One of the conundrums of the whiskey connoisseur’s world is the proper spelling of the word. Is it whisky or whiskey? The word whisky comes from the Gaelic word usquebaugh. Uisce comes from the old Irish “for water” and beatha from bethad, meaning “of life.” King Henry II’s troops changed usquebaugh to whisky in the 12th century. European farmers brought whisky making to America before the Revolutionary War. President George Washington was one of the largest whisky distillers of his day. Washington wrote a letter to his nephew shortly before he died in 1799. Apparently, the father of our country, had promised his nephew some whisky. The letter read, “Two hundred gallons of whiskey will be ready this day for your call, and the sooner it is taken the better.” We learn from this letter that Washington was spelling the word with an “e” although the majority of the colonists used the spelling “whiskey.” Interesting issues like this are often discussed at Whisky Ratings HQ.
During the 1870′s, Scottish whisky was very poorly distilled. Irish exporters wanted to distinguish their whiskey from the Scottish product, so they added an “e.” Today, Scottish whisky is among the world’s best and it is spelled without the “e.” Some say that the spelling of the word depends on where you live. But, it seems that the spelling depends on who is writing the word. A writer for the New York Times spelled the word “whiskey,” in an article, and he was bombarded with criticism. Independent writer and editing professional Margaret Tong wrote, “Scotch whisky has no “e.” “Irish whiskey has the “e.” The writer consulted Jesse Sheidlower, Editor-at-Large of the Oxford English Dictionary. Sheidlower replied, “It’s almost universally the case that the word is spelled “whisky” in Scotland and Canada and “whiskey” elsewhere.” There are geographical differences. The spelling “whisky” is used in Canada, Japan, Scotland and Wales. “Whiskey” is more commonly used in Ireland and the United States. Some experts compare the whisky/whiskey issue to color/colour, tire/tyre, recognize/recognise and other such disparities in spelling. There’s no doubt that whisky/whiskey depends on who’s using the word or writing it. History tells us that the user’s choice will largely depend on their background. In America, the legal term is whiskey. But, there continues to be discrepancies within the whisky industry. For example, Tennessee Distiller George Dickel says his whisky is the equal of the finest Scotch. He maintains the Scottish tradition by spelling his product, “whisky.”
Where do you land on this issue? Sound off in the comments below!