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Whisky vs Whiskey: What's the Difference?

It is no secret that every corner of Ireland and Britain holds claim to a storied past of spirits. If you look closely, however, you might notice a small nuance in the spelling of a particular amber-colored, malted drink that has been produced in the region for centuries. 

So is it whisky or whiskey? Does it matter? Should you care? The answer is yes—to all of the above.

There are actually two explanations for where the distinction came from. One explanation suggests the singular ‘e’ is the result of a small translation difference between the Gaelic language that the word whisky comes from - uisce beatha in Irish, uisge-beatha in Scottish. Both mean "water of life"- a translation by monks in the Middle Ages of the Latin aqua vitae.

Another suggestion appears more deliberate. In the 19th century, the Irish wanted to differentiate their product from the Scots, who at the time were making a whisky not up to the Irish standard. So now ‘whiskey’ is reserved for the Irish variety. (If you need help remembering the difference, I thought up a little trick. Make the e stand for Éire (the Irish-language name for Ireland), leaving the e-less whisky as the Scottish variety. )

If you are looking for a sample today, do not discriminate! The two countries both make a quality spirit. Both Scotch and Irish whiskey are typically made in a copper pot still and matured in oak casks for at least three years. The barley that Scotch uses is typically malted, while the barley in Irish whiskey is typically unmalted, and often combined with other grains. Whisky is usually distilled twice, while whiskey is typically tripled distilled, leading to a smoother mouth feel and a lighter flavor.

CIE celebrates the tradition of whiskey making, and there are multiple distilleries that are included as stops during tours in Ireland, like Teeling and Jameson, and in Scotland, like Blair Athol. Here you can take an in-depth, behind the scenes look at the process that transforms the grain mash into something a little more pleasurable. Tour the distillery, learn the history, and drink local. Maybe when you come back when you can tell us which you prefer.

Ireland Tours

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This fast-paced tour is the perfect introduction to England, Scotland and Wales, showcasing the very best historical and scenic spots, alongside vibrant cities. 

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5/7 Days

This fast-paced, short-and-sweet Ireland tour is the perfect introduction to the Emerald Isle. Taste of Ireland hits all of the "greatest hits" highlights—from Blarney Castle to the Cliffs of…

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Irish Adventure

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8/9 Days

Make the most of every moment of your Ireland vacation—you'll discover all the can't-miss Irish scenery and history on this fast-paced tour.

​Guided Tours, Small Groups

The Irish Pub Tour

Starting from €1320

8/9 Days

Irish pubs are the hearts of their communities—a source of camaraderie, stories, and song. Raise a glass (or two!) to rich pub culture and history on this guided tour of Ireland, which offers…

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Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

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9/13 Days

Travel on this Irish adventure along the world's longest scenic coastline drive. See can't-miss attractions and hidden gems along the Emerald Isle's shores. 

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St. Patrick's Day in Dublin: The Wearing of the Green

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6 Days

Join the party for Ireland's spirited St Patrick's Day parade. This short-and-sweet tour includes exclusive access to a private party with the best parade viewing vantage point and behind-the-…

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Irish & British Focus

Starting from €2325

11 Days

Discover three of the most beautiful lands in Europe—and their capitals—with this epic British and Irish tour package. 

​Guided Tours, Small Groups

Irish & Scottish Sampler

Starting from €2245

8/9 Days

This short-and-sweet combination Ireland and Scotland tour visits all the top highlights, mixing in historic cities with iconic sights.

​Guided Tours, Small Groups

Taste of Scotland

Starting from €960

5 Days

Explore the very best of Scotland's gorgeous scenery and bustling cities on this short-and-sweet introductory tour. 

​Guided Tours

Scottish Isles & Glens

Starting from €2645

12 Days

Head a little off the beaten path on this tour of Scotland's rugged Highlands, coastal byways, and the archaeological treasures on Orkney and the Isle of Skye.

​Guided Tours, Small Groups

The Irish Foodie Tour

Starting from €1845

8 Days

Savor every moment of this culinary tour featuring Ireland's rich food heritage and culture. You'll enjoy tastings, food tours, and meet artisanal food producers around the Emerald Isle. 

​Guided Tours, Themed Tours

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