November 29th, 2011 by Jim

Whiskey Vs. Whisky


There is a lot of confusion over the difference between whiskey and whisky. They have a lot in common. All whiskeys and whiskies are made from distilled grains and aged in wooden barrels. But the spelling varies depending on whether you’re talking about Scotch, Irish, Bourbon, Rye, Canadian, or Tennessee varieties. There is a precise reason why some are spelled whiskey and some are spelled whisky. At least there is in the US. It’s the New York Times.

For years, the style guide at the venerable old warhorse of a fishwrap required that all types of the delicious liquid be spelled in the American manner, whiskey, and they did so up until 2009, when an angry letter prompted them to change their policy. What’s their policy now? I have no freaking idea, do you think I work for the Times?

But the policy across the pond is clear. The folks in Scotland claim that they make whisky and everybody else makes whiskey. And when they make this claim, they’re looking directly at Ireland. So it’s Scotch Whisky and Irish Whiskey. Apparently the early American distillers adopted the Irish version for some reason, which is why American Whiskeys like Bourbon, Rye and Tennessee are spelled that way.

But then, to add more confusion, don’t forget that the Canucks make Canadian Whiskey, eh. So they have an “ey.” No, wait, they spell it “whisky.” Now I’m confused. And then we have the Japanese. Oh, boy.

Here’s a trick, if the country has an “e” in its name, as in United States and Ireland, it’s whiskey. If there is no e, as in Canada, Scotland and Japan, then it’s whisky. Except for the people who don’t even follow that simple rule (cough, cough, Maker’s Mark, George Dickel)

So I’m glad I was able to clear that up for you. Time for me to go pour a glass of some and not worry about how to spell it.

-Jim R.


Whiskey, Whisky

One response to “Whiskey Vs. Whisky”

  1. Dave Delaney says:

    That’s funny. I don’t recall the extra “e” in Ireland, but I was up to my ears in whisk… booze at the time. So there’s that.

    This post is timely, because I just cracked this bottle again:

    I have a deep love for scotches like Laphroaig, because of the peaty flavor. This stems from living in Galway, Ireland in the winter, when the city reeks of peat burning in the pubs.

    I can honestly spend a night with my nose in a cup of Laphroaig, and I’m as right as rain! Slainte!

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