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Our Guide To Different Types of Whiskey

There is an endless selection of spirits behind the bar and on the liquor store shelves. Choosing the kinds and brands that are best for you can be a daunting task to say the least. Whiskey alone has several different varieties to choose from.

glasses of whiskey on wooden table with ice cubes

It might be worth discussing the various types of whiskey, where they are from and how to tell the difference between them. We’ll be talking about methods of making, legalities, as well as the final taste and the overall flavor.

Learn about the main types of whiskey and whisky on the market today and find the one that best fits your tastes.

Scotch Whisky

This whisky is distilled in Scotland, which is a legal qualification for this stuff to be given the name Scotch.

It comes in 5 different sub-genres: malt, single malt, blended malt, blended malt grain and blended scotch whisky.

Scotch whisky is made from malted barley or grain and has a much more punchy and sour flavor than other types of whisky. This is aged in the barrel for a minimum of 3 years.

Scotch is also known for its smoky flavor, especially peaty Scotch.

Scotch tends to be popular among serious whisky drinkers, and some of the most expensive whiskies in the world are Scotch.

Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey is a type of whiskey that is produced exclusively in Ireland. It is made from a blend of malted and unmalted barley, as well as other grains such as corn and wheat.

Jameson Irish whiskey bottle

It takes a minimum of 3 years to reach maturity, and is distilled a minimum of three times. It has a very smooth finish and is often enjoyed neat.

Irish whiskey is aged in wooden barrels, which impart flavors of vanilla, caramel, and oak. This whiskey is often described as having a fruity, spicy, and slightly sweet flavor profile.

It can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails such as the Irish Coffee. Some popular Irish whiskey brands include Jameson, Bushmills, and Tullamore Dew.

Canadian Whisky

Like Irish and Scotch whisky, Canadian whisky must be aged with a three year minimum and exclusively within Canada.

Crown Royal is a blended Canadian whisky
Crown Royal is a blended Canadian whisky

Canadian whisky also must be aged in wood barrels no bigger than 700 liters, whether they are new, old, charred or uncharred, it is not required. The spirit also must be mashed & distilled in Canada.

See also  21 Smoothest Whiskeys To Sip

Alcohol content of the spirits used may exceed 90%, so it’s usually blended down to more drinkable levels.

Blending a whisky down from 90% to 40% might lose some of the natural color and flavors from the grain, which is why Canadian whisky is permitted to add caramel coloring and artificial flavoring.

When it is bottled in the end, it must to be at least 40% alcohol by volume. These are the legal requirements for Canadian whisky.

Bourbon Whiskey

This next whiskey has a slightly softer finish and might definitely be a starting point for most whiskey novices.

bourbon whiskey in a glass

Bourbon is made from corn and does not contain many additives. This is a great drink for anyone who is watching their calorie intake, being very lean on carbs, unlike beer or wine.

Bourbon whiskey is exclusively made in the United States and must be at least 51% corn mash, aged in new charred oak barrels and nothing extra added like flavors or color.

There are different types of bourbon to try. One popular bourbon is Kentucky bourbon, distilled and aged exclusively in Kentucky in charred oak barrels.

Tennessee Whiskey

Tennessee whiskey is an American whiskey very much like bourbon whiskey, except that it is only distilled in the grand old state of Tennessee.

The main difference between this and bourbon is the filtering system. Tennessee whiskey uses charcoal, which is what accounts for its distinctive smokey taste.

It is made from at least 51% corn and is filtered through sugar maple charcoal before being aged in new, charred oak barrels. This process is known as the “Lincoln County Process”.

Tennessee whiskey has a rich, smooth flavor profile with hints of caramel and vanilla, and is often enjoyed neat or in cocktails like the Lynchburg Lemonade.

Rye Whiskey

This next whiskey is very fruity and spicy, with a rye content that can go no lower than 51%. It is mainly manufactured and distilled in North America and it has to age in a barrel for at least 2 years.

rye whiskey

Rye has a distinct spicy and peppery flavor profile that sets it apart from other types of whiskey. This whiskey is commonly used in cocktails such as the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of rye whiskey, as more and more whiskey drinkers seek out unique and complex flavor experiences.

Some popular rye whiskey brands include Bulleit Rye, Rittenhouse Rye, and Sazerac Rye. Whether enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail, rye is a versatile and flavorful spirit that is sure to satisfy whiskey lovers.

