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Scotch vs whiskey: what’s the difference? And what about whisky? Here’s a quick guide to what you need to know about this style of liquor.

Scotch vs whiskey
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Scotch vs whiskey: what’s the difference? Well, Scotch is whiskey, but not all whiskey is Scotch. Confused? Even more confounding, this special type of whiskey is really spelled “whisky.” Here are a few things you may not know about this spirit, as well as some of the best Scotch cocktails that highlight its distinctive flavor. Let’s get started!

Scotch vs whiskey: what’s the difference?

Alright, let’s break it down. What’s Scotch and what’s whiskey? Is it spelled whiskey or whisky? Here’s a quick bulleted breakdown of what you need to know:

  • Whiskey is a family of distilled liquor made by fermenting grain mash: wheat, rye, barley or corn. It’s then aged in wooden barrels, usually made of oak.
  • There are many types of whiskey based on country and style of production. Some popular types of whiskey are Bourbon (a type of American whiskey), Rye whiskey (American or Canadian), Irish whiskey, Scotch, aka Scotch whisky, and Japanese whisky.
  • Whiskey is the correct spelling for American and Irish-made whiskey, and whisky is the spelling for the Canadian, Japanese, and Scottish-made versions.
  • Scotch is whisky made in Scotland from either barley or a mix of grains. There are several types of Scotch, but the most common types you’ll hear of are:
    • Single malt Scotch is a whisky that’s from one distillery from a mash of malted barley.
    • Blended Scotch is made by blending two types of whisky: barrel-aged malt whisky and grain whisky.

What does Scotch taste like, vs other types of whiskey?

The more important question is: what are the flavor differences between Scotch vs whiskey? Of course, Scotch is whiskey (er, whisky). But what distinguishes the flavor? Here’s a breakdown of the major types of whiskey with the flavor differences:

  • What does Scotch taste like? Blended Scotch has a smooth flavor: malty and buttery, with a spicy finish. Single malt Scotch tastes oaky and woody, with signature peaty and smoky notes.
  • What does bourbon taste like? Bourbon has a sweeter flavor than other styles of whiskey, with notes of vanilla, oak and caramel.
  • What does rye whiskey taste like? Rye whiskey tastes grassy and peppery, with a signature spicy finish.
  • What does Irish whiskey taste like? Irish whiskey is light and fruity, with a lightly floral scent and hints of nutty and vanilla tones. The finish is smooth and mellow.
Penicillin Cocktail

Let’s get to some examples of cocktails! Of course, you can drink Scotch or whiskey straight up. But we prefer it mixed into drinks! Keep in mind, Scotch cocktails are considered whiskey cocktails because it’s a type of whiskey, but not all whiskey cocktails are Scotch cocktails. In fact, if a cocktail calls for “whiskey,” we don’t recommend using a Scotch unless the recipe specifically calls for it. Scotch has a very distinct flavor and it’s usually called for specifically in a cocktail recipe.

Some of the most popular Scotch cocktails are:

Got other types of whiskey? Here some popular whiskey cocktails:

Want more? Go to Whiskey CocktailsIrish Whiskey Cocktails or Scotch Cocktails.

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Rob Roy drink

Rob Roy (Scotch Manhattan)

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


The Rob Roy drink is a Manhattan made with Scotch whisky! This booze-forward cocktail is a sophisticated way to enjoy a good Scotch.


  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) blended Scotch whisky
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) sweet red vermouth
  • 3 dashes Angostura or orange bitters
  • For the garnish: Luxardo cherry or other cocktail cherry


  1. Combine the Scotch, vermouth and bitters in a cocktail mixing glass (or any other type of glass). Fill the mixing glass with 1 handful ice and stir continuously for 30 seconds.
  2. Strain into a coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry and serve.
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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1 Comment

  1. Melody says:

    Thank you for that. I had been wondering about all this. It answered my questions.