I didn’t know there was a difference until I read this article in the NY Times. Evidently the “e” or lack of “e” before the “y” defines where on the planet the spirit came. Which seems like a really obscure thing to know but there is somebody out there keeping track.
From the article:
Graham Kent of London wrote: “I cannot pass over the unforgivable use by a serious writer on wines and spirits of ‘whiskey’ to refer to Scotch whisky.’’ He goes on to say: “I am afraid I found the constant misspelling of the product made your article quite unreadable. It is exactly the same as if you had called it ‘gin’ all the way through or were to describe Lafite as Burgundy. It is simply a basic error that a reputable writer should not make.’’
It’s nice to know that we are the only guys on the interweb that drop the wrong facts.