Uisge beatha, or the water of life as the Irish call it, is the distilled spirits of barley malt beer filtered through peat. It's best enjoyed in a cup of tea on a misty dawn after a hard night's work, running the still up a lonely glenn where the revenue would fear to travel. If you haven't a chance to taste the original poteen, then try a bottle of the legal stuff from Jameson.

There's whisky and there's good whisky, but there is no bad whisky.
- old Scottish saying

Whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from grains, oats, or other grasses such as barley, rye, wheat, and corn (yes, corn is a grass). It typically contains about 40-50% alcohol by volume (80-100 proof). The word "whiskey" is a shortened form of the English word, usquebaugh - which itself was a mispronunciation of the Gaelic words uisce or uisge meaning "water"; and beatha, meaning "of life". This is why whiskey is sometimes referred to as the "water of life". A common saying is that "the Irish invented whiskey, but the Scottish perfected it."

Let's not fight about spelling. In the United States and Ireland it is spelled whiskey (plural: whiskeys) while in Scotland and Canada it is called whisky (plural: whiskies). These four countries are the major whiskey producers in the world - your country might have its own spelling or translation. I have used the most appropriate word (or both words) based on the context throughout this writeup. Where context did not require one or the other, I defaulted to the American spelling (with the 'e') because, hey, E2 is in the US.

Basically whiskey is to beer or ale as brandy is to wine. Instead of taking grains and simply fermenting them (which makes beer), the fermented liquid is distilled creating a liquor instead. Obviously this is a gross oversimplification of the whiskey-making process, but that is the general idea. The result is often drunk straight, with water, or mixed with other drinks/cocktails.

Whiskey/Whisky Styles

Types of Whiskey / Whisky1

  • Bourbon / Kentucky Whiskey - made from corn. Commonly produced in the United States, the name comes from Bourbon County, Kentucky where it became popular around the American Revolution. Nearly all of the world's bourbon comes from Kentucky; however there is no requirement that it must. Most moonshine is a form of bourbon.

  • Canadian Whisky - made of a mix of rye, corn, wheat, and barley. By law (yes, Canadian law says so) it must be aged for a minimum of 3 years in a barrel.

  • Irish Whiskey - made primarily from barley, but often contains other grains. Irish whiskey is believed to be one of the earliest distilled beverages in Europe. It is most often distilled three times which is the main difference from Scotch.

  • Rye / Rye Whiskey / Rye Whisky - as the name implies, it is made from rye grains.

  • Scotch / Scottish Whisky - made from barley. Similar to rules around Champagne, International Law prohibits any product from calling itself Scotch unless it is from Scotland even if the same ingredients and distilling process are used. Scotch is distilled twice which is the main difference from Irish whiskey.

  • Tennessee Whiskey - Very similar to Bourbon, however it also goes through the Lincoln County Process of filtering the whiskey through a 10 foot layer of maple charcoal which gives it a distinctive flavor. See Jack Daniel's.

View more writeups about Whiskey or Whisky

1 The main ingredient of these whiskey's are included. In most cases, only 51% (a majority) of the primary ingredient must be used to be able to call it one of these specific names. For example, Bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn though it is often much more.

"Whiskey" also represents the letter W in the phonetic alphabet.

Meeting Places: Part VII


hits my tongue after a twelve hour burn
along the contours of a bad map
through a hundred nameless towns
in a hotel that glows like redneck Christmas,
where gift-wrapped women disrobe - a little.

We have an Indian bar and an Arab bar,
greets the sleepy Indian manager.
He could be behind a desk in Muscat,
Salalah, or Sur; they all blend together.
In the Indian bar women totter on stage, singing

in registers that could cripple a dog.
In the other, Arab girls, Syrian or Jordanian,
but never Omani, dip their immense frames
and spin in circles, exotic little teapots.
Not quite dancing, not quite bargaining.

An elder local joins me, his long beard
more peanut shells than beard. You England?
He slurs, and our glasses clink.
Oman-America same-same.
At the table he loads a one-hitter
with dense tobacco and takes the hit,
placing the pipe between the gap
where his teeth should meet.

I escape to the comedy of the bathroom.
Drunken Omanis pull up their robes,
blinded, falling over, they use the urinals.
There are no lines for the women’s room.
Oman-America same-same.

When the girls again pivot around the stage
peanut beard scrawls on a scrap of paper,
crumples it up and throws it at them.
A minute later the air is ticker tape
raining some ritual of affection.

In a Nizwa bar I inquire, to a tipsy cop.
Yes, very expensive, you see? Pointing
at a plus sized dancing Syrian.
My friend, I get you good price tonight.
There are only two kinds of women in Oman,
the untouchable and the buyable.

A month later I was his dealer,
an accessory to blasphemy.
My booze sustained half of Sohar’s police.
Muslims could drink, but not buy
from the well stocked liquor stores.

I never charged them anything, in alien lands
the only real currency is favors.

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Whis"key (?), n.

Same as Whisky, a liquor.


© Webster 1913.

Whis"key, Whis"ky, n.; pl. Whiskeys (#) or Whiskies. [See Whisk, v. t. & n.]

A light carriage built for rapid motion; -- called also tim-whiskey.


© Webster 1913.

Whis"ky, Whis"key (?), n. [Ir. or Gael. uisge water (perhaps akin to E. wash, water) in uisgebeatha whiskey, properly, water of life. Cf. Usquebaugh.]

An intoxicating liquor distilled from grain, potatoes, etc., especially in Scotland, Ireland, and the United States. In the United States, whisky is generally distilled from maize, rye, or wheat, but in Scotland and Ireland it is often made from malted barley.

Bourbon whisky, corn whisky made in Bourbon County, Kentucky. -- Crooked whisky. See under Crooked. -- Whisky Jack Zool., the Canada jay (Perisoreus Canadensis). It is noted for its fearless and familiar habits when it frequents the camps of lumbermen in the winter season. Its color is dull grayish blue, lighter beneath. Called also moose bird.


© Webster 1913.

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