​Whisky or Whiskey

- Mar 10, 2018-

Whisky or Whiskey?


Good question.  The correct way to refer to the infamous spirit of the British Isles is not always as clear as the contents of your favorite bottle.  Rest assured, the spelling of both whisky and whiskey are correct. The distinction depends upon where the product is made.


Uisge beatha is old Gaelic for “water of life,” first produced in the region of modern day Ireland/Scotland in the Middle Ages. Borders back then were iffy, so it is honestly pretty unclear.  What is more clear is that in the early 1700s, England became the first to regulate its production, anglicizing the term to whisky in the process. It was only in the 20th century that a spelling variation emerged, with Ireland and the USA opting for whiskey as a way to create a distinction simply for marketing purposes.


Today, whiskey (with an e) may be used as a collective term for any barrel aged fermented grain mash spirit as well as spirits specifically emanating from Ireland or USA.  Whisky (without an e) should only be used to refer to spirits distilled in Scotland, Canada and Japan. 


However, according to a decree made by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in 1968, the official spelling for American-made whiskey is actually whisky.


As we all know, American’s are rebellious. Mavericks, even. So much so that some US distilleries continue to include an ‘e’ in their whisky as a nod to their more traditional roots.


Certainly, the debate about whether to include or exclude the ‘e’ in whisky will continue, as a post on the topic in the New York Times demonstrates.


In the end, who cares?  To misquote Uncle Fred from the 80's classic Sixteen Candles: "you don't spell it, son, you [drink] it!"  


Indeed.  On the rocks, we hope, quite literally.