Irish Whiskey vs Scotch Whisky

Posted by Hannah Osbourne Monday 19th June 2023 0 Comment(s) Sláinte,

If we know anything at Celtic Whiskey Shop, it’s whiskey! A big question we get asked is what’s the difference between Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky. Besides each drink being exclusively from their eponymous country, there’s a big difference in how they’re made, distilled and even their history. 


The word 'whiskey' (or whisky) comes from the Irish ‘uisce beatha’ which means ‘water of life’. Irish whiskey was one of the earliest distilled drinks in Europe, which was invented around the 12th century, supposedly by Irish monks. The first written mention of Scotch whisky is in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland in 1495. Lindores Abbey in Fife, Scotland was the first site that recorded the distillation of Scotch Whisky in 1494, when Brother John Cor, one of the monks, was commissioned by King James IV to turn 8 bolls of malt into Aqua Vitae (Latin for ‘water of life’). 

Scotland soon caught up with and out-produced the Irish distilleries, especially after the introduction of the column still in 1831, which enabled quicker and easier production of larger quantities.

Despite this dominance, Irish Whiskey made from a mix of malted and unmalted barley in a pot still continued to grow in popularity. By the beginning of the 20th century, it was the most widely consumed Whiskey type in the United States


There’s a big difference, however, between Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey in the distillation process. Irish whiskey uses a broader range of grains compared to scotch, including barley, corn, wheat, and rye. However, malted and unmalted barley often dominate the mash bill.

Scotch is distilled twice while Irish whiskey is distilled thrice. This extra distillation gives Irish whiskey a smoother finish. Scotch whisky can be made from malted barley or a combination of malted barley and other grains, such as wheat or corn. Single malt Scotch whisky is exclusively produced from malted barley. The use of peat during malting gives certain Scotch whiskies their distinctive smoky flavour.

Maturation and Flavour Profiles

Maturation plays a crucial role in shaping the flavours of both Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey. The choice of casks and the duration of aging contribute significantly to their distinct profiles.

The regions in Scotland  (Highlands, Lowlands, Speyside, and Island) play a pivotal role in shaping the distinct flavours and characteristics found in Scotch whisky. The abundant peat bogs of Scotland, particularly in Islay, contribute to the smoky, earthy undertones often associated with certain Scotch whiskies.

Scotch whisky often undergoes maturation in used oak barrels, previously containing bourbon, sherry, or wine. The duration of aging can vary, ranging from a minimum of three years to several decades. As a result, Scotch whiskies exhibit a diverse array of flavours, from delicate floral notes to robust smokiness, along with hints of fruits, spices, and oak.

Irish whiskey, known for its smoothness and approachability, typically matures in used bourbon barrels. This aging process lends a gentle sweetness to the spirit, often accompanied by notes of vanilla, caramel, and honey. Irish whiskeys are characterized by their lighter and fruitier flavour profiles compared to their Scottish counterparts.

Types of Scotch Whisky


Single Malt Scotch Whisky - Ardbeg 10 Year-Old 

A wonderfully smoky single malt from Islay. This is one of the smokiest standard expression single malts available and has rich flavours of vanilla, iodine, campfire smoke and salted caramel.


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Blended Malt Scotch Whisky - Dewars 12 Year Old

A popular deluxe blend that has more depth and a little more smoke than the standard white label Dewars. 

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Blended Scotch Whisky – Monkey Shoulder 

A blend of malts from William Grant's portfolio. Monkey Shoulder contains whisky from Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie distilleries. A smooth and fruity whisky for those looking to sample all Speyside has to offer! 


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Types of Irish Whiskey


Single Pot Still - Jameson Single Pot Still

Years in the making, generations in the crafting! Jameson Single Pot Still is a brand new release celebrating the traditional style of Irish whiskey making after which this bottling is named. Crafted from a mash bill of malted and unmalted barley, it is then triple distilled for a rich unmistakable silkiness. This Five Oak Cask Release is matured in a combination of virgin oak (Irish, European and American) in addition to ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks. The finished results in a whiskey equal parts smooth and complex!


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Single Malt – Bushmills 10 Year Old Single Malt

This has been the standard single malt release from Bushmills for many years and is drawn from triple distilled malt that is aged in both bourbon and sherry casks. The sherry cask influence is very subtle (less so than Black Bush), and the overall taste is quite light and delicate. This is more about good bourbon casks maturation and it has a creamy, yet light mouth feel along with some crisp barley, warm vanilla and gentle pepper and spice flavours.


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Single Grain – Fercullen 10 Year Old Single Grain

The Fercullen 10 Year Old Single Grain has been matured exclusively aged in carefully selected ex-Bourbon barrels. Flavours of vanilla and orchard fruits dominate the palate.


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Blended Irish Whiskey – Lost Irish Whiskey 

Lost Irish is an adventurous Irish Whiskey made from six worlds in three styles to embody the wandering Irish spirit. This expression is a blend of pot still, malt and grain to create a complex but balanced flavour. Aged in casks from six continents including South African Brandy Casks, European Sherry Casks, Australian Tawny Casks, Colombian Rum Casks, Japanese Mizunara Oak Casks and Bourbon Casks from the US  to create a very worldly whiskey.



We hope you enjoyed our blog post. Be sure to browse our full range of whiskeys or why not pop into our store and have a look for yourself? Alternatively, you can also give us a call at 01 675 9744 or contact us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or email and one of our in-store experts can help you select the perfect whiskey or drink of your choice.