Whiskey vs Whisky: Is it “Just” a Spelling Difference?
Do you ever read an article about whiskey and wonder why the author changes the spelling of whisky throughout an article? Or do you know why it’s changed, but you always check to see if the author used it correctly? Or maybe you’ve never noticed the subtle difference in spelling. No matter which it is, we are going to explain once and for all: whiskey vs whisky – What’s the difference?
Whiskey vs Whisky: What’s the Difference?
The name whiskey or whisky is based on the type of cereal grain used in the distilling process as well as how and where it was produced. Generally speaking, it’s spelled “whiskey”—with an e—in the United States and Ireland. It is spelled “whisky”—without the e—in Scotland, Canada, and in several other countries.
This “rule” wasn’t fixed until the 20th century. Up until then, the extra ‘e’ was used inconsistently. It’s believed that during the 19th century, Ireland’s distillers began to use the ‘e’ as a way to differentiate their whiskeys from Scottish whisky. Spelling their spirits differently gave the Irish another way to distinguish between the two. So in the end, the Irish stuck with the ‘e’; the Scots didn’t. Canada maintained the ‘Scottish’ spelling, while America chose the “whiskey” spelling. However, just to add an extra layer of complexity, some American- made whiskeys disregard the traditional American spelling. For example, Maker’s Mark adopts the Scottish spelling, as a tribute to the Samuels family’s Scots-Irish ancestors.
Another thing to note is how a whisk(e)y is made. Whisky is distilled twice in Scotland, and whiskey is usually distilled two times in the United States. In Ireland, however, whiskey is usually distilled three times.
Whiskey vs Whisky: What About Bourbon and Rye?
If you’re wondering, “What about Bourbon or Rye?” You may remember from a previous blog post that Bourbon can only be produced in the US (and is usually produced in Kentucky), which means we would refer to bourbon as “whiskey.” Rye is categorized by its mashbill (at least 51% rye grains), except in Canada, where regulations don’t specify a minimum percentage of rye. This means rye can be either a whiskey or a whisky depending on where it’s produced. Rye is grown extensively in Europe, Asia, and North America, where the climate and soil are relatively unfavorable for other grains or as a winter crop where temperatures might be too cold for winter wheat. Historically, rye whiskey was not distilled in Scotland, meaning most ryes are “whiskeys”. However, there’s been a recent surge of interest in the last 10 years for farms in Scotland to cultivate rye, and for distilleries to distill Rye Whisky. This is a good opportunity to really study a label and know what you’re drinking. You’ll also note that a Rye Scotch Whisky is rare, so it’s a type you might want to look out for.
At least eight distilleries including Bruichladdich, InchDairnie, and Lone Wolf are experimenting with rye, and while the spirits age in casks, distillers work behind the scenes to ensure their rye whisky qualifies as a true Scotch. Check out this farm in Scotland experimenting with rye cultivation for its high yield and low carbon footprint.
Whisk(e)y Taster’s Club Features
At Taster’s Club, we feature a variety of Whiskys and Whiskeys from around the world in our Whiskey Club, Scotch Club, and Bourbon Club. Here are examples of some of our most recent selections.
Rye Whiskey: Rock Town Distillery Cask Strength Arkansas Straight Rye Whiskey
We love the range of flavors- it offers wave after wave of fruits, grains, sweets, and spicy rye, always slightly different in its intensity of sweetness or fruitiness. We also love that each batch is bottled at cask strength and will range in age since they are not married with other batches. The proofs and ages are handwritten on each bottle, as each one will be different. Every batch is unique, allowing you to experience various ranges of intensities in flavors.
Scotch Whisky: Compass Box’s The Spaniard Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Compass Box blends Single Malt and Single Grain whiskies of the highest quality to create textures, flavors, and experiences that no solitary whisky can attain. They source the highest quality of wood from the world’s leading cooperage partners in the US, France, and Spain. By experimenting with bespoke toast levels and innovative cask design, they’ve been able to develop flavor profiles never before seen in the world of Scotch. This is a sumptuous malt Scotch whisky blend showcasing whiskies aged in Spanish wine casks. You will find that The Spaniard is full, soft, and sumptuous on the palate with flavors of citrus peel and pears poached in red wine and spices. It’s a whisky ideal for late evening sipping or stirring into a cocktail.
Bourbon Whiskey: Oregon Spirit Distillers Bottled in Bond Bourbon Whiskey
This bottle has several noteworthy elements. First, the “Bottled in Bond” label means that the whiskey has specific standards. We love that fresh mountain water, and local grains are the ingredient sources, and we appreciate the distillery’s commitment to sustainability in their work. Because this bottle is a Single Barrel Selection, it’s been chosen specifically for its unique characteristics. Because the barrels rest in Oregon with the changing seasons and temperatures, they impart a delicious complexity of flavors we’re sure you love, including strong oak and vanilla.
American Whiskey: Rogue Spirits Rolling Thunder Cask Strength Stout American Whiskey
We love that Rolling Thunder Stouted Whiskey is a limited-edition whiskey produced at Rogue Spirits Distillery, then aged in barrels built by hand at Rogue’s cooperage, Rolling Thunder Barrel Works. The final product is a 3-year aged American Single Malt – aged a minimum of one year in new Oregon Oak barrels and two years in stout saturated Oregon Oak barrels. This combines the spice and citrus tones of Oregon Oak, the flavor of the original whiskey, and the deep, dark tones from the stout. It’s big, bold, and a true one-of-a-kind whiskey that bridges the gap between Single Malt and Bourbon.
Familiarize yourself with the character and flavor profiles of uniquely-curated selections we’re sure you’ll enjoy. Not sure which club to join? We also have a Stock the bar Club so you can try different types of spirits. After a few samples, let us know: Whiskey vs whisky- which do you prefer?