What is Whisk(e)y?

By: Scott Ritenbaugh

The term whiskey is basically a blanket term to broadly characterize the myriad of specific whiskeys underneath it. Almost every single bottle that carries the name “whiskey” also has a qualifier: Scotch, Irish, Canadian, etc. Most of these specific whiskies have their own set of qualifications that make them what they are and also unique from the other whiskies throughout the world. The term “whiskey” alone is a broad definition, but essentially a spirit has to follow these four rules to be categorized as a whiskey:

Every step of the process adds to the final product…


• It is made from fermented grain, and only grain

• It is distilled no higher than 190 proof

• It is put into an oak container

• It is bottled at no less than 80 proof

Whiskey goes back centuries. The Irish Gaelic word uisce beatha (Scottish Gaelic uisge beatha) was a translation from the Medieval Latin term aqua vitae, meaning “water of life.” The English version, borrowed from the Gaelic, was usquebaugh.  Over time the pronunciation was shortened to whisky.


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