What Is Whisky?

Definition

Whisky (or whiskey) is a distilled spirit made from fermented grain and typically matured in wooden containers for some period of time.

Where It Comes From

Whisky can be made anywhere in the world. Certain countries—like Scotland, Ireland, the United States, and Canada—have regulations that govern its production. Get the details in our Instant Expert guides.

How It’s Made

To get a full understanding of the whisky-making process, see “How Whisky Is Made.”

Whisky vs. Whiskey

The “e” or lack thereof in the word’s spelling is purely orthographical. Whisky is whiskey is whisky. Certain countries favor one spelling over the other—for example, Scotland and Canada always use “whisky,” while Ireland and the United States tend to favor “whiskey.”

At Whisky Advocate, we use the spelling without the e when referring to the whole category, but will revert to each country’s or brand’s preference when writing about its specific products.

More From Basics

How to Enjoy Whisky

Whether you like it neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail, learn how to make the most of your whisky.

Buying and Storing Whisky

Learn how to get the best whisky for your money—and the best way to keep it tasting great to the last drop.

How Whisky Is Made

Fermentation, distillation, maturation: whisky is a process. Learn about it here.