Is There An E in Whisky?

IN

Three times no. At least as far as Bruichladdich is concerned.

‘Whisky’ is the Anglicised corruption of the Gaelic word for water, uisge. Uisge beatha, the infamous water of life.

There is a clue to its linguistic origins when one hears today’s Ileachs pronounce the name of the hamlet that marks the beginning of the island’s Rhinns peninsula – Uiskentuie (uisge-an-t-suidhe – water of the resting place): ‘oo-ish-ken-too-ee’.

Uisge sounds like ‘oo-ish-que’, depending on accent and region. The first syllable became ‘wheeshe’. The second part, the short, hard ‘que’, or ‘ki’ became ‘ky’. Together whisky. The Irish ‘key’ ending possibly derives from the softer, longer ‘kee’ sound of the Irish Gaelic accent.

The eighteenth and nineteenth century emigrations, predominantly Irish to the US and Scots to Canada, transported the respective spellings that were then adopted for the indigenous aqua vitae of those countries: American whiskey and Canadian whisky.

However, there is an ‘e’ that occurs in most whiskies, but definitely not Bruichladdich, and that is E150.  Caramel is added to most commercial whiskies and spirits prior to bottling for colour standardisation purposes. We prefer to let the natural colour shine forth.

And while we’re at it, single malt whisky will put the moderate consumer in to an affable state of mind, with a calm and convivial mood which cannot be confused with the other E, the ravers’ favourite amphetamine.

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