Whiskey vs. Whisky: Is There a Difference?

There are all kinds of whiskies – Scotch, Irish, bourbon, rye, etc. – but have you ever wondered what the difference is between whiskey and whisky? Why the extra e or lack thereof? Maybe some of you thought someone got lazy with spellcheck, and dismissed the spelling as an error.

After all, our beloved Kentucky bourbon is spelled whiskey. Talk to a Scotch drinker, however, and they have another thing to say.

So what is the difference between the two?

Well for starters, origin. If you see whiskey, then it’s an Irish or American product. Anything that lacks the e is Scotch, Japanese, or Canadian.

That’s not all, ingredients can be different as well. While whiskey can be smoky, a strong peat flavor is more common in Scotch whisky. To impart smoky flavors, they take the roasted barley and heat it over a peat fire. And in order to have the label of Scotch whisky, it must be distilled in Scotland – like bourbon in the United States.

Smoke in the woods.

A photo posted by Whisky With A View (@whiskywithaview) on

Now you may be thinking, it all tastes good, none of this really matters, right? Try telling that to the distillers and their loyal drinkers. Origin, history, ingredients, and all that encompass the general background of the stiff dark liquor can cause conflict if you dismiss the significance of a single e.

Take for instance the New York Times. They received such an influx of complaints about adding, or leaving out, the significant e that they altered their editing guidelines. Now that’s some true dedication on the part of whisky and whiskey lovers.

Whether you prefer whiskey or whisky, one thing is for sure, you’ll be ready for the next trivia night at the local bar.

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