As we approach 18th Sept 2014, the debate rages on throughout Scotland and the UK about whether or not the Scots should vote for Scottish independence. For whisky drinkers, this mirrors one question that has often considered too: do I stick to just scotch whisky or not?
The answer is that only you can really decide. But! It would not be right (almost rude, in fact) to rule out other whiskies without trying them first, so here’s a potted geographical tour of the big names that the non-scotch world has to offer:
Irish whiskey is known to have a long and vibrant history, similar to the Scots. In fact it seems that no trip to the Eire capital, Dublin, is complete without a trip to the Jameson’s distillery (or the Guinness factory for that matter). Jameson’s is a regular favourite amongst most pubs and bars and, due to its kudos and mass production, is now readily available in most shops and supermarkets and stands proud as the flagship Irish dram. Similarly, Bushmills from Northern Ireland is increasingly adorning the shelves and optics of local public houses and offer a triple distilled blend and a 10 year old single malt as their entry level drams, which could prove to be your tipple of choice. Bushmills also lays claim to be being the oldest Irish whiskey with its history hailing back to 1608!
Across the pond, the US is renowned for its sipping whiskey and bourbons. The big marketing powerhouses of Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam are always competing heavily against one another for your money (e.g. Jim Beam’s recent claim of making history with Mila Kunis battles with the annual claim of September as Jack Daniel’s birth-month) and both have their strengths and weaknesses, but always get the job done with their charcoal-rich hearty measures, whether neat or with a mixer.
Moving across the Pacific to Japan, you come back to predominantly premier single malts, and there is none bigger than the Yamazaki, within the Suntory whisky family. The Yamazaki is certainly harder to find in pubs here in the UK and you generally have to seek it out in some of the more upmarket bars, mainly due to the price and prestige that the brand associates. That said, it is still a fine dram and their staple Yamazaki 10 is a good place as any to start exploring whether or not Japanese whisky is for you. In 2014 they have also released their “Distiller’s Reserve” within their core range which cleverly demonstrates their use of different casks (including their signature Misanura oak), and has been made widely available via supermarket deals within the UK.
Further south, Australia’s mark on the whisky world is gaining considerable pace, including the 2014 World Whisky Award winning dram hailing from Tasmania, courtesy of Sullivan’s Cove.
Travelling from east to west, we come across India’s largest offering to the industry via the Amrut company whose expressions come very highly rated by whisky guru, Jim Murray. (As too are the John Distilleries expressions from Goa, India). Amrut have progressively built up a varied back catalogue of whiskies including peated and unpeated versions of their product and even a fusion of the two, with their core range demonstrating a great spectrum of complex and rich drams.
Traversing back into Europe, the last two decades or so has seen an explosion in different countries making their names known within the whisky community, with Sweden’s Mackmyra, Holland’s Zuidam, Denmark’s Stauning and France’s Warengham distilleries representing their respective nation’s biggest fare. To the casual drinker however, the largest problem with these (relative) newcomers though is that they are scarcely available in public within the UK and often need to be bought especially from merchants or at whisky-specialist bars.
Coming back full circle into the UK then, the last 10-20 years has also seen a similar emergence of new players in the market with Penderyn offering celtic magic via their single malt from Wales, as well as the eponymous English Whisky Company and Adnams single malts, both based in Norfolk, getting their patriotic labels on the shelves. What this goes to show is that whilst it may have all started in Scotland, the variety and choice of whiskies available is getting larger and larger and whether you become a scotch purist or a multinational dabbler, the whisky world is your oyster. M