Whiskey with an E

Mar 15, 2013

We are entering into Spring with expectations of warming suns; yet we still have a chill in the air. Early March is the perfect time to curl up with a great radio program such as Celtic Faire and a nice warming glass of whiskey at our side. The question is: Do you spell whiskey with an “E”

No matter how you spell it, whiskey is an umbrella term for a type of spirit distilled from a mash of fermented grains.

Within the broad category of whiskey are many sub-categories, including bourbon, rye, Tennessee, Scotch, Irish, Canadian and even Japanese styles. The manufacture of each of these types of whiskey is guided and regulated by the government of the spirit's country of origin. As a result, Canadian whisky, for example, is a whole different animal from Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, and American-style whiskeys such as Tennessee, bourbon, and straight rye.

Maybe at this point, you’d be happy to enjoy a glass of the stuff no matter how it’s spelled. But if you've ever wondered why the word often appears different ways in different contexts, listen on.

We have two things going on here: copy editing style and actual liquor style. But – is it two different spellings of the same word, or are they two slightly different words describing two separate groups of spirits?

Up until quite recently, The New York Times tackled the problem by spelling everything the American way (with an E), regardless of the spirit’s country of origin. From Kentucky bourbon to Islay [EYE-lay] malts, everything was “whiskey with an E” to them. But then the newspaper made a decisive change.

After receiving a raft of complaints from some serious Scotch whisky drinkers, the paper re-tooled its approach to follow that of many specialized spirits publications, spelling each type of spirit according to the way favored by its country of origin. So, while American and Irish blends kept their "whiskey with an E”, the stuff from Scotland, Canada, and Japan now would be referred to as “whisky without an “e”

Here’s a quick way to remember how some of the world’s biggest producers spell their products: Countries that have E’s in their names (UnitEd StatEs and IrEland) tend to spell it with an “e”. Countries without E’s in their names (Canada, Scotland, and Japan) don’t use the “e”

To read more about whiskey, look for Celtic Classic on Facebook for links to the Celtic Cultural Alliance Education Blog. Additional research and ideas for further exploration of resources in the Lehigh Valley are gathered there. For the Celtic Cultural Alliance, I’m Silagh White.