Whisky or whiskey is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. Various grains (which may be malted) are used for different varieties, including barley, corn (maize), rye, and wheat. Whisky is typically aged in wooden casks, generally made of charred white oak.

Whisky is a strictly regulated spirit worldwide with many classes and types. The typical unifying characteristics of the different classes and types are the fermentation of grains, distillation, and aging in wooden barrels.

The word whisky (or whiskey) is an anglicisation of the Gaelic word uisce/uisge meaning water. Distilled alcohol was known in Latin as aqua vitae (“water of life”). This was translated to Gaelic as Irish: uisce beatha and Scottish Gaelic: uisge beatha=”lively water” or “water of life”. Early forms of the word in English included uskebeaghe (1581), usquebaugh (1610), usquebath (1621), usquebae (1715)

Much is made of the word’s two spellings: whisky and whiskey. There are two schools of thought on the issue. One is that the spelling difference is simply a matter of regional language convention for the spelling of a word, indicating that the spelling varies depending on the intended audience or the background or personal preferences of the writer (like the difference between color and colour; tire and tyre; or recognize and recognise), and the other is that the spelling should depend on the style or origin of the spirit being described. There is general agreement that when quoting the proper name printed on a label, the spelling on the label should not be altered. Some writers refer to “whisk(e)y” or “whisky/whiskey” to acknowledge the variation.

The spelling whiskey is common in Ireland and the United States while whisky is used in every other whisky producing country in the world. In the US, the usage has not always been consistent. From the late eighteenth century to the mid twentieth century American writers used both spellings interchangeably until the introduction of newspaper style guides. Since the 1960s, American writers have increasingly used whiskey as the accepted spelling for aged grain spirits made in the US and whisky for aged grain spirits made outside the US. However, some prominent American brands, such as George Dickel, Maker’s Mark, and Old Forester (all made by different companies), use the ‘whisky’ spelling on their labels, and the Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, the legal regulations for spirit in the US, also use the ‘whisky’ spelling throughout.
“Scotch” is the internationally recognized term for “Scotch whisky”.



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