Know Your Whiskey


You have taken a course with us on bartending and you have released that your customer base is a whiskey kind of people. Whiskey people are particular about their drink and are also very particular about the age and even the origin of their drink.

As a bartender, you need to know your whiskey and even as a whiskey newbie, you need to know your brand as well. We shall discuss the whiskey types, a few brands and what each means to us as whiskey people.

What is the difference?

One of the most common questions there is what is the difference between a Scotch, Bourbon, and whiskey?

In the simplest of all Scotch is from Scotland and to the Scottish people it is whisky while to the rest of us, it’s gonna be Whiskey. Bourbon is mainly American and more specific to Kentucky. Another difference is that Scotch is made from malted barley while Bourbon is made from corn.

It is also important to note that all scotches and bourbons are whiskeys but the reverse is not always true.  Basically, a whiskey is an alcoholic drink that is made and distilled from fermented grain mash.

Let’s look at the differences between these kinds of whiskeys, shall we?


The Scottish people call their whiskey whisky. Scots also have been protected by international law to call their whiskeys Scotch as the whiskeys are made of 100% Scottish ingredients and made purely in Scotland. The main ingredient is normally mated with barley and the whiskey is barrel-aged for a minimum of three years and hence the very special name, “Scotch”.

The term “single malt” is a very common term with scotch and it means that the whiskey is from a single distillery and distilled purely from malted grain which is usually barley. A blended scotch is usually scotch that has been sourced from different distilleries and then blended together. Johnny Walker is a good example.

The taste? Scotch taste varies from distillery and region and their flavor is rich, bold, smoky with peat.


Though it is an American whiskey, the name itself originated from the royal families of France. Which was gratitude advanced to King Louis XVI for his decision to intervene against the English man in the American Revolution in the Western counties of Virginia which later became known as Kentucky? Kentucky is famously known as the Bourbon County.

What makes bourbon?

It is made from at least 51% corn Is aged in new American oak charred barrels Distilled at less than 160 proof Bottled at no less than 80 proof Free of additives It has to be aged for not less than two years. It is also made in America.
What is the difference between whiskey and bourbon? There is really none.



This is one of the trickiest whiskeys to explain. The name, historically, comes as a result of it being made of Rye that is produced in Canada. In as much as there is the assumption that is purely made from ash which is composed of Rye mass, it is not always too.

For Canadian whiskey to be named Rye, it must actually have rye in it. The American Rye Whiskey, on the other hand, it should contain at least 50% rye. Other ingredients used include corn and barley. Any Rye which has been aged for more than two years earns the title of being called straight. The major producer of Rye is Alberta Premium in Canada and it is made of 100% rye mash.

The other characteristics of the American Rye Whiskey are same as the Bourbon.

Tennessee Whiskey

Tennessee whiskey is straight bourbon which has been made in the state of Tennessee. The producers, such as Jack Daniel, do not like their whiskey labeled as Bourbon as they say that it is the “only type of whiskey which puts the spirit through a charcoal filtering process.” As a result, the whiskey deserves a unique name. Apart from that, all other rules to Bourbon apply.

Irish Whiskey

This whiskey is aged in the Ireland Republic or Northern Ireland. And like Scotch, it must be distilled to not less than 94.8ABV.

It must also be made from yeast-fermented grain mash so as to have the aroma and flavor derived from the materials used (Wikipedia). You can use more than one type of grain but it must be labeled as blended.

The whiskey must also be aged for not less than 3 years in wooden casks.

As a bartender, you need to know the types of whiskeys and what makes each unique. The biggest gift you can give to your customer is to know the difference and always offer to explain what makes each brand unique!!