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The second oldest European spirits category, whiskey was first produced in the 1300s in Ireland, where it was initially called uisce beatha [water of life]. This distillate is from grain--generally barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat, or maize (corn)--which is then aged in wood casks.
Whiskey-making was almost exclusively the provenance of the Irish and Scots until the 1600s, when emigrants brought the knowledge with them to North America. Canadian and American whiskies were born, which possess a definitively different flavour profile and are predominantly made from rye or corn.
Within the twentieth century, countries such as Japan, India, France, and Russia also developed whiskies. Japan is the most notable, achieving impressive stature second only to whiskies made in Scotland.
The word "whiskey" was allegedly coined by troops of King Henry II of England, in the 1100s, when they invaded Ireland. They were unable to pronounce the Gaelic term "uisce beatha". Over time, the pronunciation changed from "whishkeyba" to "whiskey".