See also  9 Most Expensive Bottles of Scotch

Japanese Whisky

Japanese whisky uses double peated barley and malt, aged in a wooden cask. This whisky is drier and smokier than a lot of other whiskies that you can find on the market.

Japanese whisky bottles, The Yamazaki, The Chita and Hibiki
Japanese whisky bottles, The Yamazaki, The Chita and Hibiki

Needless to say, this one is primarily distilled in Japan, but popular Japanese whiskies are available around the world.

The Japanese whisky industry began in the early 20th century, when a few enterprising individuals sought to emulate the Scottish style of whisky-making. Today, Japanese whiskies are known for their exceptional quality and unique flavor profiles.

They often feature a balance of sweetness, spice, and smokiness, and are aged in a variety of barrels, including Japanese oak, American oak, and sherry casks.

Single Malt

Single malt whiskey, also spelled whisky, is a type of whiskey that is made from 100% malted barley and is produced by a single distillery. It is considered to be the most traditional and prestigious form of whiskey, and is highly valued by whiskey connoisseurs.

single malt

Single malt whiskey is typically aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels, which gives it a complex and nuanced flavor profile. It is known for its characteristic smokiness, as well as flavors of fruit, spice, and vanilla.

Single malt whisky is often a Scotch whisky, or single malt Scotch, but other types of whiskey can also be single malt.

Single malt whisky is often enjoyed neat or with a few drops of water to enhance its flavors.


Blended whiskey is a type of whiskey that is made by blending together two or more different types of whiskey. This is the opposite of single malt, as it is made with more than one type of grain.

three different whiskeys in glasses

This can include a blend of malt whiskey and grain whiskey, or a blend of different malt whiskeys from different distilleries. The goal of blending is to create a balanced and consistent flavor profile, and to achieve a level of complexity and nuance that would be difficult to achieve with a single type of whiskey.

Blended whiskey is typically aged for several years in oak barrels, and can have a wide range of flavor profiles depending on the types of whiskey used in the blend.

Some popular blended whiskey brands include Johnnie Walker, Chivas Regal, and Dewar’s. Blended whiskey can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails.

Corn Whiskey

Corn whiskey is a type of whiskey that is made from a mash bill that is at least 80% corn.

corn whiskey

It is typically unaged or aged for a short period of time in new, uncharred oak barrels, which gives it a distinctive flavor profile. This whiskey is known for its sweet and mellow flavor, with hints of corn, vanilla, and oak.

See also  13 Smooth Single Malt Scotches To Sip

It is often enjoyed neat or in cocktails such as the Corn & Oil. Corn whiskey is sometimes called “white whiskey” or “moonshine” because of its clear, colorless appearance.

Wheat Whiskey

Wheat whiskey is a type of whiskey that is made from a mash bill that is at least 51% wheat. It is similar to bourbon and rye whiskey, but has a distinctively smooth and mellow flavor profile.

wheat whiskey

Wheat whiskey is aged in new, charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years, which gives it a rich and complex flavor with notes of caramel, vanilla, and spice.

It is often enjoyed neat or in cocktails such as the Whiskey Sour. Some popular wheat whiskey brands include Bernheim Original, Dry Fly Washington Wheat Whiskey, and Reservoir Wheat Whiskey.

Indian Whisky

Indian whisky is a type of whiskey that is produced in India, from a tradition dating back to the colonial British Empire.

amrut indian whiskey bottles

It is made from a blend of different grains, including barley, corn, and wheat, and is aged in oak barrels for several years.

Indian whisky is known for its distinctive flavor profile, which is often described as sweet and spicy with notes of fruit and vanilla, in part due to the use of molasses in its distillation.

Some Indian whisky brands, such as Amrut, have gained international recognition for their high quality and unique flavor, but Indian whiskies are not often found outside of India.

White Whiskey

White whiskey, also known as moonshine, is a type of whiskey that is not aged or aged for a very short period of time.

moonshine cocktails

It is typically clear in color, as it has not had time to develop the color and flavor that comes from aging in oak barrels.

White whiskey is often made from a mash bill of corn, and is known for its raw and powerful flavor profile. It can have notes of corn, grain, and spice, and is often enjoyed in cocktails rather than sipped neat.

Some popular white whiskey brands include Buffalo Trace White Dog, Death’s Door White Whiskey, and Georgia Moon.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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