Know the Facts: The Difference Between Whiskey, Bourbon and Scotch

So, you’ve gotten yourself an invite to one of Kapow’s infamous whiskey tastings, or was it a scotch tasting? Shoot, was it bourbon? You’ve heard it all before: all scotch is whiskey, but not all whiskey is scotch. But, what does that even mean? Don’t stress, given that it’s National Whiskey Day (March 27), we’ve decided to provide you with a short guide for understanding the difference. 



Whiskeys are made from cereal grains, barley, corn, oats, rye, wheat, sorghum, millet and triticale. Both Scotch and Bourbon use yeast and water, but the principal distinction between the two spirits is their choice of grains.



Bourbon is made with at least 51% corn. Corn gives that sweetness whiskey drinkers seem to love or loath. The remaining 49% of the spirit can be made with whatever grains the distillery desires to use. Bourbon must be made in the United States and be aged in new oak charred casks. The spirit must be distilled to no more than 160 proof and barreled at 125 proof. Bourbon must be bottled at no less than 80 proof and cannot contain any added flavoring, coloring or other additives. Got it? Good.

Our Favorite Bourbon Cocktail: The Derby – it calls for bourbon, lime juice, sweet vermouth, and Grand Marnier. Simple and refreshing.



Scotch is created with malted barley, to which other whole grains may be added. The most popular type is arguably Single Malt, which is made with 100% malted barley. Like Bourbon, no short-cuts or fermentation additives are allowed. Scotch must be aged in oak barrels for no less than three years and must have a ABV less than 94.8%. Most importantly, you cannot call your drink Scotch unless it was made in Scotland.

Our Favorite Scotch Cocktail: Rob Roy – essentially a Manhattan, but is exclusively made with Scotch of course and garnished with a lemon twist (if you’re ordering it perfect or dry).


Our favorite 2018 whiskey events from coast to coast

Boston – Hop N Scotch
Philadelphia – Twisted Tail 
Washington, D.C. – Mon Ami Gabi

Chicago – Whiskey Business
Dallas – Nickel & Rye
Nashville – Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery

Los Angeles – Lost Property
Orange County – Bosscat
Phoenix – Second Story Liquor Bar 
Seattle – Westland Distillery  

Any more questions? Of course you do. So, why don’t you head on over to the whiskey tasting and let the real expert tell you more.



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