Difference Between Scotch and Bourbon

Whiskey is the typical alcoholic beverage preferred by spirit lovers. There are different varieties of whiskey. Scotch and Bourbon are the standard whiskeys preferred by consumers. Though the terms


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Scotch and Bourbon may be used relatively interchangeably as they possess specific common attributes. However, they are not the same thing. Scotch and Bourbon have marked distinctions.

Key Takeaways

  1. Scotch is a type of whiskey produced in Scotland, made primarily from malted barley, and aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels, with distinct flavors influenced by regional variations and production methods.
  2. Bourbon is a specific American whiskey, primarily produced in Kentucky, made from at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels, imparting unique characteristics and a sweeter flavor profile.
  3. The main distinction between Scotch and Bourbon is their regional origin, ingredients, and production requirements. Scotch is a malted barley-based whiskey from Scotland, and Bourbon is a corn-based whiskey from the United States.

Scotch vs Bourbon

The difference between Scotch and Bourbon is that Scotch is a whiskey that is made mainly from malted barley and made in Scotland, while Bourbon is whiskey distilled from corn and made in the U.S.A, normally Kentucky.

Scotch vs Bourbon

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


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonScorchBourbon
MeaningType of whiskey made from malted barleyType of whiskey made from corn
Where MadeScotlandUSA
Made from which ingredients?Malted barley or malted grainsDistilled corn or corn mash
Which is sweeter?Scotch is not so sweet.Bourbon tastes sweeter
Does Scotch taste like Bourbon and vice versa?Scotch can taste like Bourbon.Bourbon will not taste like Scotch.
Aging PeriodAt least 3 yearsNo specific time, but the law suggests at least 2 years
Any specific requirements per lawFermented only by adding yeastTo be made from grain mash which is at least 51% corn plus aged in new charred oak containers
TypesSingle malt and single grainTraditional wheat, rye
Which is more expensive?Scotch is more expensiveLess expensive, however, depends on the types
Why is it expensive?Scotch is expensive because of the ingredients used in the production process, i.e. barley. Also, the slow ageing process leads to a cost increase.The cost can depend on the brands/variants
Alcohol contentminimum abv of 40%minimum abv of 80%


What is Scotch?

Scotch is a type of whiskey that is produced in Scotland. Scotch is mainly made from malted barley. However, other whole cereal grains may also be added to the mixture. Scotch may taste like Bourbon.

Scotch comes in multiple variants such as single malt (made in single batches and containing only a single type of grain), single grain (made in single batches but here malted barley plus some other grains also used),

a blended malt (made in different distilleries and with multiple malts), blended grain (made with multiple grains) and blended (made with a combination of malt plus grain).

Scotch making comes under the purview of United Kingdom laws and regulations.

The law mandates that Scotch has to be made in Scotland, can be fermented only by adding yeast, the Scotch has to have a minimum above of at least 40%, and the ageing process should be of at least 3 years.

Further, the law prescribes that only certain specific improvers/additives, such as caramel colour and water, can be used in the mixture.

Scotch is best served with water, and that too spring water (not tap water) to preserve the taste. Scotch can also be served in a cocktail with or without ice.

Very young scotch may have a vanilla taste. Also, one can use Scotch to add flavour to desserts to make them enticing and pleasant-tasting.


What is Bourbon?

Bourbon is made with mashed corn 51%. The corn is included in higher quantities. The remainder of the mixture can be made of wheat, rye or barley. The corn, wheat, and rye mixture must be stored in burned oak containers.

Also, there should not be any additives put in the mixture. Bourbon is only made in the USA. Bourbon can be sweet because of the high quantity of corn used in the mixture.

Bourbon comes in various types, such as traditional (more than 70% corn with a sweet/spicy taste), wheat (instead of rye, wheat is used), and rye (with more rye and less corn and barley).

Also, there could be other variants, such as inexpensive ones called mainline, bottled ones, which have to follow strict legal restrictions, and small or single batches (which are made in batches and not in bulk).

Bourbon production is under the strict watch of the US government. The laws mandate that the mixture used should contain a minimum of 51% corn, with the remainder which could be rye, malted barley, and wheat.

Also, there are specific labelling requirements that the Bourbon manufacturers need to comply with, and the Bourbon has to have a minimum abv of 80% or less.

Only additives which can be used include water, and finally and most importantly, Bourbon has to be only made in the USA. The ageing period should be for a minimum of 2 years.

Bourbon can be served in a variety of ways such as neat or diluted with water or as a combination with other beverages or on the rocks. Interestingly,

Bourbon can also be used for cooking or medicinal purposes (because of its potent antioxidant properties), as a syrup in cakes, biscuits, or any other recipes, or even as a flavouring agent.


Main Differences Between Scotch and Bourbon

  1. Scotch is made from 100% malted barley. Bourbon is made with at least 51% corn or maize.
  2. Scotch is made in Scotland. Bourbon is made in the USA.
  3. Scotch can have a smoke-filled flavour. Bourbon will be sweet.
  4. Scotch should be aged for a minimum of 3 years in burned oak containers. Bourbon does not follow any specific ageing period to be followed unless mandated by laws.
  5. Scotch production is regulated under UK laws, which state, among other things, that only certain types of improvers can be added. Bourbon production is regulated under US laws, which state, among other aspects, that the mixture used should be at least 51% corn.
  6. Scotch comes at 40% abv, but one may even find a variant with higher alcohol content. Bourbon is distilled at 80% abv.
Difference Between Scotch and Bourbon
  1. https://www.worldwhiskyday.com/what-is-Scotch/
  2. https://www.esquire.com/food-drink/g973/what-is-Bourbon/
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