Hong Kong: Bourbon, Scotch, and Whisk(e)y De-mystified

Food and Beverage

Consumers are often confused by the terms bourbon and scotch. And what about whisky – or is it whiskey? Why is it sometimes spelled with an ‘e’ – and sometimes without? It all gets down to its provenance’ – or place of origin.

Food and travel writers were invited to a workshop on whisk(e)y, which was held in the newly opened Liquor and Liqueur, a retail store and e-commerce website that sells premium spirits with a focus on exclusive single malt scotch whisky.

Bitters, liqueurs, gin, rum, tequila, cognac, vodka, and vermouth are also stocked. What you won’t find is wine. The shop’s owner, Emily Chiang, apparently thinks that there is already a sufficient number of wine shops in Hong Kong.

And if that is what Emily thought, she was right. Ever since word got out the wine could be good for your health, wine shops started popping up all over town.

Whisk(e)y enthusiasts might find this all a bit basic, so they might want to scroll down to the end of this post for the address, phone number, and website.

But for someone like me, who didn’t know much about whisky (or when I should spell it with or without an ‘e’), it was quite an eye-opener.

I already knew that I preferred bourbon to scotch. But I didn’t really understand why – or what it was that set the two whisk(e)ys apart.

Whisk(e)y 101

I’m not about to get into a detailed analysis of all of the things that were covered in the workshop, but I did think it would be fun to share some interesting trivia with you.

Some of it I learned at the workshop, and some of it I found in my Oxford American dictionary. Let’s think of this as an Introduction to Whisk(e)y, or ‘Whisk(e)y 101’.

  • Whisk(e)y is a fermented alcoholic beverage that has been distilled from a mash of barley, corn, or another grain. The most important producers of whisk(e)y are Canada, Ireland, Japan, Scotland, and the United States.
  • Beverages made in the United States or Ireland are spelled with an ‘e’ as in ‘whiskey’.
  • Beverages made in Canada or Scotland are spelled with no ‘e’ as in ‘whisky’.
  • By definition, only whiskies made in Scotland can be called ‘Scotch’. They are usually made of malted barley.
  • Only whiskeys made in the United States can be called ‘bourbon’. They are usually made of corn mash.
  • Age is determined by how many years a whisk(e)y has been allowed to ferment in the cask – not, as with wine, by how many years it has been ‘cellared’.
  • Whisk(e)y should be held up to the nose until you can savour its aroma before you drink it.
  • You should allow whisk(e)y to remain in your mouth for the corresponding number of seconds as the number of years it was aged before swallowing it.
  • Whisk(e)y is best consumed in a glass that promotes nosing and sipping – such as the Glencairn Whisky Glass.


If you’re ready to move on to Whisk(e)y 102, you can visit Liquor and Liqueur at 97 Wellington Street in Central on Hong Kong Island. A full selection of premium whiskies – and knowledgeable staff – await. Telephone: (852) 2810-0026. 



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