother and have a perfect flavour of all the ingredients. And American whiskeys have a hint of smokiness and sweetness in their flavours.

To sum it up, both the whiskeys offer their own unique flavours and tastes that makes them stand in the market as per the people’s choice.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0003267098007648
  2. https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&lr=&id=UgdG33sI7K8C&oi=fnd&pg=PP2&dq=info:KhRTsqQA7ygJ:scholar.google.com/&ots=0-jXInW6wW&sig=j21SCyhhhKy8wpZxW9jm9XnyqL4&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false
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