Whiskey or Whisky?
The drink's name comes from the Gaelic uisge or uisce beatha which means "water of life". The name is probably modeled on the Latin "aqua vitae". The beverage is distilled from grains and aged in oak casks. Grains that can be used for its production are barely, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat, maize, and corn.
The term "whisky" is usually used for Scotch, Welsh and Canadian whiskies, while the term "whiskey" names mostly Irish-distilled spirits. In 1968 "whisky" was specified as the official spelling for United States. However, "whiskey" term was allowed to use as traditional. Many manufacturers still use the latter term.
Scotch whisky is probably the most popular type of whisky. In most English-speaking countries the term "scotch" is enough to describe the drink you want. Scotch whisky production is strictly controlled and no other than Scotch whisky can be produced in Scotland. To be called Scotch whisky the spirit:
1. Must be distilled at a Scottish distillery from water and malted barely, to which only other whole grains may be added, have been processed at that distillery into a mash, converted to a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme systems, and fermented only by the addition of yeast,
2. Must be distilled to an alcoholic strength of less than 94.8% by volume so that it retains the flavour of the raw materials used in its production,
3. Must be matured in Scotland in oak casks for not less than three years and a day, and
4. Must not contain any added substance other than water and caramel colour.
5. May not be bottled at less than 40% alcohol by volume.
Another very popular type of the drink is Irish whiskey. Like the Scotch whisky, it comes in several different forms, but the most unique and "Irish" is pure pot still whiskey (100% barley, both malted and not malted, distilled in a pot still). The "green" unmalted barley gives the pure pot still whiskey a spicy, uniquely Irish quality. Due to economic difficulties in the last couple of centuries there are far fewer distilleries in Ireland than there is in Scotland, but every one of them produces great variety of different whiskeys).
Traditionally American whiskey is Bourbon. It is a type of whiskey made from (pursuant to U.S. trade law) at least 51% corn, or maize, but not more than 79% (usually about 70%), with the remainder being wheat and/or rye, and malted barely. It is distilled to no more than 160 proof (U.S.), and aged in new charred white oak barrels for at least two years (sometimes longer, in most cases less than 4 years).