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Whisky or Whiskey – Does it Matter?

If you’ve ever been to a liquor store, you’ve probably noticed the inconsistent spelling of the word ‘whisky.’ Some add in the ‘e’ while others don’t, which has led to more confusion – and arguments – than you may expect.
Some people use the words interchangeably, but this is a rookie mistake. Whether or not you include the ‘e’ changes the meaning of the word and can significantly affect the way informed consumers look at a bottle of this grain-based spirit.

To Add an ‘e’ or Not to Add an ‘e’

To Add an ‘e’ or Not to Add an ‘e’
When whisky was first being made, it was always spelled without the ‘e.’ This was true all around the world up until the late 1800s. Ireland, the world’s foremost whisky producer at the time, only had two major competitors – England and Scotland.
Scotland hoped to surpass Ireland in whisky sales, and it only helped them when the Spirits Act of 1860 was passed. This act, passed by the UK Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, said that whisky could be blended with single malts and grain whiskies and still be called genuine whisky.

The Scots used this act to their advantage and began creating whisky using inexpensive blends.
Texas Crown Club Whisky
As a result, they could sell more whisky for less, making their whisky sales grow exponentially. This also meant that they could experiment and create new flavors and blends that had never been made before.
Ireland saw this sudden rise in competition and knew that they had to do something about it. To the Irish, the new Scottish whisky was merely of a lower caliber than what it should be. So, in 1879, the top producers of Irish whisky at the time, John Jameson and Son, wrote a book titled Truths about Whisky.
Their book claimed that Scottish whisky was not genuine and that it shouldn’t be called as such. Around this time, Irish whisky distillers wanted to distinguish themselves from the Scots. They wanted their whisky to stand out, so they decided to spell their whisky with an ‘e.’
From this time forward, Irish whisky could be spelled either with the ‘e’ or without. In 1909, a paper was published in the British Medical Journal called The Royal Commission on Whisky and Other Potable Spirits. This paper stuck with the ‘whisky’ spelling throughout, but the Irish didn’t budge.
Even the modern Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms state that the correct, legal spelling of the word is ‘whisky.’ Yet, the Irish still choose to spell it with an ‘e.’ You have to respect their commitment.
Whisky vs. Whiskey in Today’s World
Texas Crown Whisky or Whiskey
Now you know the history of ‘whiskey,’ but what about the modern world? Well, today, the spelling of the word greatly depends on what country you’re in. A country with a good relationship with Scotland or that gets its whisky imported from there will most likely spell it ‘whisky.’
Likewise, a country that does the same with Ireland will probably spell it ‘whiskey.’ Japan, England, Wales, Canada, and Australia all follow Scotland’s lead. It’s mainly just the US and Ireland that choose to add in the ‘e.’
Some countries don’t have any rhyme or reason why they choose to spell it one way or another. If there is no straightforward answer, a country’s government will determine an official spelling to keep things simple.

Whisky vs. Whiskey in Today’s World

Why Does it Matter?
The way a company chooses to spell ‘whisky’ might not mean anything, it’s true, but if you decide to purchase whisky from a more distinguished, classic whisky distillery, the way the word is spelled can tell you a lot.
Next time you go to the liquor store, you’ll know that whisky is likely to be an interesting blend, while whiskey will likely be purer. Compare your knowledge of whisky history to the whisky labels and see if that distillery is following in history’s footsteps.
The arguments that arise over this difference in spelling are probably not worth the time, or effort now that you know its history. But, if you end up going head to head with another whisky drinker, just give them the lowdown and then relax and have a drink. You’ll have earned it.
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