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You’re Spelling Whisky Wrong!

Or maybe you’re not. But the question is: do you know why you’re spelling it the way you are?

For most of us, reading or writing ‘whisky’ or ‘whiskey’ is an interchangeable thing. They’re both the same, maybe it’s a personal choice, right?

The answer goes back a long way and is in fact the confluence of linguistics, translations, marketing and a bit of bloody-mindedness.

Two Great Whisky Nations, Two Different Spellings

Two countries known for their distilling—namely Ireland and Scotland—once referred to whisky as ‘water of life’ or usquebaugh in Gaelic. This word was slowly corrupted and reduced until it sounded more like the word we know for it today.

And so the whisky was (eventually) born.

The only trouble was, around the early 1800s, the whisky produced in Scotland was of a very low standard. So the Irish distillers, wanting to distance and differentiate themselves from an inferior product, changed the spelling of the word to ‘whiskey’.

What’s more, over time, the Scots improved their spirit to just as high a standard as Irish whiskey, and in another marketing move, called their whisky ‘scotch’.

What About The Rest Of The World?

Irish distillers and their connection with migration to the New World are no doubt responsible for America also spelling their spirit ‘whiskey’—though there are a couple of exceptions like Makers Mark that use ‘whisky’.

Otherwise, every other country in the world generally uses the Scottish spelling ‘whisky’.

Here in Australia, we prefer the Scottish spelling, but that’s not to say every Aussie craft distiller uses it.

Tara Distillery for example make their superb poitin–called The Exile–in the Irish style, triple distilling it for extra smoothness. Check out our review on this incredible new-make here.

Meanwhile, 78 Degrees Distillery has ‘whiskey’ on their labels, one of which is a collaboration with a Tennessee distillery to produce their Triple Smoke Whiskey.

And there are others.

Dugite Distillery’s whiskey might be spelt like this because it’s aged in American oak. Or maybe not.

And others like Tiger Snake have also opted for the Irish-American spelling too.

But as you’ll see from this list, the vast majority of Australian craft distillers all use the Scottish spelling ‘whisky’.

So maybe spelling isn’t important; it’s all about enjoying the dram in your glass.


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