While Scotch Whisky and Irish Whiskey are very close cousins, the thing that really separates them is how much liberty master distillers can take in the production of each. There is also the fact that Scotch spells whisky without an ‘e’.
We are huge fans of scotch and appreciate the fact that there are so many rules on how you can make Scotch, but it does make Irish Whiskey a fun alternative because of the variety that exists.
For starters, here are the requirements for making a Scotch Whisky compared to making an Irish Whiskey.
Scotch (According to the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009)
- Produced at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley (to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added) all of which have been:
- Processed at that distillery into a mash
- Converted at that distillery to a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme systems
- Fermented at that distillery only by adding yeast
- Distilled at an alcoholic strength by volume of less than 94.8% (190 US proof)
- Wholly matured in an excise warehouse in Scotland in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 liters (185 US gal; 154 imp gal) for at least three years
- Retaining the color, aroma, and taste of the raw materials used in, and the method of, its production and maturation
- Containing no added substances, other than water and plain (E150A) caramel coloring
- Comprising a minimum alcoholic strength by volume of 40% (80 US proof)
Irish Whiskey (According to the Irish Whiskey Act of 1980)
- Be made from a mash of malted barley, plus other cereal grains (optional);
- Be mashed, fermented, distilled to no more than 94.8% ABV, and matured in wooden casks, such as oak, not exceeding 700 liters for a minimum of three years in the Republic of Ireland and/or Northern Ireland;
- Not contain additives other than water and caramel coloring (e150a);
- Retain the characteristics of its raw materials (in other words, smell and taste like whiskey);
- Be bottled at no less than 40% ABV.
Takeaway: Irish whiskey can use enzymes in the fermentation process other than yeast as well as use different types of new and/or used barrels for aging while Scotch can only use yeast and can only age in Oak casks.
So, if you love scotch and normally don’t venture into Irish Whiskey, we encourage you to give it a shot. There are even some Peated Irish Whiskey’s (Connemara) for those of you that are extremely adventurous.