What Are the Differences Between Scotch, Whiskey & Brandy?

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Scotch, Whiskey and Brandy are popular liquors distilled around the world. The liquors are distinguished by ingredients, distilling method and equipment used. The distilling method to produce whiskey is similar to that which used to produce beer. Brandy is associated with wine due to the use of grapes as a main ingredient. Additional differences occur due to regulations imposed by governing bodies concerned with the integrity and distinctiveness of the liquors.


The distillation of whiskey is a process which has remained relatively unchanged for 200 years. Slight differences in the distillation of whiskey exist between distillers in the United States, Ireland and Scotland. Whiskey is made from water, barley and hops in a five-step distillation process. Peat and wood barrels used to store whiskey add character and flavor to whiskey.


The oldest existing record of Scottish whiskey (Scotch) dates back to the late 1400s, but the Celts were making the liquor prior to the 1400s. Scotch is distilled in accordance with the Scottish Whiskey Regulation. Scotch is distilled once more than American and Irish whiskey to produce a smoother flavor. Scottish distillers prefer storing and maturing scotch in European oak barrels.


Brandy originates from Spain and Southern France. It was discovered by an Arab alchemist attempting to create medicine by distilling fruit. The name Brandy comes from Dutch traders in the 1600s who referred to the liquor as "brandewijn," which translates to burnt wine. The three kinds of brandy are grape, fruit and pomace. Production of brandy depends on the season and strong harvest.


Whiskey and scotch are grain liquors. Grains such as barley and hops can be stored, allowing distillers to produce whiskey and scotch throughout the entire year. Brandy is distilled using fruit which can only be stored for short periods before rotting occurs. The three liquors each have distinct flavors determined by ingredients, distillation method and storage. Whiskeys are characterized as having strong smokey or woody flavors. Brandy flavors vary from fruity to woody.