To paraphrase Hamlet, “To ‘E’ or not to ‘E’, that is the question: Whether it is nobler in the barrel to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misspellings, or to take up a dram against a sea of troubles, and by imbibing end them.”
The discussion about the spelling of the word whisk(e)y doesn’t go back as far as the time of Shakespeare himself, but to many it is just as controversial. Actually, it is thought to go back to the 1800’s when the Irish and Americans chose to spell it with an ‘e’, in an attempt to distinguish the difference between the unique liquor that they were producing versus the traditional Scottish versions.
This is not as complicated to keep straight as it may sound, in fact it is quite simple. Those whiskies that come from Scotland, Canada and Japan are all traditionally spelled without an ‘e’, while Irish and American versions include an ‘e’. Of course, there has to be an exception to this rule, the most notable coming from one of Kentucky’s oldest distilling families, the Samuels family, who are the distillers of Maker’s Mark Whisky. They make their case for not including an ‘e’ based upon the family’s Scottish origins and that being the way that it was spelled there.
For simplicity, many use the country of origin spelling rule, which says if the name of the country of origin is spelled with an ‘e’, such as Ireland or America, then it is used in the spelling, and if the country of origin does not have an ‘e’ in the name, like Scotland, Canada, or Japan, then no ‘e’ is used.
I can assure you that whichever way you spell it, does not impact any of the great flavors that can be found in any of the various varieties regardless of origin. As a note to readers, I will state that my policy will be to use the spelling that is used by the distiller on their labeling as best as I can. Because the current majority of material here is focused on American Whiskies, at least initially the American spelling will be the default.
That’s enough talk about ‘e’s for one day. I think a dram is now in order, regardless of whether your bottle of choice has an ‘e’ or not. My apologies to all the Shakespeare fans that I may have offended with my opening paragraph, but it had to be done.
“Whisky is liquid sunshine.”
~ George Bernard Shaw