Whiskey or Whisky? Understanding the Distinct Difference and Why It Matters.

  • Posted by: whiskyblogger
  • Posted on: 30/10/23
Whiskey or Whisky? Understanding the Distinct Difference and Why It Matters. featured image

To ‘E’ or Not To ‘E’

Imagine this: you’re in the mood for a drink but have no idea what to order. You then spot two 2 offerings behind most bars, whisky and whiskey – which one do you choose? Are they the same thing? Does it even matter? Here we’ll hope to shed a little light into the fascinating world of the two spellings and unravel the distinct differences between the two. So, grab yourself a drink, and let’s get started!

First things first – whiskey and whisky are not interchangeable. While both are made from fermented grains such as barley, rye, and wheat, the difference lies in geography. Whiskey, with an “e,” is primarily made in Ireland and the United States, while whisky, without an “e,” is made in Scotland, Canada, Japan, and various other countries. The spelling is simply a matter of the style and preference of the particular country’s distilleries.

Regional distinctions play a major part between the two. Bourbon whiskey started in the southern United States (now can be produced in all 50 states), and its sweet, vanilla, and caramel notes are a product of the corn-dominated mash bill and the charred barrels in which it’s aged. Meanwhile, Japanese whisky prides itself on its exceptionally smooth mouthfeel, thanks to the use of carefully sourced, high-quality ingredients and precise distillation processes. Scotch whisky, on the other hand, can have a distinct peaty flavour, with notes of smoke and earthiness. All of these are just the basics, depending on the distilleries, any region/country can have huge variations in flavours.

Maker’s Mark

Let’s have a wee look at some of the favorites amongst the ‘E’ and no ‘E’. In Ireland, Teeling is a classic choice, known for its smoothness and versatility in cocktails. In the United States, bourbon lovers often gravitate towards brands like Maker’s Mark and Buffalo Trace, characterized by their rich, sweet, and full-bodied flavour profiles. Scotland, the land of Scotch whisky, boasts brands like Glenfiddich and Lagavulin, which are known for their complex flavour profiles, influenced by the local peat and aging process. Japanese whisky, although a relative newcomer on the whisk(e)y stage, has made significant strides with its premium offerings from brands like Yamazaki and Hibiki, applauded for their meticulous craftsmanship and smooth, refined flavors. Each of these brands showcases the unique characteristics and flavours that their country’s whisk(e)y has to offer.

Fun Fact: Maker’s Mark decided to spell whisky without the ‘e’ due to the Samuel’s wanting to pay homage to their Scottish-Irish heritage.

When it comes to drinking, many prefer enjoying it neat. However, others prefer adding a splash of water or some ice cubes to take the edge off the alcohol and bring out the drink’s flavours. A classic Manhattan or Old Fashioned can showcase the drink’s unique flavors in a way that a complicated mix cannot. So, however you like to enjoy your drink, just remember to do it with some style and flair! And most importantly, enjoy yourself.

Whiskey Sour – Bulleit

In the world of mixology, whisk(e)y serves as the base for some of the most iconic and beloved cocktails. The Old Fashioned, often made with bourbon or rye, is a timeless classic that beautifully showcases the spirit’s character. It’s a simple mix of whiskey, a sugar cube, a few dashes of Angostura bitters, and a twist of citrus peel.

The Manhattan, another popular choice, is a bit more complex, blending whiskey, usually rye, with sweet vermouth and bitters. It’s typically garnished with a maraschino cherry.

Whiskey Sour, as the name suggests, is a perfect balance of sour and sweet. Made with whiskey, lemon juice, sugar, and optionally, a dash of egg white for a frothy top, it’s a refreshing and tangy delight.

If you’re a fan of Scotch, then the Rob Roy, essentially a Manhattan made with Scotch instead of rye, might be your go-to.

For those who prefer Irish whiskey, the Irish Coffee, a delightful mix of Irish whiskey, coffee, sugar, and cream, offers a warm and comforting experience.

Japanese whisky, known for its delicate and intricate flavors, stands out in the Japanese Highball, a simple, elegant mix of whisky and carbonated water, allowing the spirit’s nuanced flavors to shine. Each of these cocktails showcases the versatility and complexity of whisk(e)y in its many forms.

Whether you prefer whiskey with an “e” or whisky without, one thing is for sure – there are distinct differences between the two that are worth exploring. These differences come about as a result of the materials and processes used in making each drink and the regional distinctions that shape each distillery’s unique flavour. So, the next time you’re out looking for a drink, have fun working your way through each of the different spellings!

Check out our article on Sustainability and Scotch Whisky to show how the whisky industry is working towards a better future.


Author: Andrew is an adventurous photographer with a keen eye for detail and a passion for discovering captivating stories. His love of coffee fuels his creative spirit while traveling Scotland in search of the best distilleries. His preference lies with those that prioritise community and sustainability over profit; namely Isle of Raasay, Isles of Harris, Ardnamurchan, and Glenfarclas. He values the importance of relationships between people, places, and products.

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