9 Types of Whiskey for Old Fashioneds, Manhattans and Everything in Between

PureWow editors select every item that appears on this page, and the company may earn compensation through affiliate links within the story. All prices are accurate upon date of publish. You can learn more about the affiliate process here.

Your vodka soda days are long gone. Lately, you’ve been savoring boozy Manhattans, fruity bourbon smashes and classic whiskey sours (with egg white, TYVM) in their place. Now that you’re into this spirit, you should know that there are many types of whiskey out there, all uniquely delicious and versatile. For your sipping pleasure, we’ve rounded up the details on a few main types—plus some of our favorite brands—to get your bar cart collection started.

Peanut Butter Whiskey Is Trending—Here’s Everything You Need to Know, Plus a Few Epic Cocktails

types of whiskey whiskey vs whisky
Catherine Falls Commercial/Getty Images

But First, Whisky vs. Whiskey: Is There a Difference?

In short, no. Both words are colloquially used as an umbrella term for spirits made from a distilled mash of fermented grains and aged in wood. But depending on the region where it’s made, the spellings will differ.

Whiskey with an E is the default in Ireland and the U.S. Scotch whisky is spelled without an E; Japan, India, Canada and Australia also spell it “whisky”. Some U.S. brands also choose to nix the E, such as Maker’s Mark. (The company spells it “whisky” as a nod to the founder’s Scottish ancestry.)

9 Types of Whiskey

types of whiskey bourbon
Nicole Kandi/EyeEm/Getty Images

1. Bourbon Whiskey

It’s the star ingredient in mint juleps, as well as the most common spirit for hot toddies and old fashioneds. Bourbon is perhaps the most famous of all American whiskeys. To be considered bourbon, the mash bill (a mix of malted grains to be distilled) needs to be at least 51 percent corn. Then, the distilled spirit needs to be aged for at least two years in charred new oak barrels, most often American white oak. It must have at least a 40 percent ABV to be bottled. Some brands finish their bourbon in a separate barrel, although it isn’t required. Most bourbon is produced in Kentucky, but it can legally be made elsewhere. Its flavor varies from brand to brand, but it’s typically sweet and smooth with notes of caramel and vanilla, courtesy of the new charred oak barrels it’s finished in. It can also have a high spicy note.

P.S.: a note on straight versus blended bourbon. The former notes that a whiskey hails from one American state, has been aged for at least two years and is free of additives, like flavorings and dyes. Blended bourbon can include other spirits and flavorings but must be at least 51 percent straight bourbon.

types of whiskey rye
Daniel Viero/EyeEm/Getty Images

2. Rye Whiskey

Legally defined as American, this spirit must be made from a mash that’s at least 51 percent rye, and aged for at least two years in new, charred oak barrels. (If you see “straight rye whiskey” with no age specification on shelves, it’s been aged for four or more years and hasn’t been blended.) Rye is bottled at a higher minimum ABV than bourbon at 62 percent, or 125 proof. It came to the U.S. via German and Scotch-Irish immigrants who were already familiar with the grain. Rye produces an earthier, spicier, more nuanced spirit than those with a mostly corn mash. It’s more complex and full-bodied, so it’s best used in liquor-forward cocktails like Manhattans or sipped neat or on the rocks.

types of whiskey tennessee whiskey
NurPhoto/Contributor/Getty Images

3. Tennessee Whiskey

Think of Tennessee whiskey as an even lighter version of bourbon. It’s essentially crafted on the same regulations as bourbon, but needs to go through the Lincoln County Process—a charcoal filtration method named for the county where Jack Daniel’s was once distilled—before it’s aged. Without the charcoal step, it can’t legally be called Tennessee whiskey; it’s the key to mellowing some of the harsher, bolder notes of the spirit and offers hints of charcoal or burnt wood. Nevertheless, it typically carries the same toasty, vanilla-like notes of bourbon. All current Tennessee whiskey producers are required by state law to produce their product in Tennessee.

types of whiskey irish whiskey
NurPhoto/Getty Images

4. Irish Whiskey

Ireland is believed to have been producing whiskey since 1405, originally from grapes. Since switching to grains, Irish whiskey has gained worldwide recognition. (In 2013, there were only four working Irish distilleries, but this exploded to 24 by 2022.) Like Scotch, Irish whiskey must be aged in wooden casks for at least three years, but it’s different in that any malted cereal grains can be used in any proportion to make it. The minimum ABV for bottling is 40 percent, and it’s the national standard to triple distill the whiskey. Irish whiskey tends to be on the light, smooth side with notes of caramel, fruit and oak.

