If your whisky knowledge only includes Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and the United States, we’ve got something to tell you: get used to the term “world whisky.” Whisky is now a world beverage and quality liquid is being both consumed and created in regions across the globe.
As whisky popularity has soared, intrepid whisky drinkers have learned from the greats in the industry and created new whisky regions that are produced quality spirits that are now being recognized for their quality around the world. You don’t have to get something from a holler in Kentucky or from the Highlands of Scotland for it to be considered high quality anymore.
Below, you’ll find some of the up-and-coming (or in the case of a few, established but still young) world whisky regions.
The wealth of Japanese whisky is well-known by now, so perhaps it should be included in the “traditional” regions, but it’s worth acknowledging it wasn’t always a whiskey-producing country. The Japanese have been making whisky since the 1920s, thanks to Masataka Taketsuru and Shinjiro Torii. There’s great whisky coming out of Japan, which was highlighted in 2015 when the Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 was named the best whisky in the world.
Known more for its wine and cognac (and even its beer), France isn’t among the first places one would think to look for whisky. With the American whiskey boom outside of Kentucky, there’s no reason whisky can’t be a core product of the French. Take Allison Parc’s Brenne. The single malt is aged in spent cognac barrels and brings with an incredibly unique, fruit-forward twist to it. It helps Parc was able to find a distillery partner that’s been producing spirts, largely cognac, on their property since the 1920s. While it’s inspired by Scotch, French whisky is undoubtedly its own category within world whisky.
Israel is quickly set itself up as a bastion of craft beverages in the Middle East. A number of distilleries have opened up in Israel, led by Milk & Honey in Tel Aviv, which expects its first batch of fully mature whisky to be available this year. Perhaps what will help Israel more than some other world whisky countries will be its dynamic geography in the small country. Like Scotland, the small nation has great variations and within a few hours. Distilleries can be making whisky heavily influenced by low and high altitudes and desert and seaside climates.
Like Japanese whisky, Taiwanese whisky is greatly influenced by the Scottish methods. The subtropic climate helps whisky age much faster in on the island than Scotland, but the whisky has been well blended to ensure a fruity and floral first note and in general drink largely like at the tropical fruit its surrounded by. Taiwanese whisky is still a relatively cheap alternative to the Japanese whiskies, but that probably won’t last long.
Tequila, mezcal, Sotol, Av ila, and numerous other agave-based spirits are still the hot spirits coming from south of the border, but even so there’s a healthy crop of heirloom corn in Mexico and rather than let it go to waste — and potentially extinct — some producers, like Sierra Norte, are set on making sure it gets used. The corns are different colors and as it turns out, the different colors all have their own flavors and it translates to the finished whisky. Mexico has some serious distillers and now the quality is spreading to whisky
India likes drinking whisky — nearly half the world’s whisky in fact! There’s a lot of people in the Asian nation, so that makes sense, but what we’ve discovered now is India is making a lot of its own whisky, too. The nation’s first modern single malt distillery was established in the 1980s and in 1992 John Distilleries, which makes Paul John whiskies made with barley from the foothills of the Himalayas. Like with Taiwanese whiskies, the Indian climate helps the whisky age quicker and the cola barley helps add its own twist to the whisky, just like all the other world whisky-producing countries.
While most of their producers are relatively small (compared to distilleries elsewhere), there are still a significant amount of distillers on the island continent producing both whisky and other spirits, numbering over 100. When it comes to whisky, the majority of Australia’s output is coming from the island of Tasmania, where there are currently over 30 active distilleries, with 17 of them being part of the Tasmanian Whisky Trail.