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Jul 4, 2008 03:35 PM

Difference between Whisky & Scotch ?

Can anybody explain the difference between Whisky and Scotch? Is Johnnie Walker "Whisky" or is it "Scotch"? What about Jack Daniel's? And what is "Scotch Whisky"?

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  1. Johnny Walker is a brand of Scotch Scotch whisky (aka Scotch), which is whisky distilled in Scotland.

    1. Whisky is an alcoholic beverage distilled primarily from grain.

      Bourbon (distilled from corn) and Rye are whiskies distilled in the U.S. We in the U.S. refer to whisky distilled in Scotland (mostly from malted barley) as "Scotch." If you walk into a pub or bar in Britain and ask for a "whisky & soda," you will be served Scotch & soda. In Ireland, it will be made with Irish whiskey (the Irish spell it with an 'e').

      Just as all champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne, all scotch is whisky, but not all whisky is scotch.

      1. As another poster said, Scotch is whisky made in Scotland and not all whisky, obviously, is Scotch.

        As for Jack Daniel's, it's a whiskey made in Tennessee. Though it is similar to bourbon, it can't be called by that name because by law bourbon has to come from Kentucky.

        3 Replies
        1. re: mpalmer6c

          Actually, it is a popular misconception that Bourbon must come from Kentucky. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the US.

          The difference between Tennessee Whiskey and Bourbon is that, after the spirit is distilled, Tennessee Whiskey is filtered through sugar-maple charcoal. This filtering, known as the Lincoln County Process. That process is what distinguishes Tennessee Whiskey from Bourbon.

          1. re: sku

            Bourbon must be distilled from at least 51% corn. I believe that Jack Daniels uses less tan that.

            1. re: jpc8015

              No, all the same requirements apply to Tennessee Whiskey (Dickle is the only other variety). They just add the step of charcoal filtering.

        2. When I think of Scotch I think of peat.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Jimmy Buffet

            There is a broad range of Scotch whiskies that have little or no discernible peat in their taste & aroma. The single-malt whiskies from the isle of Islay (Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ardberg, etc.) are typically heavily-peated, but the Speyside (Macallan, Glenfiddich, Glenfarclas, etc.) and Lowland (Auchentosan, Bladnoch, etc.) whiskies are not.

            The level of peat in blended whiskies varies very much as well. For example, Johnny Walker Black is certainly more peaty/smokey than Johnny Walker Red.

            1. re: DavidT

              Even though every answer is appreciated, this is way too complicated. A simple explanation of the basic difference between "Scotch" and "Whisky" would be fine. Thank you David

              1. re: joannebenz

                There are many kinds of whisky aka whiskey, most defined by various government regulations, which typically specify one of the two spellings. Scotch aka scotch whisky is one type, Tennessee whiskey is another.

                Depending on the quality of the whiskey, the distinctive qualities (if any) of the various types may be more or less distinguishable.

                1. re: joannebenz

                  Simplest answer is that there is no difference between "Scotch" and "Whisky." Scotch is whisky that is made in Scotland.

                  1. re: joannebenz

                    Scotch costs more, and often has a smoky flavor. Whiskey/bourbon is usually cheaper and without the smoky flavor.

                    1. re: jerry i h

                      Eh, those are broad generalizations that very often aren't true, jerry.

                      In the simplest form, all Scotch is whisky, all whisky isn't Scotch (a la Champagne v. sparkling wine). Scotch is barley based, while whisky (with an "e" in some parts of the world) in general can be distilled from different grains or corn.

                    2. re: joannebenz

                      Whiskey(with an 'ey') is distilled grain alcohol; Whisky( -y) is the same, but made in Scotland, most often flavoured by smoking the grain in peat smoke. If you order a "whiskey" in a London pub, you'll likely get a shot of scotch whisky.
                      For further enlightenment of all reading:
                      RYE: Canadian whiskey
                      BOURBON: American whiskey (must contain corn as primary grain)
                      SCOTCH: Scottish whisky
                      JACK DANIELS OLD #7: a unique bourbon made in Tennessee with a patented &/or trade secret process (also my favourite for drinking spirits right from a bottle)

                2. As others have said, whiskey/whisky is a broad term meaning a spirit made from grain, aged in wood. Scotch and Bourbon are types of whiskey.

                  Scotch is barley based and made in Scotland. Johnnie Walker is a blended Scotch whisky, which means it is made from both malted barley and other grain whiskies.

                  Jack Daniels is Tennessee whiskey, a very specfic category. While similar to Bourbon, Tennessee whiskey is differentiated from Bourbon by the way it is made.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: sku

                    As Sku indicated, Scotch is barley based and American Whiskey and Bourbon are corn based (although there are some kinds of American Rye Whiskies). I often wondered why American whiskey tasted so different - turns out it is made from different stuff. Another little tidbit about Jack Daniels (also known as Tennessee Whiskey) - technically it fits the category of Bourbon (over 51 percent corn), but it tastes sweet because they filter it through maple syrup charcoal.

                    By the way, I can be such a geek about this because we did research on it for a post we did on the differences between American Whiskey, Bourbon, and Whisky. Here's the link:


                    Oh, and Johnnie Walker is a type of scotch - but it isn't a single malt because it uses whisky from a bunch of distilleries and contains spirits made from both malted barley and other grains.

                    CA Scotch Chick