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The Whisky World Tour: The Difference Between Bourbon, Scotch, Irish, and Canadian Whiskies

Diving into the whisky scene feels like stepping into a whole new world. Yes, other spirits change a bit depending on where they're made, but with whisky? It's a whole different ball game. It's kind of like wine in that sense. Where it's from, the rules it follows, and its backstory play a huge part in what ends up in your glass.

If you’re just starting your whisky journey (or even if you have casually enjoyed a glass or two over the years), you might be asking yourself “what is the difference between bourbon and whisky?” and “what makes a scotch a scotch?”. 

Navigating your way through the World of Whisky requires a bit of knowledge, a keen mind, and an openness to a completely different experience. So join us as we explore the world of whisky and discover what is the difference between whisky and bourbon.

1. Starting Simple: Whiskey vs. Bourbon

Bourbon is a type of whiskey. But while every bourbon is a whiskey, not every whiskey can don the title of bourbon. Whiskey is the overarching term for this golden spirit made from fermented grain mash. Bourbon, on the other hand, is like whiskey's American cousin with a penchant for sweetness.

BOURBON REGULATIONS:

- Must be made in the U.S.
- Made from at least 51% corn.
- Aged in new charred oak barrels.
- No minimum specified duration for aging, but to be called "straight" bourbon, it must be aged for at least two years.

2. Scotch Whisky: More Than Just a Scottish Accent

Scotch is whiskey's Scottish sibling (and they spell it 'whisky', minus the 'e'). It is a symbol of Scotland's heritage and offers a diverse flavour palette, from Islay's smoky notes to Speyside's fruity hints. With water from pristine streams and aging in oak casks, each sip embodies regional nuances and traditions. Whether Blended or a Single Grain Scotch, this spirit is a journey through Scotland's rich history.

What is the difference between scotch and whiskey?

Scotch is a type of whisky specifically from Scotland, with the distinct traditions and flavours that we explored above. While all Scotch is whisky, not every whiskey can be classified as Scotch.

SCOTCH WHISKY REGULATIONS:

- Produced in Scotland.
- Aged for at least three years.
- Made primarily from malted barley.
- A variety of types can be considered Scotch: Single Malt, Single Grain, Blended Malt, Blended Grain, and Blended Scotch Whisky.
- Regions: Islay, Speyside, Highlands, Lowlands, Campbeltown, and Islands.

3. Irish Whiskey: The Smooth Operator

Irish whiskey, the gentle soul in the whiskey family, hails from the Emerald Isle. Irish whiskey is known for its smooth and light taste. It's made using pure water and aged in wooden barrels. One big reason for its smoothness is that it's distilled three times. Many people love its hints of vanilla, caramel, and fruit. More than just a drink, Irish whiskey is famous for capturing the spirit and history of Ireland in every glass.

IRISH WHISKEY REGULATIONS:

- Produced in Ireland.
- Aged for at least three years in wooden casks.
- Can be peated or unpeated.
- Types include: Single Malt, Single Pot Still, Grain Whiskey, and Blended Whiskey.

4. Canadian Whisky: The Northern Gem with an Innovative Spirit

Canadian whisky stands out in the global spirits landscape, not just for its unique flavour profiles but also for its distinctive regulations. Historically, Canadian whisky regulations allowed distillers a broader canvas to experiment and innovate.

Forty Creek’s Master Blender, Bill Ashburn on the past and future of Canadian whisky:

“The regulations on Canadian Whisky allow us the freedom to explore different expressions of our whiskies. For over 20 years Canadian Whisky has enjoyed a renaissance that we are proud to be part of.”

Forty Creek is leading this change with its innovative expressions and experimentation.

CANADIAN WHISKY REGULATIONS:

- Must be mashed, distilled, and aged in Canada.
- Aged in small wooden vessels for not less than three years.
- Contain no less than 40% alcohol by volume.
- May contain caramel and flavouring.
- Possess the aroma, taste, and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky.

Is it Whiskey with an 'e' or without?

The distinction primarily boils down to geography and tradition. Typically, "whiskey" with an 'e' is used by countries with an 'e' in their names, such as the United States and Ireland. On the other hand, "whisky" without the 'e' is the preferred spelling in countries without an 'e' in their names, like Scotland, Canada, and Japan.

Explore the World of Whiskies

From the smoky notes of Scotch to the innovation of Forty Creek's Canadian whisky, there's a story in every glass. Even though we are lovers of Canadian whisky (yes, we’re a bit biased) it is an experience to explore different flavours and expressions from around the world. So what are you waiting for? Start with a journey through Forty Creek’s award-winning expressions with one of our tasting flight sets (*Only available online to our Ontario based customers. Please check your local Forty Creek retailer for supplies in your province).

A tasting flight paddle including tasting glasses and four bottles of Forty Creek Whisky
Forty Creek Tasting Flight Mix Pack
$179.99
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The Forty Creek premium tasting flight with four bottles of premium whisky
Forty Creek Premium Tasting Flight Mix Pack
$279.99
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