The world of alcoholic beverage choices is vast. Many pick their poison based on the merits of taste alone, and understandably so. However, taking into consideration whether you want to sip or chug your drink could also play an important role. The sophisticated connoisseurs often prefer sippers with a smooth flavor profile, such as whiskey or Scotch. So, which to choose—whiskey or Scotch? What is the difference or is there a difference? More importantly, what is the reader’s digest version?
Whiskey, also referred to as whisky, comes in a variety of flavors. The difference comes down to where they are made, as both are made from various grain mash. The latter is produced in Japan, Australia or Scotland. For the purposes of this article, we will use whiskey with an “e” for the broader description of both. The flavor of whiskey is usually determined by temperature and climate, as well as by the size and wood of the barrel. Climate has a great impact on the aging process. The more consistent the climate, the better the taste, although that is strictly a matter of opinion. Woods from different regions used in the barrels and the charring process also leave a very distinct flavor profile. Most whiskeys in the United States are aged in charred American oak barrels, which produce an unmistakable vanilla flavor. Vanilla is usually the base flavor for most whiskeys; however, the variant flavors have been condensed into eight different distinctions commonly known as the flavor wheel.
• Woody—most often associated with the American white oak.
Whiskey comprises several different categories. Scotch is actually a type of whiskey produced strictly in Scotland. Scotch is fermented from either a malt or grain, or a combination of the two. In terms of aging, Scotch is aged in a barrel for a minimum of three years. Like whiskey, Scotch is offered in a variety of categories to include:
• Blended Scotch
• Blended malt Scotch
• Blended grain Scotch
• Single malt Scotch
• Single grain Scotch
There are five main regions in Scotland that produce Scotch, with large variations in flavor based on the region. The Speyside region produces the vast majority of Scotch with a largely smoky flavor profile and a leaning toward single malts. The Campbelltown region also boasts smoky notes. The Highlands produce dry, bold flavors, whereas the Lowland flavors are more fruity and floral. The most intense flavor hails from the Islay region; many consider the flavors in this region to be an acquired taste.
In summary, the biggest difference between whiskey and scotch is the geographic location where it is produced. However, Scotch is also considered to be a smoother whiskey due to the repeated use of older barrels in more steady climates. Whiskey aged in the United States is often done so in newer barrels, giving it a heavier flavor palette. Whether you prefer whiskey or Scotch, both are steeped in rich history that is embodied in each sip. Enjoy!