When people hear the word “whisky,” they usually think of one of four countries: Scotland, with Scotch; Ireland, with Irish whiskey; America, with bourbon; or Canada, with rye. But whisky has become too popular to be so limited and is now produced in many lands, usually in the ridiculously popular style of single malt Scotch. Wander down to your favourite whisky retailer (Kensington Wine Market, Willow Park Wines & Spirits, Zyn and CSN are good bets) and pick up some great whisky from these unexpected countries.
• Japan — Cars, electronics and even baseball players are proof that the Land of the Rising Sun is good at producing anything they choose to be good at producing. Yamazaki is Japan’s oldest malt whisky distillery, established in 1923, and is known for its 12-, 18- and 21-year-old expressions with flavours of dark fruits including raisins and prunes. Miyagikyo, established in 1969, also produces fruity whiskies; Yoichi, established in 1934, has won numerous awards from Whisky Magazine; lastly, Karuizawa, established in 1956, is the jewel in the Japanese whisky crown — it produces very rare (and correspondingly very expensive) whiskies which have been compared to Scotland’s (now demolished, but ever cherished) Port Ellen.
• India — India has only one distillery with products available in Canada: Amrut. But it is a popular one, thanks to an endorsement by internationally acclaimed whisky expert Jim Murray. Because of the high temperatures in India, whisky there matures much faster than in Scotland. The result is great Scotch-style whisky at a much younger age and a correspondingly much lower price. Amrut now offers a dozen different expressions, so there’s bound to be something for any taste at varying price points.
• France — When it comes to booze, the French are famous for one thing: wine. But that shouldn’t be the case. They produce some good beer (look for brews from 3 Monts, Thierez and Biéres 23) and, at Armorik distillery in Brittany, good whisky. Armorik is a relatively new distillery, having commenced operations in 1994, but they are already producing whisky noted for flavours of toasted oak, vanilla and goat cheese.
• Australia — The land down under produces whisky most famously under the Sullivans Cove brand. Located in Tasmania, Sullivans Cove produces excellent single malt with ratings from Jim Murray as high as 95. The expressions range from $75 to $115, which is pretty reasonable in the world of whisky.
• Taiwan — “Made in Taiwan” doesn’t always mean quality, but in the case of whisky it can. Taiwan produces Kavalan, which is gaining a worldwide reputation with its lightly sweet whiskies that are reminiscent of single malt Scotch from The Macallan. Two expressions of Kavalan are available, one aged in bourbon barrels and one aged in sherry barrels.