Is it Whiskey or Whisky? Does It Matter?

You may think that the correct way to spell “whiskey” isn’t all that important in the big scheme of things. For the average person, that’s probably true. But if you are a true whiskey aficionado, the spelling of the word makes all the difference in the world.

Which is the Correct Spelling--Whiskey or Whisky?

Both “whiskey” and “whisky” are spelled correctly. Then why are they spelled differently? It’s not a quirky distinction some marketer made up to differentiate their brand. Whiskey, with an e, refers to liquor distilled in the United States and Ireland. Whisky, sans e, distinguishes liquor distilled in Scotland and Canada. 

The word whiskey refers to a wide range of distilled liquors. They are produced with a fermented mash of grains and most often aged in oak barrels. If you are a whiskey drinker, the inclusion or exclusion of that “e” tells you what you need to know about what you’re pouring into your glass. And that’s critical to flavor preferences. 

What is the Difference Between Whiskey and Whisky?

Scotch whisky is made with barley which is malted and then heated over a peat fire. Regulations in the United Kingdom state that unless a whisky is entirely produced and bottled in Scotland, it cannot be labeled Scotch whisky. 

Kentuckians know that Bourbon whiskey, which was first produced in their state, consists of at least 51% corn mash. Regulations in the U.S. require that for a whiskey to be called Bourbon, it must be made in the United States.

Rye whiskey is composed of a rye mash or a rye and malt mash. U.S. regulations specify that it must contain at least 51% rye for a whiskey to be called Rye. 

Obviously, the variety of ingredients and fermentation processes significantly impact the taste of a whiskey (or whisky.)

What is the Difference in Taste?

Aging Scotch whisky brings out flavors of dark berries, cherries, and other citrus fruits. A smoky taste will emerge when it’s produced by heating it over a peat fire. And because it’s made with malted barley, it contains a malty flavor too. Scotch mixes well with soda or can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks.

Bourbon whiskey is typically smooth with notes of vanilla, oak, and caramel. Brands may vary with some flavors (grain, nutmeg, caramel, or cinnamon) more pronounced than others. Bourbon lends itself nicely to a classic mint julep or a whiskey seven. 

Rye whiskey has a taste profile that can be peppery with almost a bite to it. It has been described as spicier and more savory when compared with Bourbon. Rye whiskey is a critical ingredient when making an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan. 

Final Thoughts

Now you understand the significance of why whiskey is spelled two different ways. That little “e” sure makes a difference in your drinking pleasure. Depending on your palate and your preferences, you can now enjoy the one best suited for you.