Whiskey or Whisky?

Now, the question that stumps even some of the most seasoned drinkers over the world: Is it spelled “Whisky” or “Whiskey”? While both are technically correct spellings to the same well-loved alcoholic beverage, some may argue that the presence of the “e” should vary according to the origins of the drink. 

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Let me explain. There lie multiple theories with varying degrees of complexity on why and how “Whiskey” should be spelled differently. The most simple one being Scottish Whisky is spelled without an “e” and the other major distillers along with the rest of the world followed suit. Whereas, Irish Whiskey and America being the only exceptions, had spelled Whiskey with an “e”. The bigger theory explains that due to the competition between Irish distillers and their Scottish counterparts, the distinction between Irish Whiskey and Scottish Whisky was made especially clear to denounce each other’s competition. Most of the Americans tried to associate themselves with the more prestigious and expensive Irish distillers then, and chose to stick with the spelling of Whiskey. 

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Now with a clearer understanding of why there is a difference between the spellings of Whiskey versus Whisky, it is time to understand what the various types of whiskies are! 

1. Irish Whiskey

Fun fact: Whiskey is derived from Irish uisce beatha which means “water of life”, and that goes to show how much the Irish love their whiskey! Once the most popular spirit in the world, Irish whiskey gained popularity and love for its smoother textures being made from a mash of malt, followed by distilling water and caramel colouring. 

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2. Scotch Whisky 

Scotch whisky, is malt or grain whisky made in Scotland, and has been the age-old contender to Irish whiskey for the top spot. The difference, however, lies in the method of production resulting in a variation in taste between the two top dogs. Scotch whisky is typically distilled twice, whereas its Irish counterpart is distilled thrice. This coupled with the fact that Scotch whisky is usually made from malted barley makes for a smoother taste with hints of vanilla flavour, excellent for an after dinner drink! 


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3. Canadian Whisky 

Though many countries have drawn inspiration from either Scotch or Irish whiskey, Canadian whisky is developed with a unique mix of corn spirits and rye grain, resulting in a flavour that is typically smoother and lighter than that of other whisky styles. In fact, due to the inclusion of the flavoured rye grain into the mash, “rye” or “rye whisky” has become interchangeably used to refer to Canadian whisky. That said, apart from corn and rye, it is also worth noting that Canadian whisky can too be produced with wheat or barley. 

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4. Japanese Whisky

Noted for being a close cousin to Scotch whisky, the Japanese typically produce blended whisky, single malt whisky as well as blended malt whisky. Regarding consumption, the Japanese favour their whisky in a highball (meaning a mixer of a carbonated non-alcoholic beverage like soda water), or even with warm water during winter and cold water during summer. Fun fact: In recent years, the Japanese have had their whisky triumphing over their Scottish counterparts who were considered one of the best distilleries in Scotland!

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5. Bourbon Whiskey

Our last contender on this list originated from America and is primarily made from corn! Though one might link its unique name to the famous French Bourbon Dynasty, there are also stories that attribute the naming of this drink to the Bourbon County in Kentucky and even Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Moving on to the drink itself, the mash in distilling Bourbon whisky involves minimally 51% corn, with the remainder being any other cereal grain. Variations in the mash involving wheat will produce what is called a Wheated Bourbon, resulting in a softer mouthfeel. Did you know: Many trade agreements acknowledge that “Bourbon” can only be used on labelling whiskies produced in America? 

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Though this article highlights the bigger names in whisky/whiskey scenes, there are still many types of whiskies out there for you to explore and taste! The possibilities are limitless and the unique experience that comes with each sip is for you to enjoy. If you would like to learn more about Whisky, especially its place in Singapore’s bar scene, do check out Culturally’s Whisky Appreciation workshop!

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