Whisky or whisky-like products are produced in most grain-growing areas. They differ in base product, alcoholic content, and quality. Many countries like America, Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, Sweden, and Wales produce their own whiskies.
Scotch is produced from any of the following regions of Scotland:
- Lowland - only three distilleries remain in operations which are Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, and Glenkinchie.
- Speyside - has the largest number of distilleries which includes Aberlour, Balvenie, Cardhu, Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Speyburn, The Glenlivet, The Glenrothes and The Macallan.
- Highland - Aberfeldy, Balblair, Ben Nevis, Dalmore, Dalwhinnie, Glen Ord, Glenmorangie, Oban and Old Pulteney are some Highland distilleries.
The Islands, an unrecognized sub-region includes all of the whisky-producing islands (but excludes Islay): Arran, Jura, Mull, Orkney and Skye - with their respective distilleries: Arran, Isle of Jura, Tobermory, Highland Park and Scapa, and Talisker.
- Campbeltown has three distilleries operating Glen Scotia, Glengyle and Springbank.
- Islay - has eight producing distilleries Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin and Laphroaig.
Video Explaining the Differences
In this video, Rebecca Dunphy of Sniff and Spit differentiates between Scotch, Irish, and bourbon whiskey by sniffing.
Single Malt vs. Blended Whisky
Writing for the BBC, travel Brad Cohen explains the difference between blended and single-malt whisky:
Blended whisky, which comprises more than 80% of the market, including brands like Johnnie Walker and Dewars, is a mix of malt and grain whiskies that come from multiple distilleries. Single malt, which Scottish drinkers often refer to as malt rather than whisky (and never Scotch, like it’s known elsewhere around the world, is whisky created from malted barley at one distillery).
Ordering Whisky in Scotland
The first rule of ordering whisky in Scotland is to never call it Scotch. It's whisky when it's blended and malt when it's single-malt. When ordering malt, it's a faux pas to order it on the rocks because ice numbs the tongue and does not let you appreciate the flavor of the whisky. You can drink malt neat or with a drop of water. Ordering it with Coke, of course, is also a terrible idea.
The process for making Scotch or whiskey is:
- fermentation of grains,
- distillation, and
- aging in wooden barrels.
For Whiskey, different grains are used for different varieties, including barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat, and corn. Aging may be done in oak barrels like charred white oak.
Traditionally, Scotch was made from only malted barley, which is first dried over fires that have been stoked with dried peat (a form of compacted grass and heather compost that is harvested from the moors). The peat smoke adds a distinctive smoky tang to the taste of the malt whisky.
Now other grains are also used in the process of making Scotch, and not all malted barley is dried by peat fire method. Aging is generally done in casks that have spent their first life holding sherry or bourbon.
There are two basic types of Whiskies,
- Malt whisky, which is made primarily from malted barley. ‘Malting’ means spreading the wet grain in a room and just when it begins to sprout, it is pulverized with hot water.
- Grain whisky, which is made from any type of grains.
Malts and grains are combined in various ways,
- Single malt whisky is whisky from a single distillery made from a mash that uses only one particular malted grain.
- Blended malt whisky is a mixture of single malt whiskies from different distilleries.
- Blended whiskies are typically made from a mixture of malt and grain with neutral spirits, caramel, and flavoring.
There are two basic types of Scotch whisky, from which all blends are made:
- Single malt Scotch whisky means a Scotch whisky produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery by batch distillation in pot stills.
- Single grain Scotch whisky means a Scotch whisky distilled at a single distillery but, in addition to water and malted barley, may involve whole grains of other malted or un-malted cereals.
Three types of blends are defined for Scotch whisky
- Blended malt Scotch whisky means a blend of two or more single malt Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.
- Blended grain Scotch whisky means a blend of two or more single grain Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.
- Blended Scotch whisky means a blend of one or more single malt Scotch whiskies with one or more single grain Scotch whiskies.
Here are some interesting and informational videos:
Prices vary by brand, age and type. In general, Scotch is more expensive than whiskey.
You can find the current prices on Amazon:
- Johnnie Walker (Scotch Whisky)
- Highland Park (Scotch Whisky)
- Glenfiddich (Scotch Whisky)
- Jack Daniels (Tennessee Whiskey)
- Maker's Mark (Bourbon Whiskey)