You may have noticed that one of the world’s most beloved spirits isn’t always spelled the same way. Sometimes it’s “whisky”, and other times it’s “whiskey”. But why are there two different spellings? Read on to find out the reasons behind this and when you should add the “e”.
The debate started in Scotland and Ireland, the birthplace of this spirit. The word “whisky/whiskey” originated from Classical Gaelic words that meant “water of life”. In Scotland it is spelled “whisky” and in Ireland it is spelled “whiskey” and one theory behind this is that the word was translated differently from Scottish and Irish Gaelic. Another theory is that, during the 19th century, Ireland’s distillers began to use the “e” to differentiate their whiskeys from Scotch, as Irish whiskey was becoming popular and perceived to be of higher quality.
This difference in spelling continued to spread as Irish immigrants brought their version of the word with them to the United States in the 1700s. To this day, “whiskey” is the norm in the US, though there are exceptions – Maker’s Mark, for example, omits the “e” despite being an American bourbon. However, the Scottish spelling traveled to most of the rest of the world, including whisky-producing countries like Canada and Japan.
All in all, a good rule of thumb is to keep the “e” when talking about American and Irish whiskey and to leave it out when talking about Scottish, Canadian, and Japanese whisky. But never let the spelling stop you from enjoying whisky/whiskey from any country!