In America, we frequently hear the words “bourbon,” “scotch” and “whisky” used interchangeably, but in reality, bourbon and scotch are two very different things. Born in different parts of the world, with different histories, different ingredients and differing ages, a true connoisseur will be quick to point out that the two have very distinctive characteristics.
Country of Origin
Scotch is a hard liquor specifically made, and exclusive to, the country of Scotland. Bourbon whiskey is a distinctly American liquor.
Scotch is named for its country of origin, Scotland, while American bourbon whiskey is named for the county of Bourbon, Kentucky, long a central hub for American whiskey making.
Scotch has a very old history, with some records of a similar distilled liquor evident in Celtic history, and it first makes its appearance in Scotch legal records in the 1600s. Bourbon whiskey is first mentioned in law codes in the United States in the 1700s.
Scotch must be distilled in a Scottish distillery from water and barley, while the main grain ingredient of bourbon whiskey is corn.
Scotch is legally required to be aged in oak barrels for at least three years. Bourbon whiskey must, by definition, be aged in charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years, although good whiskeys are typically aged for more than four years.