We’re living in the golden age of spirits. Never before have there been more bottles of booze vying for a parking space on your bar cart. We lean on the pros to help you build a bottle list from scratch.
Whiskey has gone global. No more are the days when scotch and bourbon rule the shelves at you local bottle shop. Today, you can find great whiskey from India, Taiwan and beyond. To get a snapshot of what’s essential in the world of world whiskey, we tabbed two experts for their home bar selections. The only caveat: Choose whiskey made in any country except the United States and Scotland.
Ofir Yudilevich is the director of Auckland, New Zealand's renowned whiskey bar The Jefferson, which boasts a collection of more than 600 bottles from across the globe. Colin Edie can be found at Copenhagen's Lidkoeb, a converted three-story house showcasing multiple bar spaces, including an upstairs whiskey lounge with a treasure trove of rare and hard-to-find expressions.
Spin the globe and see where your whiskey glass lands with this list of five must-have world whiskey bottles for your home bar.
Just as single malt is now a worldwide phenomenon, the use of peat has spread beyond Scotland's borders as well. “Amrut peated Indian single malt is a favorite for us,” says Yudilevich.
Historically, India was known for producing subpar whiskey, which often wasn't even whiskey but instead flavored neutral or cane spirit. Amrut, however, is one of several distilleries leading the charge for high-quality Indian whiskey that deserves its place on the world stage.
“India produces a large proportion of cheap whiskey for local consumption, but this single malt is carefully distilled and aged in fine oak barrels,” says Yudilevich. Drink it neat to best appreciate its character.
“The go-to for me is always Hibiki, and its entry level of Hibiki Japanese Harmony is a great blend featuring Yamazaki and Hakushu malts,” says Yudilevich. In addition to including malt whisky from both of its malt distilleries, the blend also incorporates grain whisky from Suntory's Chita distillery. Suntory's lineup, including Hibiki, has become increasingly hard to find, but thankfully Harmony is both readily available and affordable.
“It's a nice, smooth blend, a great story and a great bottle to showcase, with 24 sides to the bottle that represent the 24 seasons in Japan,” says Yudilevich. Try it on the rocks or deploy it in a sensational highball.
“The whiskey coming out of Taiwan is amazing,” says Edie. Kavalan has quickly risen to international acclaim thanks to a precise production process, major investment into stills and capacity, and a talented team. It helps that with its hot, humid environment whiskey maturation is supercharged, with three years in the barrel representing potentially decades of time in a locale such as Scotland or Ireland.
“Most of Kavalan’s whiskeys are great, but Solist Ex-Bourbon is probably my pick of the bunch,” says Edie. Try this cask-strength whiskey neat, before opening it up with a splash of water or cooling it down on the rocks, if desired.
With the recent stateside release of Nikka From the Barrel, American whiskey drinkers finally have their chance to get in on the fun with this longtime international favorite. Bottled at 51.4 percent, the blend incorporates more than 100 different batches of malt and grain whisky, which are then married together for up to six more months.
“It's a wonderful blend,” says Edie. “It’s one of the first Japanese whiskies I’ve tried and still one the best for its price.”
Nikka From the Barrel is particularly beloved by bartenders as a versatile choice for any number of craft creations. “It’s ever-present on our backbar,” says Edie.
While Ireland is far from a new whiskey locale, the past few years have seen a surge in interest, along with inventive high-quality new releases. Edie points to Dublin's Teeling and its single-grain Irish whiskey as his case in point.
“Teeling knocks out a few beauties, but I have particular love for this one,” says Edie. “It’s so versatile. Great for cocktails, sipping neat or just a simple highball, it has it all.” As a single grain, the whiskey delivers an expected dose of creaminess but then shows unique fruit-forward character thanks to its maturation process, entirely in Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon casks.