Whisky vs. Whiskey: Exploring the Fine Line Between Spirits

29 Jan 2024

In the world of spirits, few distinctions stir as much debate and curiosity as the variance between whisky and whiskey. Despite their similar origins and shared Gaelic etymology, the subtle disparity in spelling denotes a broader dichotomy in tradition, geography, and flavour profile.

Origins and Etymology

The history of whisky can be traced back to early alchemists some 2,000 years ago, who experimented with forms of distillation to produce a grain spirit, which was known as aqua vitae or “water of life”. From that Latin phrase, Scottish Gaelic translated it into "uisge beatha”, while Irish Gaelic translated it into "uisce beatha”. Over time, these phrases were shortened to “usige” and “usice”, and the intriguing etymology of the spelling of whisky vs whiskey arises when we examine the anglicised versions.


The term "whisky," devoid of the letter 'e,' predominantly denotes spirits crafted in Scotland, Canada, and Japan. These regions have long-standing traditions and regulations that define the distinctive qualities and character of their whiskies.

Renowned for its rich history and meticulous craftsmanship, Scotch whisky holds a special place in the hearts of aficionados worldwide. Scotch whisky must adhere to stringent guidelines, including being aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels and being produced entirely in Scotland. This commitment to quality has earned Scotch whisky a reputation for complexity, depth, and a diverse range of flavours, from the smokey and peaty expressions of Islay to the rich and fruity notes of Speyside.

Lagg whisky tasting glasses

One notable mention is our LAGG Whisky, a distinguished expression hailing from the esteemed Lagg Distillery. Located on the Isle of Arran, Lagg Distillery is known for its dedication to traditional methods and innovative approaches. LAGG Whisky, has a unique flavour profile and is a testament to the distillery's commitment to excellence and the rich heritage of Scottish whisky-making. The distillery's environment, including the island's climate and natural resources, significantly influences the whisky's character, resulting in a product that reflects the essence of its origin.


Conversely, the inclusion of the letter 'e' distinguishes "whiskey," often associated with the United States and Ireland. This subtle difference in spelling signifies distinct traditions and characteristics inherent to these regions' whiskies.

Irish whiskey, renowned for its smoothness and complexity, shares a storied past intertwined with the rich tapestry of Irish culture. Ireland boasts one of the oldest distillation traditions in the world, with records of whiskey production dating back to the 12th century. Irish whiskey is typically triple-distilled, which contributes to its exceptionally smooth and refined character. It often features notes of vanilla, toasted wood, and gentle spiciness, making it highly approachable and versatile. Iconic brands such as Jameson, Bushmills, and Redbreast have become symbols of Irish heritage, enjoyed by whiskey lovers around the globe.

Similarly, American whiskey, with its diverse range of styles, continues to garner acclaim on the global stage. The United States is particularly known for bourbon and rye whiskey. Bourbon, often associated with Kentucky, must contain at least 51% corn in its mash bill and is aged in new charred oak barrels, imparting rich flavours of caramel, vanilla, and oak. The rigorous standards for bourbon production ensure a consistent and high-quality spirit. Rye whiskey, distinguished by its use of at least 51% rye grain, offers a spicier and more robust flavour profile compared to bourbon. American whiskey production also includes Tennessee whiskey, characterised by its additional charcoal mellowing process, as exemplified by brands like Jack Daniel's.

Both Irish and American whiskies reflect the diverse landscapes, climates, and cultural influences of their regions, contributing to the unique and beloved character of each style. The global appreciation and recognition of these whiskies underscore their importance in the world of spirits, celebrating centuries of tradition, innovation, and craftsmanship.

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In essence, while the disparity between whisky and whiskey may seem trivial at first glance, it embodies a nuanced reflection of cultural heritage and regional identity. Whether savouring a dram of Scotch whisky or indulging in a glass of Irish whiskey, each sip encapsulates centuries of tradition and craftsmanship. So, the next time you raise your glass, take a moment to appreciate the subtle differences that make each spirit unique and, perhaps, embark on a journey to visit us at Lagg Distillery to delve deeper into the art of whisky-making. 

The beautiful surroundings of Lagg Distillery, Distillery of the Year 2023.

Nestled amidst the rugged terrain of Scotland, Lagg Distillery epitomises the essence of traditional whisky-making. With a heritage dating back centuries, Lagg embraces time-honoured methods to produce exquisite whiskies that captivate the senses. Join one of our tastings to explore the history of whisky at Lagg Distillery and enjoy a fascinating journey through the evolution of this revered spirit.