Whiskey vs. whisky

The difference between whiskey and whisky is simple but important: whisky usually denotes Scotch whisky and Scotch-inspired liquors, and whiskey denotes the Irish and American liquors.

The word itself (both spellings) is of Celtic origin, and modern whisky/whiskey distillation practices originated in Ireland and Scotland. Using whiskey to refer to Scotch whisky can get you in trouble in Scotland.


In November, China ruled that any product labelled as “Scotch whisky” in China must be made in Scotland. [Financial Times]

There’s no better place to learn about and enjoy whiskeys, and to meet the whiskey makers themselves. [Nashville Scene]

Chivas, the luxury brand of blended Scotch, recently conducted a survey soliciting consumer views on whisky age. [The Globe and Mail]

For starters, he quoted federal regulations (Title 27, section 5.22) about what constitutes bourbon whiskey, rye whiskey, malt whiskey, wheat whiskey, and malted rye whiskey. [Seattle Weekly]

27 thoughts on “Whiskey vs. whisky”

  1. They’re not ‘liquors’, they’re ‘spirits’ :-) and conversely, using Using ‘whisky’ to refer to Irish whiskey WILL get you in trouble in Ireland (The Irish invented the stuff, the Scots merely perfected it).

  2. @BFB, I think that the distilleries for Jameson Irish Whiskey and Bushmills Irish Whiskey have spelled the name correctly on their products.

  3. Whiskey is the Irish spelling and correct spelling. You will find “Whiskey” always on any bottle of Irish Whiskey – but Scotch will always say “Whisky”

  4. As an added dimension to this discussion:
    in Australia, the grass Andropogon virginicus has the common name “whiskey grass” because it was used as packaging for imported American whiskey, an introduction that resulted it in becoming a weed in Australia. It wouldn’t be correct to call it “whisky grass” because it was never used as packaging for Scotch.

    • Laphroaig is pretty wonderful stuff, but it’s the most ‘commercial’ of all the single malts from Islay.
      Lagavulin, Caol Isla, Port Ellen (extinct), Bowmore and Ardbeg all do better Islay malts.
      Oh and trivia time, folks think that because Laphroaig ‘tastes’ the smokiest of the Islay malts, that it must have the most peat. Not so my dear boozehounds! Laphroaig has 29ppm of the smokey phenols, whilst Ardbeg (the winner) has over 50.

      The REASON Laphroaig tastes peatier is that it’s less well balanced than the others.

    • Laphroaig is also known as a green meany amongst Scotch enthusiasts. It’s an amusing whisky for someone who wants to try something peaty for cheap, but it’s not a top whisky. It’s not very well balanced.

    • Uisce beatha in Irish* and you’re correct.
      (* We never say Gaelic for the language, unless you’re speaking it, confusing I know. ;-) the national language of Ireland is Irish, the Scots speak Scots gaelic)

  5. S.S. Pierce, the high-class Boston provisioners bought out by New Yorkers and turned into a ketchup company, waited decades to buy a good scotch whisky. Just as they finally bought it, they sold out — just before the gourmand|gourmet cult set in. Sad. My grandfather was liquor manager of the company — which provided, amongst other things, the famous Red Coach Grill and Howard Johnson bourbon Manhattans. It was perhaps a bad omen. With the smoking bans, we all drink at home now — and use our laptops to lapdance. The ol’ days is gone, and with it good taste. To stop overeating, btw, (1) get divorced, (2) put down your silverware, and (3) switch to a Waterford glass of whiskey and a cigar or a tumbler of whisky and a pipe. Oh, forgot! (4) remarry a young woman who breathes in healthy smoke (I’ve chained for 61 years) and loves the smell of whisky, whiskey, or even Dutch gin on your breath. Oh, and 5: send a note to your lawyer to demand your alimony from a trust which, as usual, is late! Read: Ann Douglas: The Feminization of American Culture (1977), and demand your rights back!


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