Irish Whiskey vs Scotch Whiskey: Difference and Comparison

Whiskey lovers have a craving for Irish Whiskey and Scotch Whiskey. The reason for this craving as these whiskeys are mostly imported from abroad.

People may think that these whiskeys are the same as they originated from Ireland and Scotland, which are close neighbours. Also, some may think that Irish Whiskey and Scotch Whiskey constitute different brands.

Irish Whiskey and Scotch Whiskey are two altogether different whiskeys (not from a single company) using different types of barley in preparation.

Key Takeaways

  1. Irish whiskey is distilled and aged in Ireland, traditionally triple distilled and made with a blend of malted and unmalted barley, resulting in a smooth and light flavor.
  2. Scotch whisky is produced in Scotland, double distilled and made primarily from malted barley, with a wide range of flavors influenced by regional factors and peat usage.
  3. Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky have distinct characteristics, with Irish whiskey considered more approachable for newcomers and Scotch whisky offering a diverse range of tastes for enthusiasts.

Irish Whiskey vs Scotch Whiskey

Irish whiskey is made from malted and unmalted barley and aged for at least three years, with a light and fruity flavor. Scotch whisky is made in Scotland and can be made from malted barley, unmalted barley, and other grains. It is distilled twice and aged for at least three years in oak casks.

Irish whiskey vs Scotch whisky

However, the above is not the only difference. A comparison between both the terms on specific parameters can shed light on subtle aspects:


 

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonIrish WhiskeyScotch Whiskey
Preparation FocusDistillationBlending
DistillationTriple distillationDouble distillation
Usage of copper potsCopper pot apparatus for distilling is used but not with a wide varietyExtensive types of copper pot apparatus for distilling are used
TasteSmooth taste with vanilla flavourFuller and heavier
BarleyUnmalted Barley is used; there may be some grains used as wellMalted Barley used in the preparation
Ageing periodUsually 3 yearsIt can be less than 3 years
OriginOriginated firstOriginated later than Irish Whiskey
Originating geographyIrelandScotland
Spelling differenceIrish Whiskey is spelt as “Irish Whiskey,” i.e. letter “e” is usedScotch Whiskey is spelt as “Scotch Whiskey,” i.e. letter “e” is not used in the word “Whiskey.”
Applicable LawsThe Irish Whiskey Act of 1980Scotch Whiskey Regulations 2009
Common BrandsJameson, Teeling Single Grain, Bushmills 21 Year Single Malt, Green Spot, Writers Tears Pot StillChivas Regal 12, 100 Pipers Deluxe

 

What is Irish Whiskey?

Irish Whiskey, as the name “Irish” suggests, is a whiskey made in and originated in Ireland. Irish Whiskey was launched in the United States in the early 18th century by certain Irish immigrants.

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Since then, it has become a famous whiskey not just in the United States but worldwide, although it had a certain period of decline in the 19th century. However, Irish Whiskey has gained immense popularity as the fastest-growing whiskey since 1990.

Irish Whiskey is prepared from unmalted and raw barley. However, an important aspect is that barley drying in covered kilns keeps the natural flavour of barley intact, which eventually translates into an excellent fine-tasting whiskey.

Irish Whiskey is commonly matured for a minimum of three years. The pot apparatus used in distillation is thrice the average size of usual copper pots.

Irish Whiskey is triple distilled. This additional distillation is essential in producing a smooth and light flavour for the whiskey.

Oak casks, ex-bourbon, or Sherry casks may also be used to prepare Irish Whiskey, which leads to classic sweet and spicy flavours.

Irish Whiskey‘s use of unmalted barley in the preparation has a historical connotation. There seems to be a specific tax on malt, which used to exist in Ireland.

Therefore, whiskey producers used unmalted barley in Irish Whiskey. Though the malt tax was later abolished, the producers continued using unmalted barley in the preparation.

Irish Whiskey production is regulated in Ireland through the Irish Whiskey Act 1980, which specifies the essential requirement for whiskey preparation, distillation, and maturing. Also, Irish Whiskey is considered a  protected European Geographical Indication (GI) under Regulation (EC) No 110/2008.

There are multiple types of Irish Whiskey, such as single malt Irish Whiskey, single pot still whiskey, grain whiskey and blended whiskey.  Certain Irish Whiskeys may carry an age statement.

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These types of whiskeys are considered reasonable and cheap compared to certain other whiskeys.

irish whiskey
 

What is Scotch Whiskey?

As the name “Scotch” suggests, Scotch whiskey is a whiskey made in Scotland. Scotch Whiskey is prepared from malted barley. The malt used is first sprouted and later dried.

The heavier taste of Scotch Whiskey is attributed to using malt ingredients. Scotch Whiskey also has a strong and pleasant flavour.

Oak casks, ex-bourbon, or Sherry casks may also be used to prepare Scotch Whiskey, which leads to classic flavours.

Scotch Whiskey is commonly double-distilled. However, there could be exceptions to these rules in certain distilleries that may adopt triple distillation.

Also, the copper pot apparatus used for distilling is more extensive.

Scotch Whiskey uses malted barley for preparation. The malt used is a whole one. Also, a mixture of various grains could be used.

Blending is also a prominent mechanism used while making Scotch Whiskey.  There is more focus on blending in the production of Whiskey. Scotch Whiskey is matured for two years.

Scotch Whiskey comes in various types, such as single malt Scotch Whiskey, single grain Scotch Whiskey, blended malt Scotch Whiskey, blended grain Scotch Whiskey, and blended Scotch Whiskey.

Scotch Whiskey is regulated by Scotch Whiskey Regulations 2009 (SWR), which specifies the requirements for the production, labelling, packaging, and distribution of Scotch whiskey.

scotch whiskey

Main Differences Between Irish Whiskey and Scotch Whiskey

  1. Irish Whiskey follows triple distillation. Scotch Whiskey uses a double distillation process.
  2.  Irish Whiskey is commonly aged for 3 years. Scotch Whiskey can be aged for 3 years or less.
  3.  Irish Whiskey originated first in the history of Ireland. Scotch Whiskey later came into the picture in Scotland.
  4. Irish Whiskey uses unmalted and raw barley in the preparation. Scotch Whiskey uses malted barley.
  5. Irish Whiskey does not make use of extensive copper pot apparatus for distilling. Scotch Whiskey uses various copper pot stills for the distillation process.
  6. Irish Whiskey has a smooth taste with loads of vanilla flavour. Scotch Whiskey has a strong and heavy flavour.
Difference Between Irish Whiskey and Scotch Whiskey

References
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780124017351000015

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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