The Different Types Of Whiskey Explained

A crash course on the basics of whiskey.

Published On Aug 10, 2022 | Updated On Mar 07, 2024


Formerly believed to be a gentleman’s drink, whiskey has made its way across the table to women who tend to enjoy delicious blends on the rocks. From single malts to bourbon, the types of whiskey available at a liquor store are enough to confuse even the most ardent drinkers. Our guide on the different types of whiskey, their flavour profile, and their origin will help you enjoy this spirit better.

Whiskey is made after fermenting and distilling cereal grains, into a smooth almost caramel-like liquor. The distilling process and type of grain dictate its top flavour profile. Earthy and smoky flavoured whiskey originates from Islay in Scotland, while honey-sweet bourbon comes from Kentucky.

Why is it Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey? While the spelling is used interchangeably, the difference arises from the place of production. Every region has its historic spelling:

Whiskey: Liquor from US & Ireland

Whisky: Liquor from Canada, Japan, and Scotland

Bourbon is an American whiskey originating from the South in Kentucky but is now produced all over the US.

  • It is made from at least 51% corn, with water ( no additives or flavouring)
  • Straight Bourbon is aged for at least 2 years in a charred new oak barrel 
  • It has a sweet vanilla tone with caramel-like flavours. 
  • The sweet tones of Bourbon are used to make delicious Whiskey cocktails, like a Whiskey Sour

Tennessee whiskey is a bourbon made in Tennessee, with set guidelines.

  • It has 51%-79% of corn 
  • To earn its name, Tennessee whiskey has to be filtered through maple charcoal chunks before it can be aged—this is called the Lincoln County Process
  • A sweeter, more mellow flavour profile as compared to Bourbon, Tennessee has a sooty tinge because of the charcoal filter.
  • Jack Daniels, a Tennessee whiskey, is best enjoyed with a soft drink and ice

In Canada, every distillery follows its own rules of production. Similar to Scotch, Canadian whisky is the product of a single distillery. But certain rules give the Canadian whisky its name:

  • It must be mashed, distilled, and aged for no less than 3 years in Canada
  • It can contain flavouring and caramel

How is Canadian whisky different?

Distillers create two whiskies: a base and a flavouring whisky, and then combine the two for a final product. The base has higher alcohol content and is aged in recycled barrels for a smooth characteristic. The flavouring whisky is distilled at a lower alcohol content and aged in new barrels allowing the grain to highlight its original flavour.

Canadian whisky is also known as Canadian rye whisky or rye whisky, even though it contains more corn than rye.

Canadian whisky has a light and sweet flavour profile that tastes well in cocktail mixes.

One of the most widely available types of whiskey in India is Scotch. Here’s a little more about the best tasting whiskey in India:

Single malt whisky

  • Made using 100% malted barley in a single distillery 
  • Aged in a small pot for at least three years in oak casks
  • Single malt is further categorised by the region it originates from: lwlands have a more floral taste, while areas near the ocean absorb the briny sea air

Blended malt whisky

Made using a blend of 100% malted barley, blended malt is a mix from at least two or more distilleries

Blended whisky

Made using a combination of single malt, with corn or wheat whisky

Single grain whisky

This type of whisky in India is used as a blend for other whiskies. It is made using 100% wheat or corn

Drinking Scotch is an acquired taste. A spirit with a bold character, and an even bolder flavour profile—Scotch is best enjoyed neat with a few cubes of ice.


Believed to be the birthplace of authentic whiskey, Irish whiskey is similar to Scotch.

Irish single malt

Single malt made in Ireland roasts the malted barley to give the spirit a clear flavour. It is made using 100% barley, the whiskey is aged in pot stills for at least 3 years in a single distillery

Irish whiskey, unlike Scotch, has a sweeter taste and appeals to the masses. Jamesons is an Irish whiskey, widely consumed in India. You can enjoy a glass of Irish Whiskey with water or ice, but if you want a cocktail, try the Irish coffee.


Inspired by the distilleries in Scotland, Japanese whisky shares a similar process and flavour profile as Scotch. The only difference between the two is in the making of their still shapes and sizes. Japanese whisky is customised to cater to a range of tastes and styles, making the bold drink complex but well-balanced. Japanese whisky is best enjoyed chilled, on the rocks.


Unlocking the mystery between whiskey and whisky, we hope our guide helps you become a sommelier. Now all that’s left is to pour yourself a glass, sit back and relax. 

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