Whisky vs Whiskey?
For the most part, either will do. Traditionally, ‘whisky’ is the British spelling, and so whisk(e)y that is distilled in Scotland will be labelled as Whisky (the same also applies to Canadian and Japanese ‘whisky’). The American spelling, also used by Irish brands, tends to favor the extra letter ‘E’ as in ‘whiskey’. Most people use the two interchangeably, and you can certainly hold down a verbal discussion without knowing the difference.
What is the difference between Scotch and Whiskey? What is Bourbon made from? Why is Rye called Rye?
Essentially, all things whiskey-related will come down to four elements: sourcing, mash content, the aging process, and the demographic region in which it is made.
What is Whiskey?
Whiskey is an umbrella term for spirits that are distilled from a ‘mash’ of fermented grains. These grains can be many varieties, and often a blend of several, but the most commonly used is corn.
What is Scotch?
To qualify as a Scotch the spirit must be made from malted barley, with many Scotches using nothing more than barley, water and yeast. The spirit must also be aged in oak casks for no less than three years, and must have an ABV between 40% and 94.8%. Finally, you cannot call your drink Scotch unless it was made 100% in Scotland. There are regions galore in Scotland, which all lend their own distinct tastes.
What is Bourbon?
Bourbon whiskey must be made from a grain mixture which is at least 51% corn. The fermentation process for this is often started by mixing in some mash from an older already fermenting batch, a process known as sour mash. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States, but is strongly associated with the south. The spirit must be distilled to no more than 80% alcohol or 160 proof in new charred oak barrels.
What is Rye?
Rye is the trickiest of all whiskeys to define. You would assume that Rye whiskey is any booze distilled from only fermented rye mash. However, American Rye needs only 51% rye grain, and the only rule to label your whiskey as Rye in Canada is for it to have “some” rye in it, and to possess the aroma, taste and character generally attributed to Canadian whiskey… whatever that may be to you.