From Israel and India to Ireland and Italy, and plenty of other countries around the world that don’t begin with the letter “I,” world whisk(e)y offerings—that is, whiskeys from places outside the usual suspects of Scotland and Kentucky—continue to expand.
Whiskey-makers are tuning into every aspect of the liquid, often in unique ways. Some, like West Cork Distillers, focus on provenance. West Cork makes clear that it’s 100% Irish-owned and uses only Irish ingredients, starting with the grains used to make the mash. Meanwhile, Israel’s Milk & Honey emphasizes how its distillate ages. While whiskey in many locales takes many years to age to optimum conditions, M&H notes that Tel Aviv’s high temperature and Mediterranean climate can mean a faster aging time.
And many others are thinking about interesting barrel finishes that reflect local flavors in some way. This ranges from Blacks of Kinsale stout, used to give West Cork’s new offering chocolate and coffee tones, to marsala, an Italian fortified wine that adds toasty warmth to two new Italian malts.
In addition to everyday drams, these world whiskeys also include some luxury and limited editions, including two from Ireland. One is a 15-year-old single malt (Egan’s Legacy Reserve III), and the other a rare and remarkable 28-year-old (Bushmills 28 Year Single Malt Cognac Cask). The variety is so vast across the category, one might say it’s practically a universe of world whiskey.
Canada’s Black Velvet whisky released this apple-flavored variation in February 2021 as part of a growing range of flavored whiskies for the brand. The producer describes the newcomer as smooth and balanced, “with a burst of tart, green apple followed by a bright, crisp finish.”
Venerable Irish whiskey maker Bushmills kicked off what will be an annual release of old and rare bottlings to be released in small quantities within the U.S. with this bottle. The debut offering for the Rare Casks series features a Bushmills single malt that rested in ex-bourbon and sherry barrels for 11 years, plus another 17 years of maturation in cognac casks.
This is an Irish single malt aged for 17 years in American bourbon casks and finished in casks that previously held Cadillac, a sweet white wine from France, issued in a special limited edition of 1,000 bottles worldwide. Each bottle is hand-selected by Jonathan and Maurice Egan, descendants of Henry and Patrick Egan, who began the brand six generations ago. The producer describes the flavor profile as honeyed and buttery, with baked peach, pear and apricot tones.
Billed as Israel’s first whiskey distillery, Tel Aviv’s Milk & Honey released its first single malt offering in August 2020. Leveraging high temperatures and humidity, the whiskey ages more quickly than whiskeys produced in colder climates. In addition, the Classic Single Malt is matured in ex-bourbon and ex-red-wine casks, creating what the producer describes as notes of vanilla, oak and black pepper.
This quartet of Italian whiskeys, released in October 2020, includes the Gold, matured in ex-bourbon casks; Alba (Italian for “dawn”), matured in Sicilian marsala casks and finished in ex-Islay-scotch barrels; Vina, the first in a range of limited edition wine-cask-matured whiskeys, aged in ex-marsala casks; and Sole, finished for two years in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. Although Puni has been making whiskey for 10 years, this represents the producer’s debut in the U.S.
Rampur Double Cask Indian Single Malt (India, $90)
From a distillery located in the foothills of the Himalayas, this single malt is matured in bourbon barrels for two-thirds of its life and the other one-third in oloroso sherry casks. The producer describes the whiskey as robust, mingling rich caramel, dark dried fruit and spice.
From Japan’s Nikka, this is a blend of 100% malt whiskies released in November 2020 and named for Nikka’s founder, Masataka Taketsuru. The blend incorporates whisky made from the Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries, both founded by Taketsuru. Look for robust smoky notes enhanced by finishing in ex-sherry casks.
West Cork Stout Cask (Ireland, $32)
This four-year-old blended whiskey from West Cork Distillers was finished an additional six months in casks that held Ireland’s Blacks of Kinsale stout and issued in a special limited release of just 9,400 bottles. West Cork emphasizes that it’s 100% Irish-owned and uses only Irish ingredients, in this case Irish malted barley and wheat. According to the producer, the end result melds dark chocolate, coffee and vanilla tones, plus aromas that suggest raisins and cracked nuts.