Japanese, Australian… Scandinavian whisky? And don’t forget Irish and American whiskey. Here are the new regions and styles of whisky, beyond Scotch, to have on your radar.
Purists might be dismissive of whisky that doesn’t hail from Scotland, which has been distilling the beloved spirit and bringing it to the world since 1494 (in 2018 it was estimated that 39 bottles are shipped every second from Scotland to other countries).
But, whisky production has also long been popular across the Atlantic, with the US even using American whiskey as currency during the American Revolution. While Scotland along with Ireland, US, Canada and Japan have been leading the way for whisky, they are now joined by the innovations and unique characteristics of what’s deemed “New World Whisky”.
This terminology doesn’t just apply to whiskies made outside the traditional hubs, given that these days, countries like India, Scandinavia and right here in Australia now produce quality whisky. The term is also used to describe any whisky made in a non-traditional style. Think: experimentation with flavour, ageing techniques and ingredients.
In newer whisky producing nations, which aren’t as hemmed in by the rigours of tradition as old world whisky countries, distillers are able to try new things, often with interesting results. This World Whisky Day, we look to the future of whisky.
Whisky distilling may be relatively new in Australia, but it is growing rapidly having seen a renaissance in Tasmania, which is often referred to as the home of Aussie whisky. As of 2020, we have 293 registered distilleries, with the majority of the whisky made here being single malt. A great example of the world-class standard brewing from our shores is Starward Two Fold Whisky, which is distilled in Victoria’s Port Melbourne. A double-grain whisky of wheat and malted barley, this is a smooth and versatile drop. Starward is leading the way in whisky innovation with its New World Projects limited edition bottles.
Another nation that loves to drink whisky and is also emerging as a whisky producer of note is India. In the past, Indian whiskies veered from tradition in using sugar for fermentation, but stricter regulations being put in place means premium whiskies, both single malts and blends, are being produced using local ingredients.
Meanwhile, Israel’s first whisky distillery, M&H, produces kosher whisky matured in ex-red wine and bourbon casks. Sweden is another New World location, where the Mackmyra distillery has teamed a single malt with sherry and Japanese green tea leaves for an unexpected flavour profile.
Japan is now considered a major player when it comes to whisky production. While it started out following the traditional Scotch style, they have created a reputation for their finely crafted blended malts. These days, some Japanese whisky makers are branching out into unique flavours by using native oak for single cask maturation, giving their whisky a subtle woodiness and full-bodied taste.
The UK isn’t being left behind when it comes to New World styles either. Oats or rye are now being used, instead of the classic malted barley. And location-specific grains (such as London rye and Norfolk peated single malt) are giving a pride-of-place stamp on local whiskies.