The third Saturday of May marks World Whisky Day and to celebrate we’ve moved aside our bottles of Scottish, American, Irish and Japanese whiskies to enjoy a few drams from elsewhere in the world. To give you a taste of the whisky available from around the globe, here are five recommendations from less celebrated single malt whisky producing nations…
Not that long ago Scots would chuckle at the paucity of whisky produced in England, but a recent spate of distillery openings has seen some fine boozes emerge, many of them good enough to give those from north of the border a run for their money. As an example of this increase The Whisky Lounge recently hosted a St George’s Day virtual lockdown tasting featuring whisky from five English distilleries – The English Whisky Company, Bimber Distillery, The Spirit of Yorkshire, The Lakes Distillery and The Cotswolds Distillery (for more information scroll to the end of this piece). Having visited the latter last year we’re already familiar with their excellent whisky and we were similarly impressed by the other boozes lined up for the evening. Looks like English whisky is here to stay.
Try this: Filey Bay Moscatel Finish, 46%
Filey Bay whisky is produced by the Spirit of Yorkshire distillery and this new release is our first tasting of their whisky. We got Eddie Ludlow, founder of The Whisky Lounge, to describe it for us: “The first thing that strikes me about the Moscatel Finish is a lovely, almost stem ginger and winey character running through it. It is a real sweety with lots of ripe citrus and summer fruits, like peaches and apricots. It also has a long, slightly oily finish and mouthfeel. Lovely stuff and perfect as an aperitif or a session whisky!”
The trend for new whisky distilleries has been spreading across Europe for a while and we’ve previously enjoyed excellent offerings from The Netherlands (Millstone), Sweden (Spirit of Hven), Wales (Penderyn) and France (Brenne). New to us this year is Switzerland which has around 20 whisky distilleries, with Langatun leading the charge. Our most recent tasting came from the Santis distillery, courtesy of That Boutique’y Whisky Company, who have an impressive track record of seeking out and bottling drams from far flung places. The distillery was set up in the Appenzell Brewery, which dates back to the 19th century, with whisky production beginning in 1999 and the brewery’s beer barrels used to age the spirit.
Try this: That Boutique’y Whisky Company Santis 10 Year Old Batch 1, 51.4%
This deep gold liquid has a very sweet, toffee-coated fruitiness to the aroma which suddenly crackles with gingery spice on sipping. There’s lots of oak, a squeeze of pair and a dusty sprinkling of toasted nuts before a lingering dry spice finishes things off. A very decent dram indeed.
When we first looked into Australian whisky we were surprised at just how many distilleries the country contained (293 at the last count). Tasmania is the beating heart of the malted barley industry with 56 distilleries, thanks to an environment that is well suited to producing the spirit’s raw ingredients, including peat (albeit a different kind of peat to that found in Scotland). We have yet to properly explore the Aussie whisky output but have been suitably impressed by the few drams we have supped.
Try this: New World, Starward Malt Whisky, 43%
The New World Whisky Distillery is based in Melbourne and its Starward release has been earning many rave reviews. One such review was by us in a piece for the Independent where we remarked on it having “a warmth and richness that features nuggets of fruit-and-nut chocolate” before declaring it “a resounding success.”
There is only one whisky distillery in Taiwan – King Car – but its whiskies are among the best in the world. Bottled under the name Kavalan they benefit from Taiwan’s subtropical climate, where the heat and humidity rapidly sucks flavour from the casks and causes a greater rate of evaporation, producing whisky that is rich, intense and full of complexity. It’s not easy producing whisky in this environment (not least because there aren’t many other distilleries with whom they can compare notes) but the brains behind Kavlaan have mastered the process with amazing results.
Try this: Kavalan Single Malt 40%
Full of flavour and a brightness that transforms the oak into something much fruitier. Rich with a tropical freshness that drips with honey and a luxurious creaminess that makes it feel like a much more mature beast than it is.
No country produces or drinks more whisky than India. This is largely due to slacker rules on what can be classified as a whisky than other parts of the world (molasses is an accepted ingredient), but a nation with such an appetite for the stuff is bound to have at least a few top notch products. The three single malt distilleries you’re most likely to encounter in the UK are Amrut (distillery in Bangalore, single malt launched in 2004), Paul John (distillery on Goa, single malt launched in 2012) and Rampur, the original name of the vast Radicao Khaitan company who launched their first single malt whisky in 1995.
Try this: Rampur Vintage Select, 43%
This is a great entry level whisky, and not just for those looking to dip their beak into the Indian booze market. Smooth and sippable, with sweet vanilla and fruit flavours to the fore. Well worth a try.
The full line up of English whisky from The Whisky Lounge Tasting Session
The Whisky Lounge is a place where folk can discover whisky through various events and activities. Founder, Eddie Ludlow, had been keen to do something with English whisky for a while and, with the world in lockdown, decided to “fast-track it in our virtual tasting program.”
The session featured a Q&A session with five English distillers and the opportunity for ticket-holders to taste their products while discovering more about their craft. According to Eddie “the event itself was our most successful virtual event so far, it sold out within days, with £5 from every of the 90 tasting packs sold, donated to The Drinks Trust. The feedback from the night has been incredible and I hope that we have been able to shine a light on the English whisky revolution! We have plans for lots of other virtual tastings including a revisit to English Whisky later in the year.”
The five whiskies featured were as follows:
The English Whisky Company – ‘Double Cask’ 46%
Bimber Distillery – ‘Ex-Bourbon Cask’ 56.4%
The Spirit of Yorkshire – ‘Filey Bay Moscatel Finish’ 46%
The Cotswolds Distillery – ‘Founder’s Choice’ 60.5%
The Lakes Distillery – ‘Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.2’ 60.9%
You can view the session in full on Facebook Live
Read our feature on the best Scottish Whisky for 2020 here