Difference Between Scotch and Bourbon

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

Scotch and Bourbon may be used quite interchangeably as they possess certain common attributes, however, they are not the same thing. Scotch and Bourbon have marked distinctions.

Scotch vs Bourbon

The main difference between Scotch and Bourbon is that Scotch is whiskey that is made largely 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

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 Between Scotch and Bourbon (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonScotchBourbon
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 sweetBourbon 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 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 it is expensive?Scotch is expensive because of the ingredients used in the production process i.e. barley. Also, the slow aging 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 mostly 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 an only 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 aging process should be of at least 3 years.

Further, the law prescribes that only certain specific improvers/additives such as caramel color 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 flavor to desserts to make it enticing and pleasant-tasting.


What is Bourbon?

Bourbon is made with mashed corn of 51%. The corn is included in higher quantities. The remainder in the mixture can be made of wheat, rye or barley. The mixture of corn, wheat, and rye has to 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), rye (with more rye and less of corn and barley).

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

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

Also, there are certain labeling requirements which 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 aging 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 strong antioxidant properties) or used as a syrup in cakes or biscuits or any other recipes or even used as a flavoring 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 flavor. Bourbon will be sweet.
  4. Scotch should be aged for at a minimum of 3 years in burned oak containers. Bourbon does not follow any specific aging period to be followed unless mandated by laws.
  5. Scotch production is regulated under UK laws which states among other things that only certain types of improvers can be added. Bourbon production is regulated under the US laws which states 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



Scotch and Bourbon are a great choice for whiskey lovers. Both of them have similar nutritive value, but they will have a different taste and flavor especially considering the different ingredients used and also the types of variants available for each of them.

Both of them undergo specific production mechanisms and hence it is natural that they will have a unique taste. Therefore, the final choice as to which one to drink can be based on the assessment of all these factors.

Key Differences Between Scotch and Bourbon (PDF Format)

Download the key differences in .PDF format, to read or print them later:

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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