What’s the difference between Scotch and Bourbon?
While the two variants might have a lot in common, they can easily be differentiated by the following five factors:
Blended Whisky, which are a mix of grain and single malt whiskies also form part of the Scotch family. Blends are the most popular Scotch Whiskies as they form 9 out of every 10 sold around the world. Examples are The Famous Grouse, Black & White, and J&B.
Even the popularized as whiskey from Kentucky, Bourbon whiskey can, in fact, be made in any other state of the US. Kentucky State is, however, most popular for Bourbon whiskey, given that the limestone water used in making them is primarily found in this region. The limestone water filters out impurities such as iron. Examples of Kentucky Bourbon include Bulleit and Jim Beam.
Scotch Whisky can be in two forms: Scotch Single Malt whisky which is made with 100% barley, examples are Dufftown, and Glenfiddich. The other type is Grain whisky, which is made by combining malted barley, unmalted barley, and wheat.
The Bourbon recipe (‘mash bill’) consists of corn, rye, wheat, and barley. The ingredients are mixed in different ratios, with corn forming 51%. The greater the ratio of corn, the sweater the bourbon. This is the guiding principle. Bourbons with a lower ratio of corn compared to other ingredients make the spicier types.
The method of distillation is dependent on the style or category. Single malts are double or triple distilled in pot stills, while grain whiskies are distilled in a column still.
Almost all Bourbons are first distilled in a column. This is followed by the spirit being distilled for a second time in a modified copper port still known as a doubler.
Maturation of Scotch whisky takes place in oak casks already used to age Bourbon spirits. Ageing of Scotch whisky can be done in a variety of casks, including those that formerly contained wine, port, or even cognac.
Maturation of Bourbon is rather unique as they only age their spirit once in new oak casks. The used casks are then sold to Scotch distillers.
Given the warmer temperatures in Kentucky, where most of the bourbon is produced, the evaporation rates are higher, meaning bourbon whiskey matures almost twice as fast as the Scottish equivalent.
The flavours are generally dependant on the style of either the Scotch or Bourbon.
Given the length of maturation, cask type, and the peating level, Scotch whiskies are mostly elegant and floral, rich and spicy or some even have a salty, maritime character.
Bourbon whiskies are generally sweeter in taste, given the ratio of the ingredients used. (High in corn).
In general, it is common to get torn between the perfect choice as both come with their unique characteristics. On one hand, bourbons are made in an approachable style, while on the other hand Scotch whiskies come in a soft, subtle character. Either way, one has to try each and form their own preferences.
Find our collection of Bourbon and Scotch Whiskies from our shop section here.