Difference Between Rye, Bourbon and Irish Whiskey

Rye, Bourbon vs Irish Whiskey

Whiskey is a popular alcoholic beverage made from grain rather than fruits. It has been known to mankind since ancient times and consumed by many, to feel lighter and intoxicated. Whiskey is made through fermentation, distillation, and aging of many different types of grain such as malt, barley, rye, etc. There are many different kinds of whiskies popular in different parts of the world such as rye whiskey, bourbon, and Irish whiskey. People remain confused by such nomenclature, and this article attempts to highlight the basic differences between rye, bourbon, and Irish whiskies.


Rye is a whiskey that is popular in US and Canada. It is a type of whiskey that makes use of a grain mash that contains at least 51% rye while the rest can be malt, barley, or corn. In fact, in Canada, there are whiskies labeled as rye even though they are not made using rye at all. Though rye is also used in many other whiskies, the whiskey becomes a rye when the percentage of rye in the grain mash goes beyond 51%. Another requirement for a whiskey to be rye is to be distilled at less than 80% ABV. Rye whiskey has to be aged in charred wooden barrels for at least 2 years before they can be sold. Rye whiskey is spicy and has a firmness that is not found in other whiskeys. Rye whiskey is considered very dry in taste.


Bourbon is a type of whiskey that is very popular in North America and it has a dedicated fan following. It is made from fermentation of again mash that contains at least 51% corn and has to be distilled to not less than 160 proof. It has to be aged in wooden barrels for at least 2 years. It is not bourbon if it has not been made in US. It is like Scotch that is called so only if it is made in Scotland.

Irish Whiskey

As the name implies, Irish whiskey is the name given to whiskey that has been made in Ireland. Another requirement for the whiskey to be called Irish is to be distilled to less than 94.8% ABV. This whiskey is mostly made from triple distilled malt grain mash. The whiskey has a sweet taste that is maintained by keeping the temperature low during distillation.

Rye vs Bourbon vs Irish whiskey

• The difference between rye, bourbon, and Irish whiskey pertains to the strength of predominant grain in the grain mash that is fermented to make the whiskey.

• While, in rye whiskey, rye is the predominant grain in the grain mash to the tune of no less than 51%, this predominance is that of corn in bourbon. Irish whiskey is made mainly from malt.

• It is not bourbon if it is not made in US while Irish whiskey is obviously one made in Ireland.

• Rye is very dry while bourbon is very spicy. Irish whiskey is delicate and sweet.

• Bourbon and Rye are American whiskeys while Irish whiskey is Irish in origin.


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