While the US and Scotland get most of the press for their respective whisk(e)y selections, so many other countries are making wonderful spirits from grain. Of course, Ireland, Canada and Japan have been producing fine whiskies for some time now, with new distilleries continuing to pop up at a staggering pace. Still, it is exciting to see new areas getting the spotlight.
As we’ve discussed previously, there’s a growing European whisky contingency, particularly in Western Europe with France, Italy, Wales and England joining in the fun. Nordic countries are also creating exciting and strange (sheep dung smoked whisky, anyone?) examples that we can’t wait to try.
Looking elsewhere on the globe, Australia, India, and Taiwan have focused on single malt whiskies and availability is growing steadily—as are prices, unfortunately. But there are still values to be had, so fear not!
This world whisky gift guide will be a mix of releases from 2018, along with some old favorites. While we’ve tried to include products with wide availability, some picks may require you to put your passport (or international shopping skills) to work. Drinking your way around the world has never been better—or tastier.
Released early this year, this single malt from Glendalough puts a Japanese spin on an Irish offering. The whiskey is aged initially in ex-bourbon barrels for 13 years. It finishes its maturation in Japanese Mizunara oak barrels. This marks the first time an Irish whiskey has matured in Japanese oak. Definitely one to seek out! SRP $125
Released in March 2018, this single malt bottling aged for 15 years in American oak ex-bourbon barrels. It then finished its maturation in former Madeira wine casks, a fortified wine produced in the Madeira Islands off the coast of Portugal. This single malt is double-distilled rather than triple-distilled as is more traditional in Irish whiskey production. Expect dried fruits, floral notes and vanilla. SRP $100.
Not only is this the first single malt from the Cotswolds Distillery, it is the first one from the Cotswolds area in south central England. It is made from 100% floor-malted barley, which also hails from the Cotswolds—the variety and farm is listed on the label. The whisky is distilled in a pair of pot-stills named Mary and Janis. It aged for just over three years in first-fill Kentucky ex-bourbon barrels and reconditioned American oak red wine barrels which have been shaved, toasted and re-charred. It’s a lovely whisky with toasted cereal, honey and nuts. ~$55.
While there is a history of distilling in Wales, there had been over a hundred year lag until September 2000 when the first distillate at Penderyn was produced. This whisky is a single malt that, due to the unusual shape of the copper pot still, is only distilled once to an usually high 92%. The whisky is aged in ex-bourbon and finished in a Madeira wine cask. ~$70.
Dálvve Sherry Influence is a single malt produced by Sweden’s High Coast Distillery (formerly known as Box Distillery). The whisky aged in both sherry and bourbon barrels, hence the name. There’s also peated whisky in the release which makes up almost 15% of the bottle. Around 15,000 bottles have been produced, and about 1,500 of these will be exported to the US. This will be High Coast’s first release in the United States. Price TBA.
This selection was released as part of the 2018 Northern Borders Collection, and we were hard pressed to choose just one from that series. In the end, we decided to go with this cask strength offering. Selected by Dr Don Livermore, this 11 year-old Canadian whisky was made from 100% rye which aged in new oak barrels. With loads of spice, leather, and raw power, this Lot No. 40 release is sure to please rye fans. SRP $80.
Unity is Forty Creek’s 12th annual limited edition whisky. For this release, the brand held a contest where five fans visited the distillery to select Unity’s final blend. The base of the winning whisky was further aged with the addition of high mocha staves—a particular type of toasted American white oak stave. Additionally, it was blended with 10-year-old corn whisky and a splash of rare fortified Portuguese-style wine that spent 15 years in previously used Forty Creek Whisky barrels. SRP $75.
Distilled in Melbourne, Starward Nova is a single malt made from 100% Australian malted barley. Nova fully matures in uncharred wine barrels which held Australian wines such as shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. Aged for 2 years, it is bottled at 82 proof. ~$55.
Although Arabian Sea breezes temper the subtropical climate, whisky matures quickly in Goa, India. Six-row barley from northern India tastes grassier and less nutty than European and North American varieties and Paul John Edited showcases these attributes. Edited is moderately peated and non-chill filtered. ~$60.
This release from Kavalan is the first single malt from the brand to be created for mixing cocktails. Crafted by master blender, Ian Chang, the whisky is matured “in select malt neutral casks” to showcase the characteristics of the Taiwanese climate without too much wood influence. Bottled at 86 proof, it was released in the US in September 2018. SRP $60.
First introduced in Japan in 1986, this blended release from Nikka hit American shores this past summer. The iconic square bottle remains, but it increases in size from 500ml to 750ml for the US. Made from a blend of over 100 malt and grain whiskies distilled at the brand’s Miyagikyo and Yoichi distilleries, the whisky bares no age-statement. However, it matures in multiple types of ex-bourbon barrels and puncheons; ex-sherry butts; and refilled, recharred and remade hogsheads. The blend then marries for up to an additional six months before it is bottled at 51.4% ABV. SRP $65.
Inspired by a traditional kimono pattern, the bottle is embellished with the tabane-noshi, a traditional Japanese symbol of celebration that has often adorned precious gifts since ancient times. The whisky inside the bottle will still be the standard Hibiki Japanese Harmony. Created to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Suntory Whisky Hibiki brand, this limited edition bottle was released in October 2018 to the US. It carries a suggested retail price of $100 per 750ml bottle.