This is a fascinating time for whisky enthusiasts. Gone are the days when the entire world of whisky would be broken up into what the folks in Scotland made or what the Americans drank. In fact, even in Scotland and America, people are choosing rebellious artisanal brands over well-known commercial labels. Malt lovers are wandering off the beaten path to explore the more exotic and the unknown. And they haven’t been disappointed. Stellar quality whisky is currently being produced across the world from Japanese brands that have taken the world by storm ever since the Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 won the title of ‘World’s Best Whisky 2015’, granting it a cult status; to its neighbour, Taiwan, who has introduced Kavalan, an instant favourite amongst collectors since its launch in 2008. India too has had its own tryst with whisky. Some distilleries have gone and done what would have been considered impossible—making single malts that are truly world-class using local ingredients. And then there is Australia’s island state of Tasmania where several distilleries have started creating magic, taking advantage of the gifts given to them by nature. A word of advice to venture capitalists looking to invest, put your money here. As for whisky lovers, they can now explore this sacred water of life from different parts of the world just like wine connoisseurs have been doing for decades. I, for one, am eager to see what we discover on this journey. Here are some labels that have caught my attention in the last year or so from my travels around the world.
The Quiet Man 8 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey, Ireland Recently launched in India, this coveted bottle is for the collection. It offers sweet and crisp floral fragrances with notes of vanilla and oak. On the palate, it leaves a hint of honey, warm vanilla and spicy oak, and ends with a smooth finish.
Woodford Reserve, USA Woodford Reserve is a Kentucky Straight Malt Whiskey crafted from 51 percent malt. It is aged in charred oak barrels, which lends it a rich flavour and amplifies its nutty characteristics found in the original Woodford Reserve.
Amrut Rye Single Malt, India
Amrut Rye Single Malt is the first Indian whisky to be elaborated exclusively with European rye. With this, Amrut has become one of the few distilleries to be producing with rye. Aged for five years in American oak casks, this is a fruity and delicate dram. On the nose, it is white peach, caramel, roses, bread dough and cassia buds, while on the palate, it leaves notes of cherry, papaya, sauerbraten, cocoa, lemon and caramel bite candies. The finish is refreshing with subtle flavours of lemon, melon, dry sand, quince, honey, wood shavings and lime.
Kavalan Soloist, Taiwan
Owned by King Car Group and named after the indigenous group that inhabited the region, Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon Single Cask Strength is a delightfully complex, multidimensional single malt whisky with vanilla, fruit and coconut highlights. Matured in hand-selected fresh American ex-Bourbon casks, the whisky is available at cask strength. Unlike some distillers, Kavalan does not control the climate during maturation and adds no colouring for consistency, which leads to greater evaporation, giving a lower yield and making the final product even more valuable.
The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old – Scotland
A personal favourite, this 14-year-old single malt is matured in traditional oak casks for 14 years, and then ‘finished’ in barrels that previously held Caribbean rum. Rich, sweet and creamy toffee on the nose combines with fresh fruit notes. On the palate, the malt is rounded with vanilla and sweet oak essence with a fruity character that develops with time.
Yamazaki 18 Years Old, Japan
The award-winning Japanese single malt features a rich flavour of mature autumn fruit. The nose has raisin, apricot, café au lait, Mizunara (Japanese oak) with blackberry, strawberry jam and dark chocolate. The finish is long, spicy and smooth. We suggest you savour this exquisite elixir by itself, either neat, or with a splash of water or ice.
Lark Single Malt Whisky Classic Cask, Australia
Celebrating the distillery’s use of quarter sized casks, this complex tipple is distilled with Tasmanian (Franklin) barley and malted at the Cascade Brewery. The lightly-peated brew resembles a Scottish Speyside or Highland whisky in flavour. It is double distilled in locally-crafted copper-pot stills and aged in small, 100-litre oak casks. The spirit is matured for five to eight years in these small barrels, which have a much larger surface area-to volume of liquid. This allows a faster rate of evaporative losses and a considerably shorter maturation period than that required by the larger barrels commonly used in Scotland.
Rampur Vintage Select Casks, India
Distilled in traditional copper pot stills, Rampur is a non-chill filtered single malt, refined and matured in the foothills of the Himalayas. It features rich fruity top notes, which are toffeeflavoured in the background with hints of honey, dried fruits and balanced spices. This handcrafted potion offers an all round balanced taste with malty and creamy vanilla. Shining in all its glory in beautiful golden amber, Rampur will leave your taste buds with a rich and long finish.
Longmorn 16 Year Old, Scotland
The master distillers have used the perfect balance of first, second and third fill ex American oak and ex-sherry casks aged 16 years or more to infuse this premium malt with natural ingredients, including local spring water, barley from Moray and peat from nearby sources. It is fresh and green on the nose with notes of ripe pears and sweet vanilla, as well as hints of creamy chocolate. On the palate, the whisky is rich and compact thanks to the high level of tannins that develop with a vinous character and spice.