Even since I started to drink whisky I’ve been asked before, by non whisky drinkers, about the difference in spelling between whisky and whiskey. I’ve also been asked about the difference between whisky and bourbon. Here is a simple and quick explanation without getting too in-depth.
Whisky and Whiskey
The difference between whisky and whiskey really is the spelling and the word itself denotes the place where the whisky or whiskey comes from.
The United States and Ireland are the only two countries that label their whiskey with an “e”. All other countries to include Scotland, Canada, Japan, etc., label theirs whisky without the “e”. In case you are re-reading that last line, I did say Japan. For those non whisky drinkers that aren’t aware of this, Japan has not always been known for their whisky but that has changed significantly within the last 10 years or so. Some of Japan’s single malts have claimed some national whisky awards. Their single malts are certainly on my list of, “must try”.
Whisky and Bourbon
Now whisky and bourbon is where we get to actual differences. One simple explanation and a thing to always remember, Bourbon is always whisky but whisky is never bourbon. If you find out that confusing then here’s more to help you understand.
Whisky is made from fermented grains, aged for many years and it is made all over the world. You will find that the longer a whisky is aged the more expensive that whisky will be. Some of the grain mixtures, called a mash, used for whisky include barley, rye, wheat, corn, etc.
Bourbon on the other hand has to have at least 51% or more corn in their mash to be considered bourbon. It has to be aged for at least two years, although most distilleries age theirs for four or more years.
Another important difference is that it has to be distilled in the United States. Although Bourbon can be made anywhere in the US, Kentucky actually produces the most bourbon in the country and for it to be called Kentucky bourbon, it has to be made in Kentucky.
And done, I hope that was a quick and simple explanation!