What's the Difference Between Scotch, Whiskey and Brandy?

What exactly is the difference Between scotch, whiskey and brandy? Learn the differences between these classic liquors.


I'll admit, when it comes to the wide wide world of liquor, I'm still a fledgling. Though I won't divulge exactly when I celebrated my 21st birthday, I can tell you it wasn't far enough ago for me to feel abashed at this honest admission: until I wrote this article I had no idea what the difference between scotch, whiskey and brandy was.

My whole intrigue started a week ago - I was at a bar with some friends, one of whom, ordered a scotch whisky on the rocks with a twist.

Before I could laugh at her attempt to ooze maturity with such an order, my other dear friend started conversing on the topic of just how wonderful a good scotch could be. After she went on about it though, she turned to the bar tender and said she'd prefer a brandy instead.

Concealing my wide-open mouth with a quick sip of my ever-faithful vodka cranberry, I vowed to un-confuse myself and get my scotch, whiskey and brandy facts straight ASAP. Apparently, it's high time I dip my toes into this world of "more mature" cocktails.

If like me, you're confused, here's the 411 when it comes to whiskey, scotch and brandy. Clear and simple, so you'll never feel out of the loop the next time your supposed best friends who've been sipping scotch behind your back slip up and let you know it.

Let's start with the whisky (also spelled whiskey) is a distilled drink that's made from fermented grain mash. Crystal clear, right? I thought so -- distilled drinks, like whisky and unlike beer, contain ethanol. Ethanol is produced by the process of distillation. Often, you'll hear people call something "hard liquor" and that just means it's been distilled, which then means it packs a punch. Whisky is one of those. Similar to wine, whisky can come in a good variety and each type has a special characteristic to it.

This brings us, to scotch. Scotch is a form of whiskey made in Scotland. It too, varies in type, but all scotch whisky MUST be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years. There are two basic types of whisky - single malt and single grain. Single malt Scotch whisky is produced by only distilling water and malted barley together in a single process in pot stills. Single grain whiskey undergoes the same process, but in addition to the water and malt barley there are other grains added.

And finally, brandy - and no, I don't mean the singer. Like Scotch and whisky, brandy (derived from Brandywine) is created through the process of distillation. Unlike Scotch and whisky, however it is a product of wine. Typically enjoyed as an after-dinner cocktail, brandy is produced from fermented grapes.

Now, I could go on and on about how to tell the difference in flavor between the three spirits listed above, but wouldn't you prefer to figure that our yourself?

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