Whiskey? Whiskey? Bourbon? Single? Malt? Blended?
A whisky (from Uisge Beatha = Gaelic for water of life) is a spirit made from one or more grains, aged for at least 3 years in an oak cask(s) and then bottled at a minimum of 40% alcohol. Added sugar is not allowed, coloring (check the back label, sometimes it says: "Contains caramel for uniform coloring") is. Chill filtration is also allowed, it ensures that a whisky does not become cloudy at low temperatures or when ice is added, which is often undesirable in many parts of North America and Asia. Most "independent bottlers" (companies that buy different casks from different distilleries and market them under their own label, usually as single cask quality at cask strength) prefer natural whisky, i.e. they avoid both colouring and chill filtration.
A malt whisky is made from 100% malted barley; a single malt also comes from a single distillery. Examples: Balvenie, Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich. Lagavulin, Talisker.
A blended malt comes from 100% malted barley, but contains casks from more than one distillery.
A blended whisky comes from a variety of grains; it may contain malted barley, but it may also contain unmalted as well as other types such as wheat, rye, or corn. Examples: Johnny Walker, Dimples, Ballantines, Chivas Regal, Famous Grouse.
A Bourbon Whiskey is mostly made in the USA and from at least 51% corn, but usually its proportion is much higher. The raw spirit must be put into fresh barrels of American white oak, meaning the barrel may not be used for bourbon whiskey afterwards, but is often exported to other countries that produce whiskey. Examples: Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, Wild Turkey, Woodford Reserve.
An Irish whiskey is always spelled with "E" before the "Y", the same goes for the vast majority of American "bourbons" (see above). By the way, it is usually triple distilled.
A Scotch whiskey (mostly double distilled) is always written without an "E" in front of the "Y", and this is how it is kept almost everywhere in the world where whiskey has been produced for many years and decades (Japan, India, Taiwan, but also in Europe).
For the rest, a "Scotch" (malt or blended) whisky must be distilled, aged and bottled in Scotland. If one of the three components is not fulfilled, the whisky may not call itself "Scotch"
Text from: Frank Jerger