Is it whisky, or whiskey? For the non-afficionados, the answer is both. Scottish and Canadian brands are spelled without the letter “e” – all others include the letter “e.”1 Whisky or whiskey is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. Various grains are used for different varieties, including barley, corn, rye, and wheat. Whiskey is typically aged in wooden casks, which are usually made of charred white oak.
Charring the wood primes the wood, which impacts the spirit’s flavor. It opens the wood up, making it easier for bourbon to extract flavors. It also catalyzes key chemical changes that are essential to the distilling process. Most of the vanilla flavor in whiskey, for example, comes from the breakdown of lignin in oak barrels, which is expedited by charring.2