Whiskey / whisky? | Irish Whiskey in London

Whiskey ... or whisky?

It’s pretty well known that Irish ‘whiskey’ is spelt with an ‘e’ but scotch is simply ‘whisky.’ What’s not so well known is why…


The term ‘whiskey’ derives from he gaelic ‘uisce beatha’ – pronounced “uh-iss-keh beh-ah” – meaning water of life. This was abbreviated to ‘uiskie’ some time in the 17th century, which later became ‘whiskie’ and then “whisky.”

So whisky basically just means ‘water’ – kind of like ‘vodka’ does…

How this became ‘whiskey’ is up for debate – some people claim that the shift happened so that frugal Scottish printers could save a bit of cash by making the word a bit shorter – however most think that the spelling difference arose in the 1870s when Irish distillers tried to distinguish themselves from the much poorer quality Scottish whisky that flooded the market after the invention of the Coffey still. Others think the split is down to the slight difference between the Irish gaelic and the Scots gaelic – ‘uisce beatha’ as opposed to ‘uisge beatha.’


The large number of Irish emigrants to the States meant that the Americans adopted the Irish spelling – the Canadians and the Japanese chose to follow the Scots because… well – we don’t know why…

It remains a touchy subject for many – as famed New York Times Eric Asimov found out after being absolutely inundated with complaints when he used the Irish spelling for an article all about Scottish single malts.

To be honest, we don’t really mind how it’s spelt – we just know we love drinking it! Come join us at the best place to drink Irish whiskey in London – The Sun Tavern, Bethnal Green!