Whisky, or whiskey, depending on where in the world it’s made, is a beverage that is adored all over the globe.
It’s a drink for a cold winter’s night to warm your cockles. It’s a tipple to enjoy in the garden on a warm summer’s evening. Let’s be honest, it’s a drink for all occasions as we can’t get enough of the stuff.
As popular as a wee dram of whisky is, when it comes to whisky drinking, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to broaden our horizons and try new things. We know all too well that some of the world’s finest whiskies are produced here in Scotland and Ireland, with the USA also in contention. Did you know however, that countries such as Mexico, Australia, Japan, and even India, also produce some exceptional whiskies?
If you’re looking to try a whisky/whiskey out of the ordinary, that you’ve never tried before, why not go global and try something a bit different? Here’s a look at some unique whisky producing nations around the globe and what they do differently to us here at home.
To begin with, we’re going to land down under.
No, we’re not going to ‘throw another shrimp on the barbie, mate’ nor are we going to make any Crocodile Dundee references or mention the cricket. What we are going to do however, is look at how our Aussie friends produce whiskey.
The country’s first distillery recently celebrated it’s 30th birthday, after opening in 1992. The whiskey industry here, however, didn’t really take off for another decade. When we think of Australian alcoholic beverages, we think of beer, and to a lesser extent, red wine perhaps. It turns out, though, that they also know how to make a pretty epic whiskey.
Whereas we associate the rugged Scottish Highlands with Scotch, it’s Tasmania that is synonymous with whiskey production in Oz, where the majority of the country’s distilleries can be found. The whiskies here are often made with Australian barley and smoked peat, so they are not too dissimilar from Scotch whiskies enjoyed here.
One of the most popular Australian whiskies currently on the market is the award-winning Sullivan’s Cove Double Cask. With a scorched toffee colour, and notes of honey, mixed cherries, peat, oak smoke, vanilla, and salted caramel, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular.
Japan is probably the least-surprising country you’ll find on our list today, as they have been producing whisky for a number of years now, and have created a highly successful, very lucrative whisky industry in the country.
Japanese whiskies are now often spoken of in the same vein as Scotch, Irish whiskey and Bourbon. Japanese whisky is considered to be a trendy and fashionable option, but rest assured, there is plenty of substance as well as style.
Usually the whisky here is aged in rare Mizunara oak casks, after being aged in bourbon and/or ex-sherry casks. The whisky usually finishes its aging process in Mizunara oak, due to the fact that the wood is prone to leaking, though gives the whisky an amazing and unique character and body.
The Yamazaki 12-year-old for example, comes from the Suntory distillery – the oldest malt distillery in the country, and also its first. This pale amber nectar is elegant and smooth, with floral nutty notes, giving way to winter spices and sweet berries, with a touch of citrus to finish, that really lingers.
India is famous for many things, including some of the finest cuisine in the entire world (seriously, you tuck into an authentic lamb madras and rice and try and tell us it’s not amazing). It turns out, though, that as well as amazing food, they’re also pretty darn good at producing whisky.
India is actually one of the largest whisky-consuming nations on the planet, and when you have amazing tipples such as ‘Rampur Asava’ to sip on, you’ll know why that is.
The whisky produced here is almost like a rum, due to the fact that it is largely made from grain spirits, along with liquor distilled from molasses or sugar.
Rampur Asava for example, has a deep treacle colour, with plenty of juicy fruit notes, and a touch of spice. You’ll detect cloves and plums on the nose, before tasting raspberries, nutmeg, cinnamon, leather, oak, and cigar smoke to finish.
Another part of the world that produces delicious whisky, is none other than Taiwan.
Because of the warm, humid, tropical climate in Taiwan, that the barrels age in, the aging process is almost sped up, and can therefore be compared with Scotch whisky when it has finished aging.
There are however, less strict rules and regulations when it comes to the aging process, so you can expect all manner of weird and wonderful experiments going on. While there are some misses here, the majority of whiskies produced are massive hits, including the hugely popular Kavalan Sherry Oak.
This whisky uses Kavalan spring water to dilute it down to a warming 46% ABV.
With its stunning golden amber colour, you get notes of almond and mulled spices which give way to plum, vanilla, and sticky dates and cherries. The finish lingers and leaves you with a hint of dark chocolate.
Yes, we know that Mexico is famous for its delicious tequila and mezcal, but did you know that it also produces some pretty special whisky as well?
Sierra Norte is the primary producer of whisky in Mexico at the moment, but you can expect that to change soon, as the world continues to discover the hidden gem that is Mexican whisky.
Produced from a number of different varieties of corn, specifically Oaxacan corn, along with malted barley, in ratios of around 85% and 15% respectively, this is almost like a Scotch-Bourbon hybrid. It is then barrel aged, like you’d expect.
You can tell the variety of corn used depending on the label on the bottle. If the label is black, you can expect spicy, peppery, fruity notes, whereas yellow or white labels are usually sweeter.
Sierra Norte Black Corn whisky is aged in single French oak barrels and has a beautiful golden caramel colour. The label is white, so you can expect sweet cherry jam notes and aromas of ripe banana.
On the palate, you’ll taste more ripe bananas, salted popcorn, caramel, candied orange peel, and ripe plantain.
To finish, expect a lasting taste of marzipan, baked vanilla sponge, and a hint of toasted oak.