When shopping, you may notice that some bottles say “single-malt” or “single pot still” on the label. Single malt means the whiskey was made from one type of malted barley at a single distillery. Single pot means the Irish whiskey, although also produced from one grain at one distillery, was made with both malted and unmalted barley. (Single pot whiskeys are only legally produced in Ireland.)

types of whiskey scotch
Paul Grossmann/Tetra Images

5. Scotch Whisky

Scotch must be crafted from malted barley or grain and aged in oak casks (of 700-liter capacity or less) for at least three years. It must also be made entirely in Scotland. Most famous is single malt Scotch, meaning it’s produced exclusively with malted barley by one distillery, which is not to be confused with single grain Scotch, meaning it’s made from any malted or unmalted single cereal (barley, rye, wheat, corn, etc.).

Highland, Lowland, Islay and Speyside Scotches all have key differences. Highland Scotch is made in the northern part of the country and most commonly single malt. Highland Scotches vary greatly in taste since the terrain is so vast, but it’s generally peaty (referring to the smokiness that results from the peat fire used to dry malted barley) and floral in flavor. Lowland Scotch from the south is usually milder in taste with notes of ginger, toffee and cream, due to more corn and wheat in the mash. Islay Scotches are most famous for their earthy, peat-forward flavor, an acquired taste to most but beloved by some. Speyside Scotches from the northeastern coastal part of the country include big brands like Glenfiddich and Glenlivet. They’re typically fruity, grassy and sweet.

types of whiskey canadian whisky
MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images/Contributor

6. Canadian Whisky

Canadian whisky is required to be barrel-aged for at least three years. Most are made from corn and rye, resulting in a sweet, smooth final product, although others use wheat and barley as well. It must also be mashed, distilled and aged in Canada in barrels no bigger than 700 liters. While the ABV minimum is a strict 40 percent, Canadian whisky can legally include caramel and other flavorings. The most popular types are blends (Canada can add non-Canadian spirits to their whiskies, too) with high corn content. Most Canadian whiskies aren’t made with a mash bill though; instead, individual grains are fermented, distilled and aged, then blended. This allows producers to use the ideal cask for each grain to enhance the whisky’s overall flavor. Ideally, it should taste vanilla-like, fruity and lightly spiced.

types of whiskey japanese whiskey

7. Japanese Whisky

Japan has been crafting its own whiskies since the 1920s, but it’s only become popular stateside in the last decade. It’s usually made the same way as Scotch whisky (most distilleries import their ingredients from Scotland) by double distilling malted or peated barley and aging it in wooden barrels, often made from Japanese oak. Available as single malts or blends (meaning a mixture of one or more straight or single malt whiskies, and possibly from more than one distillery), Japanese whiskies are usually drier and smokier than others; it’s similar to Scotch but less peaty and more nutty. By 2024, all Japanese whiskies will need to be fermented, aged, distilled and bottled in Japan using some malted grain and Japanese water. Furthermore, it must be aged for at least three years and have an ABV of at least 40 percent.

types of whiskey indian whiskey
Jay’s photo/Getty Images

8. Indian Whisky

Did you know that India produces 48 percent of all whiskies around the globe? You may not realize it in the U.S., since most of their stock stays within India’s borders. This type of whisky is among the most unique you can find because it’s commonly made from molasses, resulting in a flavor similar to barrel-aged rum. Some whiskies are spiked with malt or Scotch for complexity, and most are aged for less time than others because of India’s hot climate. Because of the limited aging period and alternative ingredients, most Indian whiskies don’t make the cut to be labeled “whisky” internationally, but more and more of them are becoming available in the E.U. and beyond.

types of whiskey flavored whiskey
Newscast/Contributor/Getty Images

9. Flavored Whiskey

Any whiskey that has a single added flavor (without additional sweetener) falls into this category. Popular additions include honey, spices and apple, but the options are truly endless. (Peanut butter whiskey is way more popular than you may realize.)

32 Whiskey Cocktails to Warm Your Soul This Fall and Winter

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s associate food editor. A former bartender and barista, she’s been writing about all things delicious since 2016, developing recipes, reviewing restaurants and investigating food trends at Food52, New Jersey Family Magazine and Taste Talks. When she isn’t testing TikTok’s latest viral recipe, she’s having popcorn for dinner and posting about it on Instagram @cookingwithpire.

taryn pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...