Whisk(e)y [whis·​key]

noun: a strong, pale brown alcoholic drink, originally from Scotland and Ireland, made from grain such as barley, maize, or rye


The word ‘Whisky’ derives from the Gaelic term usquebaugh which translates as ‘water of life. Uisge means water. Beatha means life. It’s a term used for many types of invigorating spirits over time, for example, Eau de Vie. In modern usage, whisky is from Scotland & whiskey is from Ireland.

The difference comes from the translation of words from the Scottish & Irish Gaelic forms. In the late 1800s, Scottish whisky was also very poor quality therefore the Irish producers wanted to differentiate their product. These days though, both Scotch & Irish are two of the greatest spirits on the planet. The American spelling is whiskey most likely due to the large number of Irish immigrants setting up their stills throughout the US. Although the legal spelling is whisky, whiskey is generally preferred. Some distilleries do like to use the ‘Scottish’ version such as Makers Mark. The Japanese spelling is whisky as it was two men’s study of Scotch whisky that inspired the Japanese whisky movement.


Whilst legend has it that grains were distilled in 13th century China, it is widely accepted that Ireland was the birthplace of the water of life made from barley. It is known from anecdotal writings that whisky played a part in Ireland’s life from the 1400s, but the first official evidence seems to come from a 1556 Act of Parliament: “...graine in making of aqua vitae...”.


Unless walking into a specialist bar, you would be easily lead into thinking that whiskey is falling behind its botanical counterparts. But this is not the case. More & more producers see the innovative possibilities within whisky. Our whiskey essential guide covers all things whisky including American, Scottish & the ever-popular Japanese whiskey category.



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