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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

                  2. The UK has legal rights to the word "scotch." This all may change later this year, but right now, to be called a scotch, the spirit must conform with a 1990 UK order which requires that the spirit:

                    1. be distilled at a Scottish distillery.
                    2. be made from water and malted barley (to which whole grains may be added).
                    3. be matured in oak casks in Scotland for at least three years and one day.
                    4. be distilled at less than 94.8% alcohol by volume and be bottled at more than 40% alcohol by volume.

                    Hope this helps,

                    CA Scotch Chick

                    1. To help here... people are making this too complicated and some people are flat out wrong. Here's the truth as some others have touched on:

                      Whiskey is a broad category of spirits.

                      Let's compare it to the term red wine. There are many different types of red wine, correct? Merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, etc... Let's pick out merlot. All merlot is red wine, but not all red wine is merlot.

                      Whiskey can be compared in the same way: Bourbon, Scotch, and Rye are all types of whiskey. Here, let's pick out Scotch (because you asked). All Scotch is whiskey, but not all whiskey is Scotch.

                      That's about as simple as you can get it without delving into the percentages or grain that each one is made from.

                      If you want another example, you can use beer as well. There are many different types of beer. Porter, India Pale Ale (IPA), Lager, etc. Let's pick out lager. All lager-style brews are referred to as beer but not all beer is lager.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Squirrels

                        I agree with Squirrel completely. Whiskey is a big tree, Scotch is one of the major branches.

                        The scotch branch itself branches further into single malts and blends.

                        Other major branches would include American Whiskeys,which itself branches further to bourbon, Tennessee, Rye, blends and others.

                        Then there's the Canadian Branch (I guess it's a maple tree) and Irish branches fill out the rest of the tree.

                        They're all grain based and made brown by a maturation process that includes time spent in wood.

                        1. re: BustedFlush

                          Do Japanese whiskey constitute another branch? I've never had one or seen one for sale, so I don't know if it's a distinctive style.

                          1. re: Frolic

                            Japanese whiskies generally imitate Scotch, and sometimes beat the Scots at their own game.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Agreed. Given what I know about them, I would put that branch off of the single malt Scotch family; they're made from barley (like Scotch and Irish) but beyond that I'm not sure how they dry it to stop the malting...wouldn't imagine they have much peat in Japan, but I could be completely wrong about that.

                              1. re: BustedFlush

                                I think I read on one bottle that they imported peat.

                                I'd be curious to try one that did *not* slavishly imitate Scotch.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Some do import peat and they are mostly made in the general style of Scotch, however there is quite a bit of flavor diversity (as there is in Scotch). Unfortunately, there is only one Japanese company which exports to the US (Suntory) and they only export bottlings from one of their distilleries (Yamazaki), though they are now also exporting a blend (Hibiki). All of their whisky is quite good though.

                            2. re: Frolic

                              Japanese whiskies are Japanese whiskies, although many of them are made in the style of Scotch whiskies.