This question constantly comes up by our travelers to Scotland, Ireland, and areas of the American Bourbon belt like, Kentucky and Tennessee known for producing this popular amber-colored, malted beverage that has a long history within each region.
So is it whisky or whiskey? Does it matter? Should you care? The answer is yes—to all of the above. Read on and we'll explain.
First of all, Whisky and Whiskey are both correct spellings for one of the world’s favorite spirts. The main difference is where the beverage is produced.
This spirited beverage was first distilled in the Gaelic regions of Ireland and Scotland and was thought to have originated by Christian monks in the 1400’s. The beverage quickly become widespread in both areas as a popular beverage, especially during damp and cold nights.
The original Gaelic name described it as “water of life”. However, way before the Webster Dictionary and “spell check” helped us all spell words the same, the Gaelic-Irish translation was Whiskey whereas the Scottish translation spelled the same beverage as Whisky.
For another "twist" on the origin of Whisky, It was said that in the 19th century, the Irish wanted to differentiate their product from the Scots, who at the time were making a whisky not up to the Irish standard. So now ‘whiskey’ is reserved for the Irish variety. Classic right?
When the Irish and Scottish immigrated to North America they brought their distilling heritage with them and soon started producing this popular beverage in their new homelands.
So where do we stand now?
While the beverages are similar the spelling has to do with where it is distilled.
In Scotland, Canada and Japan it is spelled Whisky and also known as Scotch in Scotland, Canadian Whisky or Rye in Canada and just Whisky in Japan.
In Ireland and the United States it is spelled Whiskey with an E and also known as Irish Whiskey in Ireland and Bourbon, Rye, Tennessee Whiskey and American Whiskey in the USA.
However you spell or misspell them, all these beverages are somewhat similar and distilled from grain like barley, wheat, rye and corn mash. Another difference is how many times they are distilled and what types of casks they are aged in for their unique tastes.
Now that you know the spellings, names and origins, the main fun and pleasure for travelers comes from visiting these authentic distilleries in their destinations of origin to see, learn and taste how these ancient spirits that are ingrained in the local identity, cultures, traditions and heritage.
Whiskey distillery tours and tastings are very popular and easy to arrange when traveling through Ireland, Scotland, Kentucky and Tennessee. After your distillery tour, bring home a bottle or two for a gift or a lingering taste of your holiday.
Now that you're in the know, next time you're with friends and pour a nip, jigger, shot or dram of Whisky or Whiskey you’ll have a great conversation starter to share.
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