That Vexatious ‘E’

October 30, 2014

Right. This might take a while so grab a coffee and put your feet up. Here’s a virtual one in case you are stuck on a bus, you’ll thank me in around 400 words.

photoNow if ever there was a storm in a coffee cup, it’s the spelling of the word Whisky/Whiskey. There’s some real nonsense out there on the interweb. It has nothing to do with Scots Gaelic Vs Irish Gaelic and everything to do with marketing.

If we pop into our tweed powered Tardis for a moment and whip back through time, we quickly realise that formalised spellings are a pretty recent invention. The past is a foreign country where anything goes: whiskey, whisky, whiskie, whiske, whiski etc.,

The root of the word Whisky is of course the Gaelic for Water – ‘uisce’ which over time was corrupted into English. Curiously it is happening again in reverse, with colloquial Irish referring to the drink as ‘Fuisce’ – so we now have a Gaelicisation of a English corruption of an original Gaelic word. I told you caffeine would be needed.

In this whirlwind of language, spellings with and without the ‘e’ were common all over Ireland. During the early Victorian period, the large Dublin distillers took a conscious decision to adopt the ‘e’ to differentiate their spirit from inferior provincial gut rot. In turn the provincial producers of said gut rot responded by adopting the ‘e’ thus making the whole exercise as pointless as a cup of decaff.

But not all the provincial distilleries followed suit. In Munster the mighty Cork Distilleries Company, makers of Paddy, stuck to their guns and you can still see evidence of that stubbornness all over the Rebel county.photoIn the late 1960’s what was left of the Irish whiskey industry amalgamated to form Irish Distillers Ltd and in that merger between Jameson & Powers of Dublin and the Cork Distilleries Company, all production was moved to the CDC Midleton plant, and the ‘e’ was finally added  to Paddy whisky.

So for the past forty years it is true to say that Irish whiskey has been spelt without and ‘e’. But that spelling a legacy of monopoly, so as Ireland’s first whisky micro-distillery it seemed only right to mark ourselves apart from the multi-nationals, to look to tradition and along with dropping the ‘bs’ to drop the ‘e’.

So that’s it. That’s whey we say potato and you say pot-ato, we say tomato and you say tom-ato.

Peter