When most people think about whiskey, the usual suspects come to mind: Kentucky, Scotland, Ireland, and maybe Canada. But as the popularity of the brown stuff has exploded, new distilleries and non-distilling producers have sprung up across the world, some in places not traditionally known for their whiskey. Some of these distilleries closely follow tradition, while others put their own spin on the long and rich history of brown spirits. Here is some of the best whiskey (or “whisky,” outside of the U.S. and Ireland) to be distilled in unexpected places around the globe.
Nomad Outland Whisky – Spain
The Spanish-Scottish whisky connection is nothing new, as many single malts are matured in Spanish ex-sherry casks imported into Scotland. The twist here is that Nomad Outland, a blend of 30 different five to eight-year-old Scottish malt and grain whiskies from the Speyside region, is shipped to Spain where it’s aged for an additional year in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks in the Gonzalez Byass cellar. The result is a beautiful, golden brown and heavily sherry-touched scotch with no trace of smoke, a well-rounded and easy sipping whisky.
Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky – South Africa
This whisky from Wellington, South Africa has only been available in the United States for a few months now, and it’s a welcome addition to the family. Bain’s is made from 100 percent South African yellow maize (corn, to us Yanks), giving it a sweet palate that falls somewhere closer to Irish whiskey than American bourbon. It’s aged in first-fill bourbon casks for up to three years, then transferred to new first-fill casks for another 18 to 30 months, allowing a fresh batch of flavor and color to infuse the whisky.
High West Distillery – Utah
Utah was a dry state for a long, long time. From 1870 to 2007, there were no operating distilleries within its borders, until Park City’s High West came along. High West is a non-distilling producer, which means it sources its aged whiskey as opposed to distilling it. It is currently distilling rye and malt-based whiskey on the premises, however, some of which is available as un-aged white whiskey, and some of which is currently sitting in barrels. As far as blending and selecting whiskey, High West is an expert. The distillery’s many ryes should not be missed, including the brand-new Yippee Ki-Yay, which is the Double Rye expression finished in various wine casks. Try this one in a Manhattan; it pairs very well with sweet vermouth.
Floki Whisky – Iceland
Iceland is better known for Northern Lights, Bjork, and a bracing herbal liqueur called Brennivin than it is for whiskey, but the Eimverk Distillery has set out to change that. Floki is a “young malt” made from 100 percent organic Icelandic barley grown above the Arctic Circle, aged for 12 to 18 months. For Americans, it’s not easy to get – outside of a few European markets or the state-run Icelandic liquor stores, your best chance is to visit the duty free shop at the Keflavik Airport outside of Reykjavik. The distillery plans to release an older version of the whisky, Floki Single Malt, by 2017 – it’s currently aging in second fill oak casks. Also coming later this year is a smoky version of the Floki Young Malt that gets its flavor by burning sheep dung instead of peat.
Sullivan’s Cove Whisky - Tasmania
Tasmania was an unexpected choice for whiskey production just because, well… when’s the last time you even thought about Tasmania? But start thinking long and hard, because this isolated island, located off of Australia’s south coast, has had distilleries in operation as far back as the early 1800s. Like so many other places where drinking was demonized, Tasmania suffered through its own prohibition for a century and a half. Sullivan’s Cove opened its doors in 1994, and has churned out many award-winning single malts. Today, you can find American Oak, Double Cask, and French Oak expressions, some of which, like the American Oak Cask HH0047, are almost completely gone – not even the angels will be left a share.