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Whiskey vs Whisky: Is There Really a Difference?

whiskey vs whisky
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When we were allowed to go to bars (remember the long, long ago?), we used to wish we had a nickel for every time the issue of the proper spelling of whisk(e)y would come up. By now, we’d probably be able to afford a bottle, even if it’s just a cheap one. With not a whole lot else to do right now, though, it’s time to set the record straight. You won’t need to argue with your buddies anymore, because here is the lowdown on the whisky vs. whiskey debate.

To put it bluntly, there’s absolutely no difference between the two aside from spelling. Whiskey and whisky are the same basic liquid — they both refer to the delicious alcohol made from fermented grain mash, and aged in oak barrels for varying amounts of time. The final product will be different (bourbon vs. Scotch whisky, et cetera), but whiskey and whisky are both, in short, whisk(e)y.

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It is, however, worth mentioning that certain regions prefer different spellings, and since different areas produce different styles of whiskey, this can sometimes lead to confusion. Below, we’ve broken down which countries use which spelling (and what the plural of that spelling is).

When to Use Whisky

Countries that use this spelling: Scotland, Japan, Canada, Australia, England, Denmark, Finland, France, Sweden, India, Israel Taiwan, Wales, Germany

Plural of whisky: whiskies

When to Use Whiskey

Countries that use this spelling: Ireland, United States, Mexico

Plural of whiskey: whiskeys

While the above breakdown is a good place to start, this is not the end-all, be-all, as there are certain American brands of whisky (such as Maker’s Mark and George Dickel) that spell the word without the ‘e.’ This derivation from the rule does not, however, usually go the other way.

Got it?

Now, it’s time to actually enjoy the stuff and stop talking semantics (though if you want to keep doing that, go right ahead — we’re going to pour ourselves a few fingers). Check out our picks for the best bourbon, rye, and American single malt whiskeys from The Manual Spirit Awards 2019.  You can also check out our picks from 2018 here.

If Scotch is more your thing, try these blended Scotch whiskies. Irish whiskey fiend? We’ve got you covered, too.

Article originally published by Drew Prindle. Last updated by Sam Slaughter.

Drew Prindle
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