What's the difference between a Single Malt Scotch Whisky and a Blended Scotch Whisky? Or between a whisky, a whiskey, a bourbon, a Tennessee whiskey and a rye?

In its broadest definition, 'whisky' is a drink distilled from the fermentation of malt. Malt is any grain that has been allowed to germinate, particularly barley or rye, and then dried. The process by which it is made is called 'malting'.

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Whether it is spelled ‘whisky’ or ‘whiskey’ usually depends on where it was made.

In Scotland, Canada, Japan and other parts of the world, it is spelled without the ‘e’, while American and Irish whiskeys are more commonly spelled with an ‘e’

The main differences between types of whisky come down to four things: the grain used; the production process; where the whisky was made; and how long it matured.


A Scotch Whisky must be made from malted barley or grain with the spirit aged in oak casks no bigger than 700 liters for no less than three years. Scotch whisky of one type or another is made all over the world, but to be called Scotch Whisky it must be made entirely in Scotland.

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This is a scotch whisky from a single distillery made using only malted barley, water and yeast.

Single Malt Scotch Whiskies traditionally come from five regions: Lowland, Highland, Speyside, Island and Campbelltown. The different regions are famed for specific characteristics like fruitiness, freshness, maltiness and smokiness.

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Grain Whisky

This is a type of whisky where the main ingredient is maize or wheat, or both.

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Blended Whisky

A Blended Scotch Whisky is made by mixing together Single Malt Whiskies and Single Grain Whiskies. The advantage of blending is that it ensures the flavor and quality of the whisky remains the same time after time.

In an ‘age stated’ Blended Scotch Whisky, the age statement refers to the youngest whisky used in the blend.

Irish Whiskey

This is any whiskey made in Eire (Republic of Ireland) or in Northern Ireland. Unlike Scotch, any malted cereal grains can be used in any proportion. Like Scotch, it must be aged in wooden casks for a minimum of three years.


 Japanese whisky is usually made in the same way as Scotch whisky. It has been manufactured since the 1920s, but has only become widely available outside Japan in the last decade.

Coloured whisky casks



Bourbon is an American whiskey made from malted grains that are at minimum 51% corn. The rules around what constitutes a bourbon are more relaxed than those for Scotch, but it must be made entirely within the United States to qualify.


This is a bourbon from one American state, for example Kentucky, that has been aged for at least two years and doesn’t have any additives, such as flavoring or colorants.


A blended bourbon can include other spirits and flavorings, but must be a minimum of at least 51% straight bourbon.


This is essentially the same as bourbon. The only distinction is the inclusion of charcoal filtering in the post-distillation process.


Rye is primarily made in North America. In the United States, it must be fermented from a mixture of malted grains that is at least 51% rye. The rules around Canadian rye are much looser and they can contain far less than half rye.


Flavored whiskies are, broadly speaking, whiskies with a single added flavoring but without additional sweetener. Popular flavorings include honey, spices and apple. Flavored whiskies can be homemade or produced commercially as variants of some branded whiskies.


A whisky liqueur is, broadly speaking, any form of flavored whisky with added sweetener, traditionally served as an after-dinner drink. Whisky liqueurs fall into two broad categories: those made with cream and those made without.


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