There are a half-dozen countries in the world that should get their own best-of whisky list this year — including Scotland, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Canada and India. And several other countries, which may not be traditionally thought of as whisky strongholds, released more than one great expression this year.
So don’t take this heavily truncated list of 12 best whiskies from around the world to mean that other countries outside of the United States weren’t up to par in 2022.
These are outstanding bottles, but some are admittedly hard to find domestically. Which is why you should do what I’m doing — typing this as I fly to Ireland for a 10-day whisky-soaked sojourn (if you really want a best-of in that category, we have 40 bottles to choose from). Until that happens, however, consider this a tasting menu of the world’s best whiskey outside of our borders.
What happens when you craft a whisky at the lowest (and one of the hottest) places on Earth? The Israeli distillery M&H was aged in the Dead Sea area, resulting in notes ranging from spearmint to black tea leaves to candied ginger notes, with a dry, smoky, tobacco undertone.
Most Ardbeg is only fermented for 72 hours. But this 13-year-old Islay expression underwent a three-week fermentation (due to a boiler accident), resulting in a still-peaty single malt that’s also wonderfully fruity and malty (“smoky jammy biscuit” was my professional tasting note).
The first Limited Edition of 2022 from these Scotch whisky mavericks was (as they note) “inspired by the experience, emotion, and aroma of old bookshops.” We tried it, and yep, it does fit that profile — a bit leathery, but also fruity, smoky and great for those who like Sherry-matured whisky (and if you have many leather-bound books). It’s a combination of rare, Sherry-matured blends with malt whiskies from the Highland Park and Macallan distilleries (both 23 years or older), together with a small amount of old whisky from the Caol Ila Distillery.
This Speyside distillery only released 168 bottles of this 36-year-old single malt — but it’s worth hunting down. You’ll get a lot of tropical fruit, oak, almonds and vanilla with the liquid. If you like older Scotch that’s spent its life in sherry-seasoned casks, this is an ideal sipper.
A new 101-proof limited release from the Irish whiskey brand’s new American Oak Series, the whiskey here is matured in American Oak bourbon barrels and Spanish Oloroso sherry butts, before being finished for a period of 3-7 months in naturally air-dried PEFC-certified American Oak 1 sourced from the Taylor Family’s Elk Cave Farm in Kentucky. The combo certainly enhances the wood and vanilla notes, while the hints of dark fruit, nutmeg and cinnamon still wonderfully linger. An ideal Irish pick for the American whiskey drinker.
A limited-edition release from our favorite Australian distillery — here, their single malt is aged in Yalumba’s The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz barrels. The wine and dark fruit notes here are powerful, and there’s a nice hint of salinity.
These century-old, family-owned whisky creators match their own casks with spirits from 100 Scottish distilleries, creating unique or one-of-a-kind bottlings. This one is the last cask laid down in the 1940s from Milton Distillery (today known as Strathisla). The 72-year-old expression (!) was matured in a first-fill Sherry puncheon, and if you have a spare $65,000, you might be able to pick up one of the 180 bottles. Heavy tobacco on the nose, plus notes of pear, lemon, apple nutmeg. From the two sips we were able to have, this is sublime.
The core release from Sliabh Liag Distillers was a previous Ultimate Spirits Challenge winner for best blended Irish whiskey. Midnight is a tripled distilled peated single malt, matured in an array of casks (sherry, bourbon, oloroso, red wine, virgin oak and imperial stout). Here, orange zest, tobacco, dried fruits, baking spices and a very creamy and lush mouthfeel combine together for an ideal winter sipper.
The second edition of the annual Smoke Season expression (52.8% ABV) is crafted with Highland peat and matured in first-fill bourbon barrels combined with a high proportion of charred and toasted American virgin oak casks. It’s creamy, fruity and peaty, with hints of caramel.
The first Indian whisky to be produced in three different wooden barrels: Ex-bourbon, French red wine and PX Sherry casks. At 46% ABV, this single malt, made from indigenous six-row barley grown for hundreds of years in Rajasthan, takes on elements of each barrel and offers up tropical, pineapple and raisin notes.
This annual release from Bruichladdich found a standout close to home. Aged in a combination of first-fill American Oak whisky and second-fill European oak casks, 13.3 is crafted from 100% Islay barley and comes in at a whopping 129.3 PPM and 61.1% ABV. It was distilled from the 2015 harvest of Octomore Farm Concerto barley and later undergoes two cask different cask maturations. The mouthfeel here is creamy and everything feels a bit bolder than the other 13 releases — the maltiness, the overripe fruit, the dry finish, the minerality. Meanwhile, the peat is certainly present but not overpowering.
This Best Single Pot Still winner at the 2022 World Whiskies Awards is 50% malted barley and 50% unmalted barley and comes in at 50% ABV. There’s a coffee flavor and a definite earthiness here, with lots of wood spice, ginger and dark chocolate; a drop or two of water opens it up to a gingerbread note. Fantastic and unique.
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