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Scotch Vs. Bourbon Whiskey - What's the Difference?

Scotch Vs. Bourbon Whiskey - What's the Difference?

Considered as the gentlemen's drink, Scotch and Bourbon whiskey are the most popular distilled alcoholic drinks consumed all over the world. If you are a whiskey lover, then you should definitely know the difference between the two. This Tastessence article tells you the difference between Scotch and Bourbon.
Tanaya Navalkar
To 'e' or Not to 'e'?

When it comes to the spelling, Scotch is the shorter version of Scotch Whisky, but Whisky sans the 'e'. It is spelled with an 'e' everywhere if it has origins other than Scotland.

Whiskey is an alcoholic beverage that is distilled spirit from fermented cereal grains, which may or may not be malted. You must have heard of the geometric sentence in school, "All squares are rectangles, but all rectangles are not squares." Similarly, Scotch and Bourbon are types of whiskey, but not all whiskies are scotch or bourbon.

There are two kinds of people; those who love Scotch, and those who love Bourbon. Which one are you? Scotch lover or Bourbon lover? A true connoisseur will be able to recognize the difference quickly enough as compared to a newbie. The primary difference between the two is the ingredients and geography. Both are great whiskies and have a distinct flavor apart from other qualities.

Let's take a look at both for further exploration.

Scotch Vs. Bourbon


Both Scotch and Bourbon come from different parts of the world and are exclusive to those places.

Scotch is 'only' made in Scotland; hence, the name Scotch. It might seem obvious, but no one can make whisky outside of Scotland and call it 'Scotch'. It is only called Scotch if it is made and aged in Scotland. It was first mentioned in the records in the 1400s.

Bourbon is an American whiskey that is mostly produced in the United States of America, mainly Kentucky. It must be made in the USA only to be called a Bourbon. It got its name from the Bourbon County in Kentucky. It has been around since the 18th century.


Both Scotch and Bourbon use the same basic ingredients like yeast and water, but the primary ingredients are different.

Scotch is mainly made from malted barley. It may be then combined with other grains. Single malt whisky is the most popular Scotch that contains 100% malted barley. Blended Scotch has other additional grains. Both are distilled in a different way. Malted barley gives a smooth and complex-flavored whisky.

Bourbon is basically made from 51% corn, but some also contain about 75% of corn. It imparts a bit of sweetness to the liquor. The remaining 49% of Bourbon consists of wheat, malted barley, or rye, which gives a spicier flavor to the whiskey.


Both cannot be called Scotch or Bourbon if the alcoholic content falls below 40%, i.e., 80 proof. The higher the distillation, the more would be the alcohol content. It doesn't enhance the flavor, but is responsible for the slow to speedy drunkenness and stubbornness of the hangover. Now, you know what's responsible to make you tipsy!

Scotch can't be distilled to have more than 94.8% of alcohol content. As the alcohol evaporates a little every year, aging Scotch for a long time is a bit difficult. The aging has to be cut short so that the alcohol content doesn't go below 40%. It is usually distilled twice, or sometimes even thrice.

Bourbon also can't be distilled to have more than 80% of alcohol content, i.e., 160 proof. There's a law that states that Bourbon can't be stored in barrels if the alcohol content is higher than 62.5%, and the barrels cannot be reused to store Bourbon again. The barrels can be discarded or reused for storing Scotch.


Aging is the second important factor that distinguishes the two spirits. It is largely dependent on the climatic conditions and the barrels that are used to store the whiskey. The longer the aging process, the smoother will be the whiskey.

Scotch is aged for a minimum of three years. It is necessary to store Scotch in oak barrels and let it mature over time. The oak barrels are usually the ones that have been used to store any other alcohol prior to storing Scotch. It takes longer to mature as compared to Bourbon.

Bourbon must be stored in charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years. Kentucky experiences constant weather fluctuations, which has a great impact on the aging process. A hot weather will accelerate the aging of whiskey, thus, evaporating the whiskey more rapidly. The flavor of Bourbon is also influenced by the flavors that come off the wood.


Flavor is also a distinguishing factor. Both have distinct flavors that are dependent on ingredients, distillation, and storage.

Scotch gets its smoky flavor from the peat on oak barrels during distillation, which adds a smoky taste to it. However, it doesn't have a smoky flavor always. Some Scotches have a lighter flavor, and some take on the flavor of Bourbon from the used oak barrel.

Bourbon, in comparison to Scotch, has a sweeter flavor because of the corn. If it contains rye, it might be dry and not that sweet. New oak barrels contribute to the color and flavor of the whiskey.

Now you know what distinguishes Scotch from Bourbon. Oh, you have one more reason to try them out. Both contain just about 97 calories, which won't do much harm to your diet. So, Scotch or Bourbon? Well, we leave it for you to ferret out which one is better. All you have to do is just pick that bottle up and taste it!