Whisky or Whiskey? Two words that look very similar, pronounced identical but represent different spirits. Scotland, Japan, India and Canada (top whisky producers) utilize Whisky whereas Ireland and the United States (there are a few exceptions) go with Whiskey. So why the difference? Some point to differing translations of uisge beatha, Gaelic for whisky. However to get the actual explanation behind “e” or no “e” we will need to go back a little in time.
Interestingly enough, up until the 19th century most of the world spelled Whisky without the “e”. At that point in time Ireland was producing 70% of the world’s whisky. Then in 1860 the UK government passed the Spirits Act which allowed blenders to create blends consisting of grain whisky and single malts. The Scotts capitalized on this new Act creating these “blends” and started to produce a whisky similar to the Irish but for less expensive.
Major Irish distillers banded together denouncing the use of grain whisky in blends; stating that such blends cannot be whisky and should not be characterized as such. They produced a book titled “Truths About Whisky” (no “e”).
The quandary was settled by the 1908 Commission on Whiskey and other Potable Spirits who issued a report concluding that blended whisky can still be called whisky.
So , to separate themselves from the Scotts, Irish distillers began using Whiskey. Since Irish Whiskey was considered premium to their Scottish brethren’s at that time, American distillers aligned to the Irish spelling.
To further solidify this explanation of nomenclature, original documentation from the United States Bureau Of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms used the historical spelling of Whisky. However, after wide adoption of the “new”, Whiskey became the new norm in public communications.
Hopeful this helps to bring some clarification as to “E” or no “E”. Another question that come up a lot is what's the difference between single malt, singe grain, single cask, blends, etc. If interested you can read about the differences by clicking on this link
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