Whisky or Whiskey?

What is the difference between whisky and whiskey with an ‘e‘? Well, according to the Oxford Dictionary the definition is the following:

whisky

Pronunciation: /ˈwɪski/ noun (plural whiskies)

1 (also Irish & US whiskey)
[mass noun] a spirit distilled from malted grain , especially barley or rye:
a bottle of whisky
[count noun] :
he poured her a stiff whisky
2 (whiskey) a code word representing the letter W, used in radio communication.
Origin: Early 18th century: abbreviation of obsolete whiskybae, variant of usquebaugh

Spelling help: When referring to the alcoholic spirit from Scotland, use the spelling whisky (plural whiskies). Whiskey, with an e (plural whiskeys), is the spelling used in Ireland and America.

So in the Oxford Dictionary it appears that in Ireland and in the US the spelling is whiskey and in the rest of the world, the spelling is whisky. So do the producers follow this “standard”? There is no doubt that Scotch is always whisky and never whiskey. The Irish are consistent in their use of whiskey.

In the US, however, you will see both used even though the majority of producers use whiskey. For example you have Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam whiskey but you also have George Dickel and Maker’s Mark whisky. Actually, the official spelling in America is whisky. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms decreed it so in 1968.

The Canadians are also a bit indecisive whereas the Japanese are pretty consistent in their use of whisky. In the iWhiskyWhiskey app, the following naming standard is used:

  • Scotch whisky
  • Irish whiskey
  • American Whiskey
  • Canadian whisky
  • Japanese whisky

Not so much because of the explanation in the Oxford Dictionary but more because, that is what the majority of whisky/whiskey producers follow.