Which is correct: whisky or whiskey? Actually, it depends upon what you’re talking about. Whisky comes from Scotland. When it’s made anywhere else, be it nearby Ireland or far away Japan, it’s spelt whiskey. And as for the stuff they drink in America — Bourbon or Rye — that’s very definitely whiskey.
However, Winston Churchill’s delightful commentary on this product applies, no matter how you spell it. My cousin Lakshman Menon sent it to me. See if you admire it as much as I do: “If you mean whisky, the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yes, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean that evil drink that topples men and women from the pinnacles of righteous and gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, shame, despair, helplessness, and hopelessness, then, my friend, I am opposed to it with every fibre of my being.”
“However, if by whisky you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the elixir of life, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean good cheer, the stimulating sip that puts a little spring in the step of an elderly gentleman on a frosty morning; if you mean that drink that enables man to magnify his joy, and to forget life’s great tragedies and heartbreaks and sorrow; if you mean that drink the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars each year, that provides tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitifully aged and infirm, to build the finest highways, hospitals, universities, and community colleges in this nation, then my friend, I am absolutely, unequivocally in favor of it.”
“This is my position and, as always, I refuse to compromise on matters of principle.”
Now, I’m not sure how much of wit and wisdom is fuelled by whisky but, after a drink or two, I’d be prepared to wager a fair amount. Here’s a collection of stinging quotations that enable you to be rude in style and carry the distinct odour of the Scottish tipple. Would you disagree?
“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire” (Winston Churchill). “He has no enemies but is intensely disliked by his friends” (Oscar Wilde). “I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial” (Irvin S Cobb). “He has Van Gogh’s ear for music” (Billy Wilder). “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it” (Groucho Marx). “I have never killed a man but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure” (Clarence Darrow). “He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts — for support rather than illumination” (Andrew Lang).
And then there’s this epitaph which could only have been crafted under the influence. But perhaps it’s also a case of in vino veritas? “Here lies my wife, here let her lie. Now she’s at peace and so am I”!
Let me, however, leave the last word to two comedians who know their whisky or whiskey. First, Ronnie Corbett, a Scot: “It is true whisky improves with age. The older I get, the more I like it.” Next, WC Fields, an American: “A woman drove me to drink and I didn’t have the decency to thank her.”
(The views expressed are personal.)