Around the world in 8+ whiskies

To celebrate World Whiskey Day, we have pulled together some interesting facts about one of the world's most revered exports, along with notable tipples to sample and savour your way around the world!

Did you know...

  • There are five steps to the process: malting, mashing, fermenting, distilling and maturing.
  • Whiskey is typically made using fermented grain mash, which can come from barley, rye, wheat, corn, or even molasses which Indian producers favour.
  • Good things take time. Whisky is aged in barrels for up to three years in Scotland
  • The cask is believed to give the spirit a lot of its golden hue and much of the flavour will depend on what was stored in the cask previously.
  • Once bottled, it doesn't mature and get better with age, so there's no need to save it for a rainy day! 
  • Many distilleries will store casks of whiskey belonging to other brands as an 'insurance' to protecting their stock if a catastrophe should occur - now that's forward planning and necessary for what is considered a lucrative asset!

To 'e' or not to 'e'?

That is the question! In Scotland and Japan, it's spelled whisky, while in the US or Ireland it's whiskey. That said some US producers also use it interchangeably, so the mystery continues! Regardless of your method of spelling it, it reportedly translates in Gaelic as 'water of life'.

Introducing the top ten whisky producers...

We were quite surprised by some of the shortlist here, but here it goes. Read on for some interesting facts about whiskey production, and some tipples you may want to try on your Just You travels...

1. Scotland

Scotland reigns supreme as the number one producer of Scotch whisky and it has been distilling here since 1494! While the main distilleries are located in the Isle of Islay and on Speyside, there are others throughout the country. You could spend a lot of time here sipping on the liquid gold... but here's some places and varieties to try as part of the Edinburgh Short Break. 

Where to go: If you're planning on sticking around for a while after your tour, we recommend booking The Scotch Whisky Experience at the top of the Royal Mile. They offer a number of different experiences to choose from, including Tasting Tales which offers a food and drink pairing experience, plus there's options for first-timers and true whisky lovers alike.

If you don't have much time to stick around, pick up a bottle or two to take home from Royal Mile Whiskies - a specialist whisky merchant selling a variety of rare whiskies and exclusive batches.

What to try: Local options to Edinburgh include the Holyrood Distillery Single Malt Whisky - with hints of smoke, plus citrus and caramel aromas, plus flavours of honey and hazelnuts, it's a very pleasing drink encounter. Interestingly the label features images of St Leonard - the patron saint of barrel makers - very apt! Holyrood is the city's only producer of the single malt, in addition to an award-winning selection of gins. 

2. USA

There were a lot of things born in the USA, including a sumptuous variety of bourbon whisky!

The American editions must be distilled in oak casks in order to achieve a strong vanilla flavour and they need to contain at least 51% grain. Six types are manufactured in the US: rye, rye malt, wheat, corn, bourbon and Tennessee. With the most famous brands including Jim Beam, Maker's Mark and Jack Daniels, you have a good pick of whisky.

Where to go: The Jack Daniels Restaurant at the Gaylord Opryland Resort is right next door to the Grand Ole Opry. It's the world's only JD restaurant so make sure you stop by during the Nashville leg of the America's Music Heritage Tour, a great opportunity to enjoy some good old southern dining as well as a little bourbon to accompany your meal!

What to try: Word of warning: the drinks menu is very enticing with a range of JD-infused cocktails including the maple and orange infused Rickyard Old Fashioned, or you might settle on a flight, with four varieties to choose from, we would opt for the Bonded Flight (a high-quality but great value option with strong flavours). 

3. Japan

Japanese whisky gained more commercial recognition from 1923 with the emergence of the Suntory distillery which produces Yamazaki whisky. Suntory is Japan's first and oldest malt distillery, and they produce a range of single malt, blended and blended malt. Whisky is the country's biggest alcohol export at over 56 billion yen, surprisingly outpacing Sake which exports at over 47 billion yen. 

Where to go: During your free time in Kyoto as part of the Japan Revealed Tour, it's worth visiting a rooftop bar to make the most of the views, as well as the whisky menu. Touzan and Bar Kohaku are both renowned for their selections of local, high-quality whiskies. 

What to try: Yamazaki whisky is praised by connoisseurs for its multi-layered taste and this famous malt is made with the spring water of the Yamazaki River (the riverside is one of the best spots for seeing Cherry Blossom in bloom too). With a considerable range of limited edition batches and anniversary collections, it's a tough choice selecting just one to sample. We recommend sticking with tradition and going for an original recipe, best enjoyed on the rocks so you can appreciate the depth of flavours.

Also look out for Nikka from the Barrel - a blended whisky using more than 100 batches of malt and grain whiskies, creating a complex blend which is rich and full on flavour. 

4. Canada

Following Canadian law, whisky must be aged in oak casks for at least three years for it to be officially designated as whisky. Corn with small amounts of rye is the most popular combination and today Canada is quite the powerhouse. At one point in time Gooderham and Worts in Toronto was the world's largest distillery in the 1860s.

British Columbia is blessed with a third of all distilleries in Canada, with Vancouver being the cradle of whisky production which means you're in luck! With two days at leisure in Vancouver as part of Canada and the Rocky Mountaineer, you'll be able to delve into Canada's whisky heritage. 

