Whether you're a seasoned connoisseur or a curious newcomer, the world of whisky (or should we say "whiskey"?) offers an intriguing variety of tastes, styles, and yes, spellings. You might've noticed that whisky is spelled two ways: whisky and whiskey. Ever wondered why?

Let's embark on a global journey to unravel this mystery and explore the cultural significance behind these spellings.

The British Tradition: Whisky
In the United Kingdom, the preferred spelling is "whisky." This convention has its roots in the Gaelic words "uisge beatha" or "usquebaugh," which literally translate to "water of life." Scotland, being a part of the UK, also adheres to this spelling.

Scottish whisky, or Scotch as it is universally known, is world-renowned for its meticulous distillation process and unique flavour profiles. To call a whisky "Scotch," it must be produced in Scotland and aged in oak barrels for at least three years.

Across the Atlantic: Whiskey
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the United States and Ireland prefer the spelling "whiskey." Why the extra 'e'? Some say it was used to distinguish Irish whiskey, which was considered higher quality, from cheaper Scotch whisky in the 19th century. Others attribute the variation to different translations from the original Gaelic.

In the United States, whiskey production varies from state to state, resulting in a wide array of flavour profiles. The most notable type, Bourbon, is distinctively American and must be produced in the U.S. from at least 51% corn.

Irish whiskey is also globally acclaimed, appreciated for its smooth finish and triple-distillation process. Some well-known brands, like Jameson and Bushmills, proudly bear the 'e' in their whiskey.

The Land of the Rising Sun: Whisky
Japan, another major player in the whisky world, follows the Scottish tradition, spelling it without the 'e'. This is a nod to Masataka Taketsuru, the "father of Japanese whisky," who studied the art of distillation in Scotland. Japanese whisky is celebrated for its craftsmanship and often delicate, subtle flavours.

The Global Picture
As we navigate the globe, you'll find "whisky" and "whiskey" used in different countries. Canada, like its British heritage, mostly uses "whisky," while most European nations follow the "whiskey" spelling. In the end, the spelling more reflects the country's historical and cultural ties rather than a distinction in production methods or quality.

Remember, whether it's whisky, whiskey, or even viski, uisqui, or visky in other languages, these are all interpretations of that beloved "water of life." Each bottle tells a story – the story of its land, its people, and their tradition.

So, next time you enjoy a glass, take a moment to appreciate not just the spirit but the cultural heritage it encapsulates. And whether you favour whisky or whiskey, Scotch or Bourbon, Japanese or Irish, remember that the world of whisk(e)y is as diverse as it is united, with every variation adding to the richness of this global tapestry.
May 23, 2023 — Andy Cook