16 April 2007

A whisk(e)y primer

I'm an American. I drink whiskey. With two notable exceptions, whiskey made in the USA is spelled with an "e." Now Canadians, they drink whisky. This "e-less" version of the word is known as the Scotch spelling. In Scotland, it is whisky. In Ireland, however, it is whiskey, just like the States. Now it seems nit-picky to argue over the spelling, but what is, is. I don't watch televsion "programmes" on my "colour" set, do I? Certainly not. But when I'm in the UK, I "realise" I'll have to look for the town "centre." Now, this is only an issue with me because whiskey-drinking is a staple of noir fiction. Lately, I've been astonished by the number of errors highly-skilled, well-regarded authors have made in the whiskey department. I just read a great story where the protagonists consume a single malt called Dalmore. Lovely stuff. But that is whisky. It is from Scotland, it is whisky. The author uses whiskey throughout the tale. Understandable if he is an American, but incorrect nonetheless. Tsk-tsk. We writers must do our research, what? Here in the States we have a drink called bourbon. It is a kind of whiskey. Not all whiskeys are bourbons. Those that are, are labeled as such. The most famous American whiskey is Jack Daniels. Something about Jack, he shows up regularly in hard-boiled stories. But--drum roll, please--Jack Daniels is NOT a bourbon! A whiskey yes, a bourbon no. Lots of writers have bourbon-drinking characters, and a lot of them drink Jack. Tsk-tsk. Jack Daniels is properly called Tennessee Whiskey. Jim Beam is a bourbon. Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Old Crow, these are bourbons. Just to confuse things, a very popular premium bourbon here in the USA is called Maker's Mark. They spell it "whisky." They aren't alone. A delicious Tennesee Whiskey (in my opinion, superior to Jack) known as George Dickel is also spelled without the "e." But those are the only exceptions as far as I know. I will come back to this topic because, well, I'm a whisk(e)y drinker, a spelling nerd, and a bit of an obsessive-compulsive. Cheers!


Anonymous said...

Good catch on the bourbon-Jack slipup -- Jim Beam it is. You don't drink bourbon, it sounds like? And in the day, I have, in fact, done George Dickel. Good whiskey/whisky is very good. Do you recall Leo talking, in 'The West Wing' about Jack Daniels Blue Label? Cheers. NOC

M.C. O'Connor said...

Bourbon in my favorite drink. And Leo was talking about "Johnnie Walker" Blue, a fancy blended Scotch (whisky) that goes for about 100 bucks a bottle!

Anonymous said...

Of course -- Johnny Walker -- how embarrassing. And bourbon is your favorite -- that is interesting. Is there a Canadian name that you like in the hard stuff? Leo always had exquisite taste -- and an exquisite taster, I gather. Have you ever had the Blue label?? It seems to me that, in that scene, someone said the bar served it for $60 (?) a shot. And thanks for writing back! (of course, this boo-boo you HAD to!) NOC