Whiskey or whisky have two official spellings. Whether you write whiskey with “e” or without, there are historical reasons that should make it possible to distinguish and differentiate between whisk (e) ys. However, there are also differences in the production of the different types of whiskey.
So what is the difference between whiskey and whisky?
From which country do whiskey and whiskey originate?
Ireland is the mother country of whiskey. The knowledge necessary for the distillation came to the green island with Irish monks and from there it spread to Scotland. In Irish Gaelic, whiskey is originally called “Uisge Beatha”, which means “water of life”. The anglicized word “whiskey” later developed from the Gaelic name.
Both Irish whisky and Scottish whisky originally had an identical spelling. It was only when Irish and Scottish whisky became more competitive in the 20th century that the Irish decided to write their whiskey with “e” to distinguish them. In the USA, too, this example was followed, so that American whiskey is generally given the new spelling (there are, however, individual exceptions.) Whiskys from other countries (e.g. Japan) are generally in the Scottish tradition and refer to their distillates as whisky with the spelling without “e”.
What are the differences between whiskey and whisky?
Basically, the production of the different whiskeys is very similar. The basic ingredients for both types of whiskey are as follows: cereals, water and yeast. However, there are differences in the composition of the mash. Scottish and Irish single malts are made exclusively from malted barley and are distilled in copper pot stills. However, other grains and column stills may also be used for grain whiskeys. Irish and Scottish whisk (e) y are close in terms of production and taste, there are significantly larger differences to American whiskey.
American whiskeys are more different from Irish and Scotch
Malted barley does not have such a long tradition in American whiskey, it is usually added to the mash only because of its enzymes. The main American type of whiskey is bourbon, which is mainly made from corn. Rye whiskey, which contains a larger proportion (at least 51%) of rye in the mash, also plays a greater role. There are other differences between Irish and Scottish whisk (e) y in the maturation of the distillates. Scotch and Irish are mostly stored in barrels previously used for maturation (often ex-bourbon barrels), while American bourbon and rye whiskeys may only be matured in fresh barrels.
Conclusion on the differences between whiskey and whisky
The differences between whiskey and whiskey are significantly larger than just the different spelling. Irish whiskey and Scotch whiskey, however, are much closer in tradition, production, and taste. The distinction between two different spellings has historical reasons and is less based on different manufacturing methods.
American whiskey also comes from European whiskey and is basically made similarily. Nevertheless, there are clear differences and traditions. These are also evident in the taste of bourbon and rye whiskey. There are also differences in the way you drink Irish whiskey, Scotch whiskey and bourbon. Nosing glasses are mostly used for older single malts from Scotland or Ireland, while bourbon is drunk more in tumbler glasses and “on the rocks”.