Whiskey? Whisky?! Which of the two is it actually? First, we will look at the origin of the word and have a little history lesson. Later, we will also differentiate the Scotch, Irish, American, Canadian, and Japanese whiskey.
To put it simply, the spelling of whisky or whiskey depends on what country it came from. In America and Ireland, they write whiskey while in Scotland and rest of the world it is written as whisky.
Whisky is derived from the word usquebaugh which comes from the Celtic language. While in Scottish Celtic it is uisge beatha and in Irish Celtic uisce beatha. In short, this was called fuisce and anglicized to whisky. While the meaning of whisky is, among other things, water of life.
Around 1900 the Irish wanted to export whiskey to the United States. Because she wanted to distinguish Irish whiskey from Scotch whisky, she added the letter ‘e’ to whisky. At that time, Scotch whiskey was still of poor quality, so the Irish did not want to be compared with it. Because the Irish went to the United States, they wanted to show their trademark by adding the ‘e’. Today, Scotch whisky also has unparalleled quality.
In Americans, whiskey is still spelled with an extra ‘e’ while now it should be officially spelled without this ‘e’. Some American distilleries prefer to use the Scottish spelling.
Distilling whiskey and whiskey
While the difference in quality may be controversial, the process of making whiskey is indeed different from that of whisky. Since the 19th century, more and more Scots began to use a new type of distiller, the Coffey distiller. Unlike traditional Pot stills, Coffey can still distill without interruption and increasing production. However, the quality of alcohol from the Coffey distiller is still not as good as from a Pot stills. Therefore, the Irish continued to use traditional Pot still to produce whiskey.
Whisky is not only produced in Scotland and Ireland, but also in America, Canada, and Japan. Japan is in the top 3 of whisky production but America and Scotland produce more whisky. In these 5 unique countries we will look at the character traits of these whiskys.
Irish whisky has a rich and powerful taste, one of the examples that you can look into is the Jameson whiskey. In addition, they are known for having no smoke or peat flavor. To put it simply, the Irish are not so keen on malt drying over peat fires; as a result, many Irish whiskeys do not have the classic Scottish peaty flavor.
The combination of single grain whiskeys and malt whiskeys is the blended Irish whiskeys. First, 60% to 80% unmalted barley is distille while the other percentage consists of malted barley and grain. The grain is dried in coal kilns. This makes Irish whiskeys a bit softer and less smoky in taste than of Scotch whiskeys, where peat is the fuel for the oven. Some of the finest Irish whiskeys come from the renowned Jameson, Tullamore Dew and Bushmills distilleries
Scotch whisky has a smoky taste. These whiskys are distilled in Scotland and have an alcohol content of less than 95%. During the making process of Scotch whisky, malt is dried in ovens burning on peat. This gives the whisky a smoky taste. In addition, they are aged for at least 3 years in bourbon or sherry casks.
There are several varieties of whiskey in the United States, each with its own characteristics. Because corn grows better than grains in some parts of the United States, corn is used there to make whiskey. That is the source of the famous Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. Of course, there are also the blended whiskeys that are made from rye or grains. I will explain the different types.
- Bourbon: Whiskey that is made from 51% corn and therefore has a sweeter taste. An example of this is the Four Roses and Jim Beam.
- Tennessee whiskey: This whiskey is also made from 51% corn but filtered through charcoal. The provides a soft taste with a caramel accent. There are only two distilleries that make Tennessee whiskey, Jack Daniels and George Dickel No. 12.
- Rye whiskey: Rye stands for rye. This whiskey is made from 51% rye. This gives the whiskey a spicy or fruity character. An example of this is Michter’s Rye and Ambler Reye.
- Blended American whiskey: Most American whiskeys are blended. Only 20% of the blended whiskey has matured effectively and the rest is supplemented with other drinks or whiskeys. Like the Chicken Cock Bootleggers for example.
Most Canadian whiskys produced are blends of different grain whiskeys. Canadians also use a lot of rye (rye) whiskey. This makes the taste lighter and softer.
Canadian whisky is distilled twice. The law does not impose any special requirements on production, so each producer can use their own blend of different grain whiskys. Canadian whisky can even be flavored by adding up to 9.09% non-whisky drinks. From rum to brandy, everything is fine. The whisky must be aged in old bourbon or sherry casks and the minimum maturation period is 3 years. However, most Canadian whiskys are aged for 6 to 8 years.
Japanese whisky is very popular these days. Although this is also justified as the whisky is carefully distilled and the aim is for perfection. Japanese whisky is often mild, soft and has a refined taste. This makes them easy to drink for the average whisky drinkers. The softness of the whisky comes from the maturation of Japanese oak barrels, also known as Mizunara. It is this oak that gives the Japanese whisky its unique personality. When you pour it into a glass you can taste its uniqueness.