Make Your Editor Cry: All Whiskeys (or Whiskys) are not Scotches or Bourbons

Make Your Editor Cry:  All Whiskeys (or Whiskys) are not Scotches or Bourbons

All scotch is whisky.

All bourbon is whiskey.

Not all whisky is Scotch and not all whiskey is Bourbon.

Both spellings of the word, whiskey and whisky, are correct.

  • If you’re talking about a distillate from Scotland, Canada, or Japan, use the spelling without the e—whisky.
  • If you’re talking about a distillate from the United States or Ireland, use the e—whiskey.

All whiskey (spelled either way) is distilled from only grain. Distillates made from fruits or anything that is not a grain are not whiskeys, but brandies.

Scotch is whisky from Scotland made mostly (at least 51%) from malted barley. If it is made anywhere else, it cannot be called Scotch whisky.

Bourbon is whiskey made in the U.S.–more than 90% from Kentucky–distilled mostly (at least 51%) from corn. If it is made anywhere else, it cannot be called Bourbon whiskey. Bourbon is America’s only native spirit, by act of US congress passed in 1964.

Tennessee sipping whiskey (technically bourbon in most cases) has been additionally charcoal filtered and must be made in Tennessee. If it is made anywhere other than Tennessee, it cannot be called Tennessee whiskey.

Irish whiskey is typically distilled from a sweet malt and sweet yeast. (A malted grain is basically a sprouted grain.) The distinctive thing about Irish whiskey is the sweet yeast and the fact that it is often triple-distilled. The oldest still-going whiskey distillery on earth is in Ireland (Bush Mills) established in 1608. By comparison, the KJV was published in 1611.

Whisky from Canada is considered some of the cheapest as in “bottom shelf” and very commonly available all over the world due to simple economy.

Saki, while called a rice wine, is made and distilled only from rice so it is technically a whisky.

During the US War Between the States, brandy was much more common than any whiskey. Shortly after hostilities ended, whiskey became much more common, especially on the frontier. All spirits were either shipped to retailers in barrels that were “tapped” at the bar or in earthenware “jugs” which were corked. In 1870, Old Forester became America’s first bottled bourbon when founder George Garvin Brown revolutionized the industry by being the first to put Bourbon in a glass bottle containing one fifth of a gallon of liquid.

It may be important to know the specifics of how to refer to whiskey (or whisky) for the sake of realism.

If any character in your book “partakes,”  serves spirits, or has anything to do with the food & drink sector, ensure that you have done your research.

Start here:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *