To mark Saint Patrick\u2019s Day, we\u2019re taking a look at a spelling problem with deep connections to Ireland: whether to write \u201cwhiskey\u201d or \u201cwhisky.\u201d So are these terms interchangeable? Or is there a difference? And what does this have to do with Ireland anyway? Let us explain!\nThe Origins of Whisky\/Whiskey\nWhisky (we will default to this spelling to save repeating ourselves too much) is a distilled alcoholic drink made from malted grain. It is widely associated with two countries: Scotland and Ireland. Both have a long history of distilling whisky, but the word itself comes from Ireland.\n\n[caption id="attachment_12093" align="aligncenter" width="382"] A modern whisky still.(Photo: saxonrider)[\/caption]\n\nIn particular, it comes from Old Irish term uisge beatha, meaning \u201cwater of life.\u201d This is the Irish version of aqua vitae, which was the Latin word for distilled alcohol of any kind (not just whisky). Eventually, uisge beatha entered English and was anglicized to become \u201cwhisky\u201d or \u201cwhiskey.\u201d\n\nWhy two spellings, though? This may have started as a matter of regional preference. The story most people tell is that, during the 19th century, Irish distillers wanted to distinguish their product from their Scottish competitors.\n\nAs such, they started using the spelling \u201cwhiskey\u201d for Irish whiskey. Scottish whisky, meanwhile, became known as Scotch whisky.\nA Global Drink\nWe see this Irish\u2013Scottish division in modern spellings around the world:\n\n \tThe spelling \u201cwhiskey\u201d is standard in Ireland and the US. This is partly because of the large number of Irish immigrants who set up stills over here.\n \t\u201cWhisky\u201d is standard in most other countries, including Japan and India.\n\nThis is not a strict distinction, though. As such, while \u201cwhiskey\u201d is standard in the US, you will also find distillers who call their products \u201cwhisky.\u201d For instance, Maker\u2019s Mark uses the spelling \u201cwhisky\u201d to recognize the Scottish heritage of company founder Bill Samuel.\nWhiskey or Whisky?\nSome people say there are differences between \u201cwhiskey\u201d and \u201cwhisky,\u201d such as the distillation process or the type of still used. Most of the time, though, \u201cwhiskey\u201d and \u201cwhisky\u201d are just different spellings of the same word. And as such, they are often used interchangeably.\n\nHowever, if you want to avoid upsetting drink geeks, remember:\n\n \tWhiskey is the spelling associated with Ireland.\n \tWhisky is associated with Scotland (especially \u201cScotch whisky\u201d).\n\nSo the correct spelling depends on where your favored tipple comes from. And if you want a Saint Patrick\u2019s Day drink that won\u2019t cause spelling headaches, you can always try Guinness instead.