If you are a seasoned drinker or just a beginner who is starting to experiment, whisky is one of the most loved options. Just like wine, whisky connoisseurs take great pride in knowing what goes into their drams. They not just love their elixir, but won’t be afraid to shoot down those who think otherwise.
Most importantly, if you claim to be a whiskey lover, you must know the difference between ‘whiskey’ and ‘whisky’, and how they are not the same.
While the difference between ‘whiskey’ and ‘whisky’ might seem obvious to some, it is one of the most asked and Googled questions.
Whiskey is basically a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash, typically aged in wooden casks – that give it a distinct brown colour and flavour that we all love.
The right way to understand the difference between whisky and whiskey lies in its history and how one makes the spirit.
“The term ‘whisky’ is derived from the Gaelic word ‘usquebaugh’ (pronounced Ooshky-bay), meaning ‘water of life’. This was shortened to ‘Usky’, and then ‘whisky’ in English,” says Asmani Subramanian, Luxury Portfolio Brand Ambassador at Diageo India. “The difference the way whisky is spelled comes from the translation of words from the Scottish and Irish Gaelic forms.”
In the late 1800s, the Irish producers wanted to differentiate their drink from Scotch whisky with other liquids available, and thus they started calling their drams ‘whiskey’.
The Americans also spell it with an ‘e’ due to the large number of Irish immigrants setting up their stills throughout the US. “The Japanese spell it as ‘whisky’ because of the inspiration on the country by Scotch whiskies,” he says.
If you are wondering whether the difference in spelling makes one superior to another, then the answer is a clear ‘No’.
The difference in the way a dram tastes or feels, Subramanian tells us, has nothing to do with the way it is written, but the fact where it hails from. “If you look at American, Scottish, and Irish whiskies, you’ll notice that there are a few rules about how the liquor is made in those countries. Whisky can be distilled twice as they do it in Scotland and The United States or distilled three times as practice in Ireland,” he says.
Scotch whisky refers to a tipple that has been distilled in Scotland, from a mash of cereals to an alcoholic strength of no more than 94.8 percent by volume. It must be wholly matured in an excise warehouse in Scotland for at least three years in oak casks not exceeding 700 liters in capacity.
Japanese are known for Sake, period. However, recently, there’s a buzz about Japanese whisky and it is nothing like your regular whiskies. Initially, it was inspired by the way Scotch was made, today, in spite of having a similar production process, the blend, notes, taste, and quality are completely different.
Irish whiskey is triple-distilled from un-malted barley that is typically blended with grain whiskey, though there are single malts as well. Made entirely in Ireland, it’s one of the most favourite drinks worldwide, especially in the UK and the US, due to its exceptional smoothness.