Whisky Insider - Whisky Types

What is the best whisky?

Discovering the best whisky could lead you to visit every Scottish distillery, or even to bustling whisky auctions. Wherever you are on your whisky journey, a little knowledge about flavour and technique can go a long way.

Whisky or Whiskey?

Finally, an answer!

One time world leaders in whiskey production, Ireland added an ‘e’ in 1875 to distinguish their product from the Scottish version in the American market. The influx of Irish immigrants meant America adopted the same spelling. Today, with Single Malt Scotch Whisky recognised as the world’s leading whisky, every other country has opted for the original spelling.

Different Whiskies

A brief guide to six of the most popular whisky types currently being enjoyed around the world

Scotch Whisky

There are hundreds of operating distilleries in Scotland, but every one must mature its product in the country for at least three years and one day, using oak casks.

Irish whiskey

Most Irish whiskey is made in a pot still and distilled three times, as opposed to the more common Scottish double distillation, and is famed for its smooth character.

American whiskey

This is a spirit made from any cereal grain including rye, corn, barley and wheat. Around a third of American whiskies are bourbons.


To be a Bourbon, the whiskey’s mash must contain at least 51% corn, and the resulting spirit always has to be matured in new oak casks, although there is no minimum for how long. Those aged for at least two years are called Straight Bourbon.

Japanese whiskey

Nearly 100 years old, the Japanese whiskey industry offers traditional flavours like peat, but also includes new, innovative elements such as ageing in plum wine casks.

Canadian whiskey

Known for the inclusion of a small amount of rye in their maltings, Canadians also use a combination of barley, corn and wheat grains to create a liquid famed for its smoothness.

Types of Scotch Whisky

So many ways to enjoy the water of life

Single Malt

A Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a whisky that's produced in batches from only water, malted barley and yeast at a single distillery using copper pot stills.

Single Grain

The product of a single distillery, using other grains like wheat and corn (maize) as well as barley, made in a continuous still to give a lighter, subtle flavour which makes it ideal for blending.

Blended Malt

The product of more than one distillery, this is the combination of different Single Malt Scotch Whiskies to achieve a specific flavour and character.

Blended Grain

This is a blend of minimum two Single Grain Scotch Whiskies, usually produced at different distilleries across Scotland.


Some of the world's best-selling spirits, a blend is a combination of one or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies with one or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies.