You’ve seen Whiskey, and you may have even seen some Whisky, and you might be asking yourself “What’s the difference?”. Whiskey and Whisky are the same just spelled different right? Well that just might depend on a fact or two.
No matter how you spell it, Whisky/ey is a broad term used to describe a type of spirit distilled from a mash of fermented grains. If it’s distilled and involves any grain it is in fact Whisky/ey.
Now, there are different types of this ‘Water of Life’ that are broken up into distinct sub-categories. These sub-categories include: Bourbon, rye, Tennessee, Scotch, Irish, Canadian style whiskies (or whiskeys). The manufacturers of each of these types of whisky/ey is guided and regulated by the government of the spirit’s country of origin. The end result makes Canadian whisky and Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, and American style whiskey such as Tennessee, Bourbon, and straight rye totally different experiences to the taste buds. So is the taste difference the reason they are spelled different. The answer is NO…
American and Irish distilled spirit producers (and copy editors) tend to favor the spelling WHISKEY, while Canadian, Scottish, and Japanese producers (and copy editors) tend to favor (or flavour) WHISKY.
We have two things going on here: copy editing style and actual distillation style and regulations. Does that even come close to meaning that WHISKEY and WHISKY are just two different spellings of the same word, or are they in fact two slightly different words describing two very different spirits?
The fact of the matter is that all of this life affirming healing water is distilled in a similar fashion, varying just a bit from one distillery to the next to produce a distinct flavor associated with that brand. However, the Scottish maintain that the distinction between WHISKEY and WHISKY is very clear. They make Whisky and everyone else makes Whiskey. This argument could easily go back to the unanswerable question: Who made it first? Whether that was in fact the Scottish or the Irish, they needed a way to segregate the distinction of ‘The Water of Life’ that came out of their ever so subtly different cultures. We now know that the Scottish prefer WHISKY and the Irish prefer WHISKEY, but what do we call it if it’s made in US? And- What do you do if you are a resident of America writing about Scottish Whisky?
Here is a quick way to remember how some of the world’s largest producers spell their products:
-Countries that have an E in their name tend to spell it WHISKEY (United States and Ireland). The plural spelling would then be WHISKEYS. If you have more than one that is.
-Countries that have no E in their name tend to spell is WHISKY (Canada, Scotland, and Japan). The plural spelling would then be WHISKIES.
Most distilleries in the US do in fact use the WHISKEY spelling with an exception or two. Those that use the WHISKY spelling most likely descended from Scotland.
If you are still not sure how to spell your preferred whisky/ey, just look at the bottle.