Whisky is a tipple that’s enjoyed the world over, with some of the most popular varieties coming from Scotland and Ireland. The flavour of whisky can vary between sweet tones such as honey and vanilla, through to smoky, woody notes that are infused into the drink while it’s being distilled in wooden casks. Every region and indeed distiller has its own method of producing whisky, making it a very versatile drink to explore.
At their closest points, just 12 miles separate Scotland from Ireland yet their whiskies have some distinct differences. Both remain a proud statement of the culture and heritage of the two lands. Want to learn more about scotch whisky vs Irish whiskey? Here’s everything you need to know.
Scotland has been making whisky since the 1800s. The drink continues to be incredibly popular today, and has some distinct differences in terms of the production process and ultimately the taste when compared with Irish whiskey.
Scotch whisky is made from malted barley and is double distilled using copper pot stills. Single malt whisky is what Scottish whisky is predominantly associated with, with the taste being fuller and heavier when compared with Irish whiskey. This is in part due to the colder climate in which Scotch whisky is distilled in, meaning the flavour takes longer to mature.
As a minimum, Scotch whisky must be distilled for at least 3 years in oak casks. However, some Scotch whiskies are distilled for anywhere up to 50 years. A good point to note is that the age listed on the label of Scotch whisky refers to the youngest component in the blend, meaning a younger whisky may be more mature than it appears.
A total of 133 Scotch whisky distilleries are based in Scotland, with some 22 million casks (as of 14th July 2020) currently maturing in warehouses. It is possible to find Scotch whisky being made across each of the 6 Scottish regions, and it is the most tightly regulated spirit in the world.
Scotch Whisky Brands
Contrary to popular belief, it was the Irish who invented whisky, after bringing it over to Scotland through an area now known as the Hebrides. It was this transition from Irish Gaelic to Scottish Gaelic that saw the ‘e’ dropped from the word whiskey, which is why there is a spelling variant between the two.
Irish whiskey is much smoother especially when it’s younger, due to the fact it’s triple distilled. So for example, if an Irish whiskey is 12 years old, a comparable Scotch whisky that has only been double distilled would be 16 years old. The slightly warmer climate in Ireland also makes the whiskey mature faster too.
Single malt Irish whiskey uses malted barley. However, single pot still Irish whiskey uses a mixture of malted and unmalted barley. This blend is unique to Ireland, and cannot be found in Scottish whisky which is one of the main differences between the two.
There are no regulations with regards to what wood Irish whiskey needs to be stored in, which is important as around 80%-95% of the flavour comes from the wood. In Ireland, they have a wider scope for experimenting to create the perfect tasting whiskey, using wood such as cherry, apple, mulberry and of course oak wood.
In total there are 32 whiskey distilleries on the island of Ireland, ranging from Bushmills in County Antrim to West Cork Distillers in County Cork.
Irish Whiskey Brands
To Sum Up
When it comes to Scotch whisky vs Irish whiskey, the main differences come down to the barley type, the length of distillation and also the methods for doing so. Scotch whisky has far tighter regulations, whereas makers of Irish whiskey have a little more free reign, especially when it comes to the barrel type they use which is the bigger influence on the overall flavour.
Has our explanation of Scotch whisky vs Irish whiskey whetted your appetite? If so, you’re in the right place! Here at Bring Me Drink we stock a wide variety of whisky including Scotch, Irish, American and Japanese. With so much history to discover within each sip, there is something to suit all palettes. Be sure to let us know in the comments below what your favourite whisky is, along with your preferred way to drink it.