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Bourbon vs Scotch: What Are The Main Differences?

by Jason Lowder June 15, 2022 4 min read

It's noon - the sun is high in the sky, and the heat is bearing down on you. You're thirsty, but you don't want just any old drink. You want something that will quench your thirst, cool you down, and leave you feeling refreshed. But you also want something with a little bit of a kick, something that will help you relax and take the edge off.

What you need is a nice, cold glass of scotch or perhaps a bourbon. Both are delicious and popular spirits, but what are the differences between these two drinks? Many people mistakenly believe that scotch and bourbon are the same things aka the same type of whiskey, but there are some fundamental differences between them.

In this article, we'll be discussing three key distinctions between Scotch vs Bourbon: the ingredients used to make them, the history of their production, and the flavor profiles they bring to a glass.

What Is Bourbon?

Bourbon is a type of whiskey made primarily with corn. It is aged in a new, charred oak barrel. Bourbon must be made of at least 51% corn, while the rest of the ingredients are malted barley and rye or wheat. Many people believe that bourbon must be produced in Kentucky to be considered authentic, but this is not true.

While 95% of all bourbon does, in fact, come from Kentucky, it can technically be produced anywhere in the United States as long as it follows certain production guidelines - making it a uniquely American spirit.

So, What Exactly Makes Bourbon So Special?

The history, tradition, and technique that go into making this beverage are like no other whiskey out there. Corn gives bourbon its characteristic sweetness, while the oak barrels provide traditional flavors of vanilla and caramel.

When these two ingredients are combined with the right water source and climate, you get what many call "the perfect storm" to create some delicious bourbons! 

What Is Scotch?

Scotch is a whisky that must be made in Scotland. The water used to make scotch comes from the Highlands of Scotland, which is why it has such a unique flavor. The main ingredient in scotch is barley, which gives the drink its signature smoky flavor.

Scotch must also be aged in oak barrels for at least three years and one day – this allows the flavors of the barrel to seep into the liquor, giving it a unique taste that you can't find anywhere else!

So, What Exactly Makes Scotch So Special?

The answer is simple – it's the process. The meticulous care that goes into making scotch, from start to finish, is what makes it unique. From the water used in the distilling process to the barrels that are carefully selected for aging, everything about scotch contributes to its one-of-a-kind flavor profile. That's why many people say that scotch is an acquired taste – but once you acquire it, you won't be able to live without it!

What Are the Taste Differences Between Bourbon and Scotch?

While both bourbon and scotch are whiskeys, they have some key differences that set them apart. Scotch is made from barley, water, and yeast, which gives it its signature smoky flavor. Sometimes the barley is even smoked prior to distilling to give it an even smokier taste.

On the other hand, bourbon is made primarily from corn, which makes it sweeter than scotch. While there are many different types of scotch that vary in taste, they all share a strong vanilla undertone. 

So, which one should you choose? If you're looking for a smooth drink that goes down easy, bourbon is the way to go. But if you want something with a little more depth and flavor, scotch is probably your best bet.

What's the "Proper Way" to Drink Scotch and Bourbon?

The way you drink scotch or bourbon depends on your preference. If you want to enjoy the flavor of the liquor, it is recommended that you sip it neat or with a splash of water. This allows you to taste all the nuances of the drink. However, if you find the straight liquor too strong, there are many ways to make it more palatable.

You can add mixers such as cola, ginger ale, or lemonade. Or you can make cocktails with scotch or bourbon as the base liquor. There are many delicious whiskey cocktail recipes available online or in bartending books. Ultimately, it is up to you how you want to drink your scotch or bourbon.

Final Verdict

While there are some differences between scotch and bourbon, they have more in common than not. Both are made from grain and aged in oak barrels (though the type of barrel can differ). Both can be enjoyed on their own or as part of a cocktail. So instead of focusing on how one is better than the other, try experimenting with each spirit to find out which one you like best.



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