Whiskey is a spirit that every cocktail lover is familiar with. But even though it’s one of the most popular distill spirits in the world, there are quite a few misconceptions about this delicious amber spirit and its complex history.
One of the most confounding aspects is the difference between its many regional styles.
Some countries have strict laws and conventions that dictate how whiskey is produce.
And these regional differences even include the spelling of the word, “whiskey” or “whisky.”
Why are there two different spellings for the same spirit?
Why There 2 have Different Spellings?
Each spelling of the word is correct, but each refers to whiskies from different regions.
In the United States and Ireland, it is spell as ‘whiskey.’
In Scotland and the rest of the world, it’s spell as ‘whisky.
Whiskey production can be trace back to Ireland in the early 15th century, with production in Scotland trailing closely.
The initial difference in spelling came from small differences in the Gaelic dialects spoken in both places.
Over time the two distinct spellings became entrench, and each region simultaneously develop its own unique styles.
The major whiskey-producing nations, Ireland, Scotland, the United States, Canada, and Japan, had to adopt one spelling or the other.
In the early days of the United States, Scottish and Irish immigrants brought their distilling expertise with them and began to distill whiskey almost right away.
Because of the influence of both whiskey-producing traditions, at first, both spellings were use interchangeably in the US.
Due to the influx of immigration from Ireland in the 1800s, “whiskey” became the most widely use spelling in the United States and is the primary spelling to this day.
The Scottish spelling continue to be use in Canada due to closer ties to the United Kingdom at the time.
Scotland’s influence also extends to Japan.
Japan’s first whisky distillery release its Scotch-inspire whisky in 1929, not long after Masataka Taketsuru return from an apprenticeship in Scotland and co-found the Yamazaki Distillery.
NOTE : An easy way to remember which spelling to use is to look at the name of each country of origin. The countries that spell it “whiskey,” the United States and Ireland, have the letter “E” in their name. Scotland, Japan, and Canada do not.
Whisky and Whiskey Taste Different?
Since the correct spelling of the spirit is determine by its country of origin, there are differences in flavor between the two groups.
There are also many varieties of the drink within each region, each with its own distinct flavor profile.
Out of every variety of whisky, Scotch has the most variation.
Scotch whisky is distill primarily from barley.
Scotch tends to be age longer than other whiskies, and aging gives them a deeper, richer flavor.
There are five major regions in which Scotch is produce, Campbeltown, the Highlands, the Lowlands, Speyside, and Islay, each with their own style.
The most notable are Scotches from Islay, which have flavors of peat smoke.
Japan hasn’t been producing whisky nearly as long as other regions, their whiskies have become some of the most sought-after in the world.
Japanese distillers are heavily inspire by Scotch producers, and many of their whiskies can be compare to single malt Scotch whiskies.
Canadian whisky is one of the most widely available and popular styles of whisky.
Like American whiskeys, they often use a lot of corn in the mash, leading to a sweeter flavor profile similar to bourbon.
In Canada, whisky is often refer to as “rye” or “rye whisky,” even if it’s distill mostly from corn.
Ireland is widely consider to be the ancestral home of whiskey, and Irish distilleries produce some of the most popular and beloved whiskeys in the world.
There are two primary types of whiskey produce in the United States, bourbon and rye.
Each has a strict set of rules dictating how they are produce, which leads to a distinct difference in flavor.
- Bourbon is require to have a makeup of at least 51% corn in the mash bill, with the rest of the grain being any combination of wheat, rye, and barley. Bourbon is also require to be age in brand new, charred oak barrels. Because of the high percentage of corn in the mash bill, bourbon is known as a sweeter whiskey, with notes of vanilla and butterscotch.
- Rye is made similarly to bourbon, but 51% of the grain use in the mash must be rye rather than corn. The higher percentage of rye gives it a spicier flavor profile with more bite. Rye was the most popular type of whiskey in the United States during the golden age of cocktails and is still popular for mixing due to its strong, bold flavors that hold up well in drinks like the Sazerac and the Manhattan.
NOTE : There are exceptions to every rule. Makers Mark, one of the most widely known and iconic American bourbons, uses the Scottish spelling of “whisky” on its label. They choose to do so in order to highlight the Scotch-Irish history of the Samuels family.
Whiskey is spell with an “e” when it’s made in Ireland or the United States.
If it’s made elsewhere, it’s spell as “whisky.”
Each country of origin takes pride in its unique history, traditions, and distilling practices.
Because of these differences, you can use the spelling to broadly predict what each bottle will taste like.