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Whisky or Whiskey? - The Beginner's Guide to Types of Whisk(e)y

Nikkan Navidi

The Beginners Whisk(e)y Guide

Last week we introduced the Konvi community to our newest industry specialist and partner, responsible for acquiring the most sought-after Spirits with the highest investment potential. To enable our community to not only diversify their portfolios but also their knowledge in the fields of spirits we have gathered the most important facts that every investor should be familiar with.

Whisky or Whiskey?

To start off we want to lift the confusion concerning the different ways of spelling the spirit. Generally, whisky produced in the USA or Ireland is often spelled and referred to as "Whiskey," while whisky made in Scotland, Canada, Japan, and other countries across the world is known as "Whisky". However, If you dig a little deeper there is more to this gentlemen's drink spelling than you might expect. Whiskey production can be traced back to Ireland in the early 15th century, with production in Scotland trailing closely. Looking at the origins of the word whisky, it is an anglicization of the Classical Gaelic word uisce (or uisge) which ironically enough translates to "water". The small differences in the Gaelic spelling became entrenched over time and ultimately resulted in the two English spellings.

Furthermore, as distilleries became more sophisticated in whisky production some regions set strict laws and conventions to maintain a standard. Hence, the spelling cannot only offer consumers an indication of where the whisky is potentially originating from but offer a hint to its taste profile.

Scotch Whisky

Yes, indeed Scotch is categorized under whisky and offers the most variation of the different classes. Scotch whisky is distilled primarily from barley. What makes this type especially interesting is the number of years the liquor needs to be aged. Compared to other whiskies, Scotch’s longer aging results in a deeper and richer flavor. As the name suggests Scotch is made in Scotland with the main regions being the Highlands, the Lowlands, Speyside, Campbeltown, and Islay with each region having its own style.

Irish whiskey

Going on with our little exploratory research through the whisky world, we will continue with the widely considered ancestral home of whiskey. Irish distilleries produce some of the most popular and beloved whiskeys in the world and have distinctive sweet and malty characteristics.

Japanese Whisky

While whisky production in Japan started significantly later than in Europe, their whiskies have gained exceptional popularity and are now among the most sought-after in the world. What makes Japanese whisky so desirable is the softer more round flavor profile with less bold characteristics. As Japanese distillers are heavily influenced by Scotch producers, many of their whiskies are comparable to single malt scotch whisky.

Canadian/Rye Whisky

Internationally, Canadian whisky is amongst the most available and popular styles of whisky. As its American counterpart, distillers often mix in a lot of corn in the mash, which results in a sweeter flavor comparable to that of bourbon. Nevertheless, while the interchangeably used name Rye whisky suggests that a significant proportion is made up of rye, which is nowadays not the case anymore.

American Whiskey

Whisky produced in the United States can be distinguished into two primary types which are bourbon and rye. Distilleries in the states have to abide by a strict set of rules that dictate how exactly these two have to be produced.


Bourbon is required to have a makeup of at least 51% corn in the mash bill, with the rest of the grain being any combination of wheat, rye, and barley. Bourbon is also required to be aged in brand-new, charred oak barrels. Because of the high percentage of corn in the mash bill, bourbon is known as a sweeter whiskey, with notes of vanilla and butterscotch.


Contrary to the Candian Rye Whisky, 51% of the grain used in the mash must be rye. As the proportion of rye increases, the spirit gains a spicier flavor profile with more bite. American Rye has a bolder, fruitier spicy flavor than bourbon. Rye has gained popularity in the United States for mixing cocktails due to its strong, bold flavor that stands out in drinks such as a Manhatten or Sazerac.

Key Takeaways

Not all whisky is the same, especially not if they are not written the same way. Whiskey with an “e” is mainly produced in the motherland of whisky Ireland or the United States, while if it is written simply as “whisky” it is produced in Scotland, Japan, Canada, or any other region around the globe. Each country of origin takes pride in its unique history, traditions, and distilling practices.

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