Shamus O’tool, Bobby O’shea , Let’s Get Drunk ( What is Scotch? )

Holmes Landscaping and I are looking a lot at the distilling process (and laws) recently, I came across the below which I will try to put into my memory banks for future discussions. You may find it informative as well.
* Sidenote check out Holmes Landscape / Kspar’s new endevor at

The below should answer a question that comes up frequently when I discuss/defend my love for Scotch. (i.e. what is scotch ? how is it different than whiskey?)
(taken from site – iLiquor

Types of Whisky
1. Scotch Whisky
To be called Scotch whisky, a spirit must conform to the standards of the Scotch Whisky Order of 1990 (UK), which states that it must be distilled at a Scottish distillery from water and malted barley, to which only other whole grains may be added. It has to be processed at that distillery into a mash, fermented only by the addition of yeast, and distilled to an alcoholic strength of less than 94.8% ABV to retain the flavour of the raw ingredients used. It also has to be matured in Scotland in oak casks for no less than 3 years. It should not contain any added substance other than water and caramel colouring, and may not be bottled at less than 40% ABV.

2. Scotch Malt Whisky
Malt Whisky is distilled from 100% malted barley and is usually distilled in a pot still. Single Malt Scotch Whisky is the product of just one distillery.

3. Blended Scotch Whisky
Blended Scotch whisky is a mixture of single malt whisky and grain whisky. The constituent whiskies are from a number of different distilleries, and any age statement give on the bottle must refer to the youngest whisky in the blend.

4. Blended Malt Whisky
Previously known as “vatted malts”, blended malts consists of two or more single malt whiskies mixed together. As with blended whiskies, any age statement given has to refer to the youngest whisky present in the blend.

5. Grain Whisky
Grain Whisky may contain unmalted barley or other malted or unmalted grains, such as wheat and maize (corn), and is generally distilled in a continuous still. Most grain whisky is used for blending. However, single grain Scotch whisky is sometimes bottled, and is the product of one distillery.

6. Irish Whiskey
Irish distillers use both pot and column stills, producing grain spirit, usually from corn, in the column stills, while what is termed Irish “pure pot still whiskey” is traditionally made in pot stills from a mixture of malted and raw barley. Typically 40-50% of the mash is malted barley, though this isn’t a legal requirement. Traditionally, Irish Whiskey is triple distilled. Blended Irish whiskeys are made form a mixture of pot and column still spirits. Like Scotch, Irish whiskey must be distilled and matured in the country of origin for at least 3 years.

7. Bourbon Whisky
By law, bourbon must be produced from a mash of not less than 51% corn grain, and is usually made from between 70 and 90% corn, with some barley malt plus rye and/or wheat in the mash bill. Legally, bourbon has to be matured in new, charred, white oak barrels for at least 2 years.

8. Tennessee Whisky
Essentially bourbon-style spirits, Tennessee whiskeys do, however undergo a distinctive filtration through sugar maple charcoal. This is known as the Lincoln County Process.

9. Rye Whisky
Legally, rye whiskey has to be made from a mash of not less than 51% rye and, as with bourbon, virgin charred oak barrels are required for maturation. To be called “straight rye” it must be matured for at least 2 years.

10. Corn Whisky
Corn whiskey is distilled from a fermented mash of not less that 80% corn a t less than 80% ABV. It is the one American whiskey that does not have to be aged in new charred oak barrels, and no minimum maturation period is specified.

11. Canadian Whisky
Virtually all Canadian whisky is distilled in column stills, and in most cases, rye is blended with a comparatively neutral base spirit – sometimes with the addition of bourbon-type whiskey and corn whiskey. Unlike US bourbon and rye, pre-used casks may be employed for maturation. As with Scotch and Irish, Canadian whisky must be matured for a minimum of 3 years. It is permissible to add small amounts of fruit or alcohols such as sherry to the whisky.

12. Scotch Whisky
Japanese distillers take Scotland as their model, distilling malt whisky in pot stills and grain whisky in column stills. As with Scotch, blended Japanese whisky is mixture of both malt and grain spirit, often containing a percentage of imported Scotch malt whisky.

13. Indian Whisky
Much of the “whisky” produced in India would not qualify as whisky elsewhere. Most Indian whisky is ENA (extra neutral alcohol) whisky, produced in continuous stills using buckwheat, rice, millet, or molasses and generally sold unaged. A number of Indian single malts and blended malts are also produced, and these tend to conform to classifications widely used in the European Union.


2 thoughts on “Shamus O’tool, Bobby O’shea , Let’s Get Drunk ( What is Scotch? )

  1. Anonymous says:

    I spent a lot of time climbing One county over from Bourbon County, Kentucky. Based on what the locals told me, My understanding that to be called &quot;Bourbon&quot; the whiskey has to be distilled in Bourbon county. Otherwise, it's called &quot;sour mash&quot; whiskey. This has been the tradition. Whether its still followed, I'm not sure.<br /><br />BB


  2. Peter Glassford says:

    Interesting I have never heard that. I will have to research some more . I have always thought of bourbon as 'american whiskey' <br /><br />likely a great place to climb and hang out !


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