Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

Filtering by Tag: Whisk(e)y

Whiskey vs Whisky: Newspapers & Style Guides

Throughout this series I have been looking for answers for two questions: Why does whisk(e)y have two spellings? and Why does the US favor using whiskey while most of the world spells whisky without an e?  The answer for the first question, as it turned out, is fairly simple and straightforward.  Whisk(e)y entered the English language at a time when spelling was not standardized (i.e. before dictionaries) and it was common to have multiple spellings of one word.  However, the answer for the second question is more complicated.

Throughout the history of the word, neither the US nor the UK have ever exclusively used one spelling of whisk(e)y.  But, since the 1850's the UK has favored spelling whisky without an e.  In the US, whiskey, with an e, has only been used slightly more often that its alternate. Mid-nineteenth century dictionaries and literature from the United States demonstrates that both spellings were used interchangeably without any geographic connotation.  However, after 1960 whiskey became the preferred spelling in the US. 

While I had looked at books, etymology and dictionaries I was missing one other influential written source: Newspapers.  Using the California Digital Newspaper Collection, which includes papers statewide from the 1840's to the present, I found that there was no differentiation between the use of whiskey or whisky in papers from the mid-eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. For some unknown reason, the use of whisky skyrocketed from 1880-1890 though almost none of it referred to aged grain spirits made in Scotland.

I began to wonder what might have changed around the 1960's that could explain why the US started to prefer the spelling of whiskey over whisky and when the spelling's became embedded with geographic meaning.  As I continued to look at newspapers I discovered something interesting.  In 1950's the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, all published style guides that, among other things, gave instructions on how to spell whisk(e)y.  These style guides are important not only because these institutions have large readerships but also because other papers, magazines and writers use them as a reference when publishing their own works.  The AP Stylebook spells whiskey with an e but allows an exception for whisky when referring to Scotch.  Similarly, the LA Times Stylebook followed the AP guideline for whiskey but they expanded their exception to cover both Scotch and Canadian whisky.  These style guides seem to be the first published sources in the US to link the spelling of whisk(e)y with a geographic location.  The appearance of these style guides in the second half of the twentieth century mirrors the changing preference in the US for spelling whiskey with an e and the idea that whisky (for the most part) refers to non-US spirits.  While it is certain that the AP and LA Times did not create these distinctions, the evidence suggests that they were the first to codify them.

The interesting outlier among these style guides was the New York Times.  From 1950 to 1976 The New York Times Manual of Style required its writers to spell whisky without an e in all circumstances.  However, in 1999, for some unknown reason, the Times made a 180 degree change and decided to spell whiskey with an e no matter where it was made. Everything seemed fine until late 2008 when an internet controversy erupted about the Times' insistence that Scotch whiskey be spelled with an e.  In February 2009, after a flood of negative feed back from readers about their one size fits all policy, the Times changed their style guide again.  They adopted the rule followed by the LA Times which spells all whiskey with an e except when referring to Scotch and Canadian whisky.

Since newspapers are one of the most prolific sources of written language in the country, it makes sense that the change in how whiskey and whisky were used would be reflected here first.  But, just like dictionaries, style guides are reflecting and permeating language as it already exits, not creating new words or rules.  That being said, these style guides provide the best answer for why the US began to favor the spelling of whiskey when in the 60's and why whisky referred to aged grain spirits made outside the country.

Sources Cited. 

Tennessee Whiskey Gets a Legal Definition

On May 13th 2013, Bill Haslam, governor of Tennessee (TN) signed House Bill 1084, which created the first state law to define what can be called Tennessee Whiskey.   The law defines TN whiskey as: a spirit manufactured in TN; filtered through maple charcoal prior to aging, also know as the Lincoln County Process; made from grain that consists of at least 51% corn; distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% abv); aged in new charred oak barrels; placed in the barrel at no more than 125 proof (62.5% abv); and, bottled at not less than 80 proof (40% abv). 

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My First Book & the ADI Spirits Conference

Life is good...so good in fact I haven't had a chance to post anything new for awhile. The first piece of exciting news is that the book I helped write A World Guide to Whisk(e)y Distilleries has been published by White Mule Press, the publishing arm of the American Distilling Institute (ADI). I came onto the project about a third of the way through and saw it to completion. The book attempts to list all the commercial whisk(e)y distilleries in the world, from Alaska to Zimbabwe and the products they make. So if you are an avid whisk(e)y enthusiast that likes to visit distilleries or you want to know where your favorite product is made you'll probably find this useful.

I'm excited that I have a couple more book projects lined up with White Mule Press but at present I have been busy editing two books for them, one on gin and a second on rum production. These projects have been particularly demanding of my time which is partially why I haven't posted anything recently.

The other piece of exciting news is that I attended the 10th Annual ADI Spirits Conference & Vender Expo, that this year was held in Denver. The conference brought together about 900 distillers, soon to be distillers, and the still, label, glass, barrel and branding vendors that service the craft distilling industry. It was a blast to meet both new and seasoned distillers who were passionate about their craft and committed to growing successful businesses. One of my highlights from the conference was sitting in on David Smith's gin tasting. David writes for a number of publications as well as his site Summer Fruit Cup. We tasted some stand out gins from the US, UK, and France. If you're a big fan of gin a couple to look out for are FEW Barrel Aged Gin and Warner Edwards Harrington Dry Gin.

During the gala dinner ADI announced the results from their 7th Annual Judging of Artisan American Spirits. The Best of Class winners were: Ballast Point Spirits, Devil's Share Malt Whiskey; Valentine Distilling Company, Liberator Gin; Balcones Distilling, Texas Rum; Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine, Apple Pie Moonshine; and Jepson Vineyards, Old Stock Mendocino Brandy. For the full list of winners check out ADI's website.

Now that I'm back from Denver I hope to get back into my routine of posting once or twice a week.

Whiskey vs Whisky: Controversy and Confusion

Have you ever noticed that there are two different spellings for whiskey? To be honest I didn't think much about it until I began working on a book about all the whiskey distilleries in the world. As I researched distilleries across Africa, Asia, Australia, and continental Europe I noticed that none of them spelled whisky with an e. I began searching for an answer to why some producers of aged grain spirits spell its name with and e and some spell it without and why this difference is largely bound by geography.

What I found instead was an internet controversy about what spelling was “correct” and when each should or shouldn't be used.

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