Whiskey or Whisky: The Ultimate Guide to Telling Them Apart.

In alcoholic drinks, ‘whiskey or whisky’ is a highly debated topic that has been going on for years. For enthusiasts, the full-bodied taste of whiskey or whisky is a highlight, but how do you really tell them apart? In this article, we will take an in-depth look at the differences between whiskey and whisky.

What is Whiskey?

Whiskey, traditionally spelled without an ‘e,’ is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. Made from grains like barley, wheat, rye, or corn, it is then matured in oak barrels. The barrel imparts flavour, smoothness, and colour to the liquor. Whiskey has a strong and full-bodied flavour, and the type of grain used to make it highly influences its taste. For example, rye whiskey is characterized by a spicy flavour, while corn whiskey is usually sweeter.

What is Whisky?

Whisky, on the other hand, made from malted barley or grain, is traditionally spelled with an ‘e’ and is preferred in regions like Scotland, Canada, and Japan. Whisky is typically distilled twice, matured in oak barrels, and then bottled. It has a smooth, refined taste and aroma due to its aging process. The flavour of whisky is usually affected by its ingredients and can range from floral, nutty, or fruity.

The Difference Between Whiskey and Whisky

While whiskey and whisky might look the same, they have a few distinct differences:

  • The spelling: Whiskey with an ‘e’ is an Irish and American product, while whisky without an ‘e’ is a Scotch and Canadian product.
  • The ingredients: Whiskey is made from a combination of grains like corn, rye, or wheat, while whisky predominantly uses malted barley.
  • The distillation process: Whisky undergoes a double distillation process, while whiskey undergoes single or double distillation.
  • The aging process: The time and type of oak barrel used for aging distinguishes whiskey and whisky. The aging process makes whisky smoother, while whiskey has a caramel or woody taste you can achieve only after aging.

Types of Whiskey: A Comprehensive Guide

Bourbon Whiskey

Bourbon whiskey is America’s pride and joy. It is made from a mix of grains, but generally, the key ingredient is corn. It is matured in new charred oak barrels and must have at least 51% corn in its mash bill. The aging process for bourbon whiskey typically takes around two to four years, with flavours of vanilla, caramel, and oak.

Scotch Whisky

Scotch whisky is an iconic Scottish product made from malted barley and distilled by the pot-still method. It must be aged in oak barrels in Scotland for at least three years. Famous for its light, refined taste, it has a range of subcategories, including single malt, blended malt, and blended Scotch.

Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey is a popular alcoholic drink that has been around for centuries. It is made from malted and unmalted barley, maize, and malted Irish oats. Irish whiskey is usually triple-distilled and aged for three to ten years or more. The process results in a soft, smooth taste, with flavours ranging from honey to vanilla and spice.

Canadian Whisky

Canadian whisky is made from a blend of whiskey, corn, rye, and barley, and is light-bodied and smooth. Canadian whisky often undergoes longer aging in barrels compared to their American counterparts, resulting in a mellow taste.

Rye Whiskey

Rye whiskey is a type of whiskey made from at least 51% rye grain. Matured in charred oak barrels, it has a spicy, dry flavour profile with a hint of smoke.

How to Enjoy Your Whiskey or Whisky

The type of whiskey or whisky influences its taste, making it a drink that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Ways to appreciate whiskey or whisky include:

  • Sipping it neat or on the rocks
  • Mixing it into cocktail drinks
  • Adding a splash of water to enhance the flavour
  • Pairing it with food


Whiskey and whisky are two alcoholic products, each with its unique qualities and characteristics. Whiskey is a choice alcoholic drink for Americans and Scots, while whisky is primarily preferred in regions such as Japan or Canada. Whatever your preference is, savouring whiskey or whisky is an experience that should be enjoyed, appreciated and savoured.

Common Questions About Whiskey and Whisky

What are the primary differences between whiskey and whisky?

Whiskey is typically spelled with an ‘e’ and is made primarily in America and Ireland, while whisky is spelled without an ‘e’ and created in Scotland, Japan, or Canada. Whiskey is generally made from a mix of grains such as corn, wheat, and rye and distilled once or twice. On the other hand, whisky is made primarily from malted barley or grain, distilled twice, and has to be matured in oak barrels.

Does the type of barrel used for aging impact the taste of whiskey and whisky?

Yes, the type of barrel used for aging will affect the flavour of the product. It is essential to understand that oak barrels can add different notes, such as vanilla, caramel, and toasted oak, to the whiskey or whisky.

Is there a difference between Canadian whisky and American whiskey?

Yes, Canadian whisky and American whiskey have many differences. Canadian whisky is typically blended and aged longer than the American counterpart, thus resulting in a mellow and soft taste.

How should I appreciate my whiskey or whisky?

You can appreciate whiskey or whisky in several ways, including sipping it neat or with water, pairing it with food, or even mixing it with other beverages to make a cocktail.


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