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Whiskey, whisky, scotch, blended, single malts – all these different terms and phrases are enough to confuse anyone. Plus, there is a massive amount of information on the web that takes you down a long and winding garden path and more often than not leaves you more confused. The actual differences and definitions are fundamentally quite simple.
Let us begin this story with whisky - a distilled spirit made from a fermented mesh of grains such as corn, barley, rye and wheat and aged in charred white oak casks. Whisky is known to the world by two different spellings "whisky/whiskey". Though people today leave it mostly to autocorrect to figure this out for themselves, there is a significance to this variation. Whiskey is used in Ireland and commonly in the U.S. and whisky is used mainly by the Scots and all other whisky producing nations in the world. This difference in the spelling comes from the translations of the word from the Scottish and Irish Gaelic forms.
Irish whiskeys are distilled three times; though traditionally distilled using pot stills, column stills are now being used to produce grain whiskeys for blending purposes. According to the law, Irish whiskey must be produced in Ireland and aged in wooden casks for minimum 3 years.
Now that the fundamentals of whiskey are in place, let us steer focus towards Scotch whisky, often simply called Scotch. The main difference between scotch and whiskey is geographic. This marvelously smokey spirit is to be made in Scotland with grains and ingredients from Scotland. Scotch has an additional rich smokey flavour which is attributed to peat (an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter that is unique to Scotland) which is used to smoke the malted grain used to make scotch whisky.
There are 2 main types of scotch whisky’s – the first being single malts and the other being blended scotch whisky’s. Single malts are produced from only water and malted barley or rye at a single distillery by distillation in pot stills. Scotches such as Talisker and The Singleton are some legendary single malts readily available today.
Though single malts are supposedly the most sought after scotches, blended scotch whisky constitutes 90% of the whisky produced in Scotland and sell more over all internationally. Blended scotch whiskies contain both malt whisky and grain whisky. They are often a combination of various malts and grain whiskies that produce a consistent brand style. All scotch whiskeys are aged for a minimum of 3 years as well, however, when it comes to blends, the numeric age statement on the bottle must be that of the youngest whisky used in production. Notable blended scotch whisky brands include Johnnie Walker being the highest selling blend in the world, and Vat 69.
So, whether you are sipping on a single malt that is older than you, gulping a refreshing long drink with a beautiful blend or looking for different tastes and sensations, scotch and whiskey can give you that experience #lovescotch. It is one of the most aspirational drinks in the world and has a great heritage.