First of all, no matter how you spell it, “whisky/ey” is an umbrella term for a type of spirit distilled from a mash of fermented grains. Within this category, there are many different groups—including Bourbon, Canadian, Irish, Rye, Scotch and Tennessee.

Originally, the word “whisky” comes from the Scots Gaelic word Uisge Beatha, meaning the “Water of Life.” It was Anglicized over time to “whiskybae” and finally shortened to “whisky.” While Canadian, Japanese and Scottish producers tend to favor the spelling “whisky,” American and Irish distillers decided they wanted to differentiate between the two and added the “e.” Confusing, right?

So, Irish Whiskey or Scottish Whisky? Both are amazing, but if you’re planning a trip to Ireland or Scotland, remember this rule of thumb when writing about the popular drink of choice:

Countries with an “E” in their name: AmErica and IrEland spell it with the “E.”
Countries without an “E”: Canada, Japan and Scotland spell it without the “E.”

As the history of Irish whiskey goes, the British made it more popular than almost any other spirit. You would also be very surprised to learn that the introduction of Scottish blended whiskey onto the market was partially responsible for the demise of Irish whiskey. Today, there are significantly fewer whiskey distilleries that grace the Emerald Isle. Imagine that, in the eighteenth century, there were over 1,200 whiskey distilleries in Ireland.

Now, let’s take a look at the different physical components between Irish and Scottish whiskies. So, make yourself a delicious Irish coffee and let’s get started!

Location is key.

Irish whiskey must be brewed in Ireland. When you take a tour of Ireland, you’ll note only four Irish whiskey distilleries remain. That means only four locations in the world can truly produce Irish whiskey. Scottish whisky must be made in Scotland. Scotland has a lot more than four, though…Draw your own conclusion, my friends!

Grains, and the way they are processed prior to fermentation, is important.

Basically, Irish whiskey and Scottish whisky are both water and barley. However, the Scottish whisky allows the barley to sprout. Then the barley is dried with peat moss smoke. Scottish whisky will have a stronger aroma and, some say taste, thanks to the peat-smoked barley. Smooth, neutral Irish whiskey is easier to use as a mixer in many drinks.

Distillation varies greatly.

Irish whiskey contains alcohol continually distilled from barley and other grains (depending on the mix being produced). Irish whiskey is distilled three times. Scottish whisky? Only twice. Again, they say Scottish whisky is stronger, thanks to the minimal two distillations. Irish is smoother and more neutral, thanks to the third distillation.

The aging process sets the two apart.

Irish whiskey must age for at least three years. Yep, at least three years. Scottish whisky will be aged for just two. Both typically use a wooden cask for aging, so it’s just the length of time the spirit mellows that sets them apart.

Interested in sampling a few of these whiskies in their homelands? Browse a few of our inspirational (and fully customizable!) Ireland and Scotland itineraries below.


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Sample Itineraries You May Enjoy

View Over Old Man Of Storr, Isle Of Skye, Scotland. During a beautiful sunrise and dramatic sky with a local shower here and there. The Old Man of Storr looms over Portree, Isle of Skye and is situated 7 miles north of the town. It is dominated by the 50 metre high petrified lava pinnacle of the Old Man of Storr, with a brutal tumble of cliff behind, and the panorama spreads across loch, sea and islands to the high mountains of the mainland beyond.

Best of Scotland

10 Days | 11 Nights

Edinburgh is the starting point on this iconic 10-day tour of Scotland. Walk the cobblestone streets of the Royal Mile with its magnificent Edinburgh Castle at the top. Discover the many different sides of this UNESCO World Heritage city. Heading west from Edinburgh, you will see the lochs and glens that – along with the highlands and islands – make this country such a spectacular destination.

Starting From $3,247 per person based on double occupancy
Ross Castle Killarney Co Kerry

Best of Ireland

11 Days | 10 Nights
Arts and Culture

The greenest highlights that Ireland has to offer! Discover the highlights of Ireland, including a visit to the Guinness Storehouse, drive the Ring of Kerry, stand atop the Cliffs of Moher, and overlook the wonderful ruggedness of Connemara in Galway.

Starting From $3,450 per person based on double occupancy

Essence of Ireland

14 Days | 13 Nights

Experience the best of Ireland during this private-driver tour, perfect for the whole family. Visit wild, craggy coastlines, ancient castles and charming towns. During this two-week adventure, you’ll discover the true essence of the Emerald Isle.

Starting From $5,486 per person based on double occupancy

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