Expand Your Horizons With 7 Great Bottles of “New World Whisky”
Spirits hailing from places like Australia, India and Sweden are bringing unique local elements to whiskeymaking
So what is “New World Whisky,” and how can we discover the best of the what the new world has to offer? As outlined by Distill Ventures — a Diageo-funded but independently-run drinks accelerator — New World Whisky is “whisky makers from outside of the traditional whisky-producing countries,” which pretty much means brown spirits produced anywhere but Scotland, Ireland, Canada, the USA or Japan.
It gets a little confusing, because the definition also encompasses non-traditional whisky styles in countries that are known for whisk(e)y production, so the category could also include American Single Malts or Scottish rye.
There’s a lot to take in the from a New World Whisky report that came out earlier this fall, but the key takeaway is that countries that you wouldn’t associate with whisky are actually gaining a foothold in the spirits world. Tipples from Australia, India and parts of Europe have seen massive global growth on e-commerce sites like Masters of Malt by simply not copying what whisky leaders do, and instead blazing their own paths.
While New World producers have learned from the whisky industry’s pioneers, without their own local traditions they are free to focus on creativity and defining their own segments.— The New World of New World Whisky, Distill Ventures
Below, we offer up some favorites from these “New World” offerings, along with a bit of perspective about the countries they hail from and notes from Distill’s recent report. Note: Some of these whiskies are financially backed by Distill Ventures, while others are not; we chose them all purely on their own merits.
Australia: Starward Whisky
“Although Australia and New Zealand are home to dozens of whisky distilleries, only a handful have started selling outside their local market,” Distill Ventures notes. But with sales from Oz up a whopping 104% on Masters of Malt, those distilleries that want to venture outside their homeland could find quite a welcoming. We’re particularly partial to Starward Whisky, a single malt hailing from Melbourne that cleverly utilizes the city’s “four seasons in a day” climate while aging and maturing its spirits in wine barrels borrowed from local vineyards known for their vibrant, “big red” vinos.
While the “whisky” label in India has met with some issues in the past — in the cheap brands, sugar can be used in fermentation, and neutral spirits and flavorings are allowed — long-running distilleries like Amrut have released single malts that are now produced to the Scottish Whisky Association’s strict regulations, as The Drinks Business notes.
Italy: Puni Italian Malt Whisky
Not specifically called out in the Distill Ventures report, Italy may gain some traction with the just-launched Puni, the first and only Italian malt whisky in the world. Crafted from a unique mashbill of barley, wheat and locally grown rye, the initial four releases showcase a young spirit that takes on incredible depth thanks to some unique barrel maturation. A standout: Puni Alba (Italian for “dawn” and Scottish Gaelic for “Scotland”), which is matured in Sicilian Marsala casks and finished in ex-Islay barrels. It’s a fruity/peaty wonder.
A just-launched whisky distilled from non-GMO Cacahuazintle corn, which undergoes a roughly 4,000-year-old process called nixtamalization, wherein the corn is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, washed and then hulled. It’s the same process used before corn is ground into masa and made into tortillas or other Mexican staples. It offers a bright flavor with hints of vanilla rounded out by a creamy mouthfeel. Had you called this a roasted corn liqueur, I’d have believed it.
Launched in 2014 with the help of the late Dr. Jim Swan, Cotswolds employs long fermentations, unusual yeast strains, local barley and, in their core release, maturation in both first-fill ex-bourbon barrels and reconditioned red wine casks. Honey, fruit and butterscotch dominate this wonderful, deceptively youthful sipper. And a cask strength release aged exclusively shaved, toasted and re-charred American oak red wine barriques offers an fruity intensity that could entice wine drinkers.
As Distill notes, producers in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark are “distilling organic local grains [and] harnessing the sub- zero climate” to create unique whisky styles, from single malt made with glacial water (Aurora Spirits) to 100% rye (Kyrö). One to watch, according to The Impossible Collection of Whisky author Clay Risen, is Mackmyra, from Sweden … which is what happens when you combine elements like sweet Swedish barley, extremely pure local water and harsh Swedish oak.
Israel: M&H Distillery
Israel’s first whisky distillery (M&H stands for Milk & Honey) is a kosher release, meaning all the raw materials and ingredients (barley, yeast, casks) are certified, and they don’t work on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.
Before launch, the distillery also received some guidance from the late Dr. Jim Swan. The country’s hot climate has helped the liquid mature rapidly; aged in ex-bourbon and special red-wine STR cask, the result is a wonderfully bright single malt.
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