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What Exactly Is The Difference Between Whisky and Whiskey?

By Eddie Ludlow (13 Nov 13)
Tags: whiskey and whisky,what's the difference between whisky and whiskey,scotch whisky,english whisky,japanese whisky,irish whiskey,american whiskey,malt whiskey,single malt whisky,bottle of whisky,whisky tastings,whisky class,whisky schools,whisky bars in london,london bars,best bars in london,where to drink whisky,world's best whisky,whiskies,

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Hi, I'm Eddie Ludlow, and I love whisky. I've been hosting whisky tastings, whisky festivals, whisky dinners, whisky schools and more for over 15 years. The Whisky Lounge, which I established in 2008, is the culmination of my years inside the whisky industry as I set about turning everyone onto the good stuff by demystifying, debunking and ‘Bringing Whisky to the People' all over the UK! I also do a bit of whisky writing.

One of the more common questions we are asked or come across is one that perhaps you have asked yourself: what is the difference between whiskey and whisky?

Who would have thought that one vowel could cause so much confusion and consternation. Surely the answer is simple? If only.

The most commonly peddled story is this: both Scotch and Irish whiskies were spelt without the ‘e' until the Scottish industry adopted the then-modern technique of continuous distillation of corn or wheat (ironically perfected by an Irishman) and changed the world's view of whisky by blending the product of this method with the more traditional pot stilled malt whisky.

The result was a cheaper and - at the time - more palatable product. The Irish, however, took a different view on it altogether and wanted to distance themselves from what they regarded as an inferior liquid. Therefore the ‘e' was added to Irish whiskey to differentiate the two, and was later adopted by American distillers.

Sounds quite plausible, but unfortunately there appears plenty of evidence out there to suggest this convenient and believable story is utter nonsense. Shame.

For our purposes, the general rule of thumb is that Scotch, and Scotch whisky, is spelt without an ‘e' and that Irish and American varietals are spelt with an ‘e'. Most world whiskies, such as Japanese, Taiwanese, Swedish and even English distilleries have gone down the no ‘e' route as they are seeking to make Scotch-style product.

Regardless of spelling, what is fact is that good whisky, or whiskey, is now made all over the world. And here, in my opinion, are a just a couple:

Amrut Fusion 50%, around £45

Amrut have been making single malt since 1994 and have been winning awards regularly since then. This ‘Fusion' bottling has probably won more than any other and rightly so. It is produced using a fusion of unpeated Indian malted barley along with some peated Scottish barley. The result is a mix of lovely warming, sweet spices with a hint of peat smoke.

Hakushu 12 Years Old 43.5%, around £60

Hakushu is the sister distillery to the oldest distillery in Japan – Yamazaki – and is occasionally overlooked as a result. This is a shame as this is a tremendous dram, with soft, delicate and complex citrus and vanilla. A real beauty and highly recommended.

Should you be out and about in London and in need of a dram, there are an increasing number of good whisky bars where these, and many more, can be found:

Boisdale of Canary Wharf has been presenting its own take on Scottish cuisine along with regular live music for 25 years. The Belgravia and Bishopsgate restaurants have long been regular go-to venues for those seeking good food, craic and drams. Their flagship venue in Canary Wharf was opened in 2011 and is well worth a visit, whether for food, drams or the live jazz music. Brightly coloured and traditionally furnished, Boisdale is home to an impressive 300+ whiskies.

Soho Whisky Club, Old Compton Street; a new venture from the chaps downstairs at the famous Vintage House wine and spirits merchant. Over 300 whiskies available in a cosy setting in the centre of Soho. It is a member's club but we have it on good authority that you can pay a visit for a reccy and a dram if you are not a member. You'll probably want to join once you've visited though.

Salt Bar on Edgware Road is a bar definitely on the up after a few years ‘in the wilderness'. Nagesh and his team now run a good operation with over 180 whiskies available by the dram. They also pride themselves on their cocktails and are well-versed in all the classics as well as some interesting innovations of their own. Perhaps more intriguingly, the focus, aside from fine whisky, is also on Indian cuisine so you can enjoy both under one roof.

That should keep you busy until the next time we meet, so until then…


Have you tried any amazing whiskies recently, or discovered a new whisky bar? Share your suggestions in the Facebook comment box below.

Image courtesy ©simonhanna.

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