“What’s the Difference Between Whisky and Whiskey?”

We explored Scotch and Irish whiskies last week for Burns Night and Irish Coffee Day on Instagram. Today, in Spirits Whisperer, we tackle a common question: When do you use the 'e' in whisky?

The distinctions between the spellings actually provide some insights into the history and evolution of whisky... read on to find out more!

Spelling Signifies Where It’s Produced

Drinks Distilled Spirits Guide and whisky writer Felipe Schrieberg explains:

“The country of the spirit’s production will most likely inform whether it is a ‘whisky’ or a ‘whiskey’. ‘Whiskey’ tends to refer to Irish and American whiskey, whilst ‘whisky’ covers everything else!

Note there are exceptions, but in general it is a pretty solid rule and there are some country-specific whisky stereotypes out there which are somewhat rooted in truth”

But Why?

During the 19th century, the Spirits Act was passed and allowed distilleries, for the first time, to create blends consisting of grain whisky and single malts.

In short, this resulted in poorer quality whiskies being produced in Scotland at the time, and spurred four of the largest Irish distillers to rebel against this blended style being categorised as whisky.

Although their complaints were not upheld - Irish distilleries began spelling whisky with an ‘e’ as a way of distinguishing between the two styles, to denote their whisky as being of higher quality than Scotch whisky. Marketing, in other words!

What About The Rest?

The American spelling is most likely due to Irish whiskey being the most popular style in the 19th and 20th century in the States, and the large number of Irish immigrants setting up distilleries there. However, the legal spelling is whisky and some American distilleries do use the ‘Scottish’ version.

The Japanese spelling is whisky ( ウイスキー ) as it was the study of Scotch whisky that inspired the Japanese whisky movement.

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