Where to go: Odd Society Spirits produces small batches of craft whisky, vodka and gin which combines traditional techniques with modern ingredients which sounds like the perfect combination to us. Visit the warm and welcoming lounge for a cocktail or flight of spirits while the floor to ceiling windows to the distillery allow you that fishbowl view into how your drink made its way from grain to glass. And while you're aboard the Rocky Mountaineer, ask your host for their Canadian whisky collection so you can sip and savour while on the move.

What to try: A little bit of a curveball from tradition, Mongrel by official standards cannot be classified as a whisky but we think it's still worth a try! The clear spirit goes straight from the still to the bottle, hence it missing that traditional brown colouring. Hailed by Odd Society as naked, raw and pure, this hardy whisky is 100 proof and so perfect for harsh Canadian winters. There are quite a few high proof options in Canada so always make sure you read the label!

5. Ireland

Established way back in the 12th century, Irish whiskey is very much the birthplace of the spirit. What sets it apart from other varieties is that it is distilled three times, resulting in a smoother taste versus counterparts such as Scotch which has a smokier flavour.

Where to go: The renowned Jamesons Distillery in Dublin gets our vote. Enjoy a tour, cocktail making class, a premium whiskey tasting session and even a class on how to blend your own. With the original recipe created by John Jameson in 1780, the recipe has remained the same to this day. 

What to try: An Irish Coffee with a drop of Jamesons of course - and here's a perfect recipe to try for yourself at home.

6. Germany

One of the more modern inclusions in the whiskey league, Germany is thought to have 130 distilleries, with production on the rise. And they even have a third spelling variation for the iconic nectar: whesskey. Accounting for 0.4% of world production, it might be a small market, but its one that's growing in acclaim.

What to try: The Blaue Maus distillery produced its first batch over 30 years ago and today has 17 varieties to its name. So it would be remiss not to sample a dram of its original Blue Mouse single cask malt. Using barrels made of Spessart oak, unique flavours await with this dry whisky with intense tannins which leave their mark on its flavour.

7. Finland

Finnish whisky traditionally comes from 100% malted rye grain and it's considered one of the hardest grains to distil. It's also 'the baby' of distilling, with the first batch produced in 1981 called Alko. Today there are four distilleries that call Finland home. 

What to try: Kyrö is the most trendy and award-winning Finnish brand of whisky. Set up by five Finnish friends while enjoying, you guessed it, a sauna, with a whisky in hand, it occurred to them that there were no Finnish whiskies in existence, so they sought to change all that.

Their original malt blend breaks the mould of traditional production. It's double pot distilled and aged in a combination of American oak and bourbon casks. The result? Intense pepper flavours, combined with caramel and vanilla notes - sip it straight or enjoy as part of a whisky sour.

If you're not heading there anytime soon, bring a taste of Finland into your home and order a bottle to make one of their fabulous recipes.

8. Taiwan

An up-and-coming producer, Taiwan has just a few distilleries, but it more than makes up for it with its end product! Whisky matures much faster in Taiwan owing to its sub-tropical climate which also gives batches an interesting tropical taste.

What to try: Kavalan Classic is a single malt whisky and relatively new on the scene - its very first drop was bottled in 2006.  Today it has a number of awards under its belt and so we would hope, as the blend is stored in 8 different types of barrel over time. The end result is floral and exotic fruit flavours mixed with vanilla notes.

9. Australia

A rather healthy 400,000 litres of whisky are produced every year in Australia. Although its history in whisky began in the 1800s, a dwindling demand in the 1980s forced a number of factories to shut down. However that was all set to change in the 1990s, which saw the renaissance of the much-loved nectar.

Where to go: Melbourne is home to some of the finest whisky bars in Australia. Starward Distillery and Bar is just ten minutes from the city's central business district, so a perfect way to spend some free time as part of the Australian Highlights Tour.

What to try: Starward proudly boasts four award-winning whiskies: Nova, 100 Proof, Two-Fold and Her Honeycomb. Settle in for a tasting session with an expert and hopefully sample a few of them, including some of the limited edition batches.

10. India

Technically speaking, Indian varieties of whisky are not classified so, owing to the fact that molasses are used in the brewing process rather than traditional grains.

But with Indians being the biggest consumers of the liquor, and a number of the country's tipples receiving some of the highest accolades and awards in the world of whisky, we still think it's still worthy of inclusion!

Typically aged in barrels that contained rum or brandy, Indian whisky has a distinctly sweet and spicy flavour. 

The spirit was first introduced in the 19th century, when supplies were bulk shipped to India to supply British soldiers stationed there at the time.

In the 1820s, Edward Abraham Dyer emigrated to India from Devon with a mission of creating a whisky greater than those of Scotland.

Establishing the Kasauli Brewery and Distillery in 1835, it has continuously produced Solan No1 - India's first malt whisky, and only whisky to be produced in the Himalayas. Recognised as the oldest distillery in India and the Asian continent, Kasauli still uses the original copper pot which Dyer had imported from Scotland in the 1820s, now there is a whisky with a legacy!

What to try: Solan No 1 malt whisky is a good start for a little history in a bottle!