About World Whiskies

World whiskies are whiskies produced outside the traditional regions of Scotland, Ireland, and North America. They generally follow the Scottish tradition, with malt whiskies being double distilled in pot stills and grain whiskies in column stills. Most are single malt bottlings, however more blends and single grain expressions are appearing on the market. Asian whiskies are particularly noteworthy in the world of world whiskies.

Japanese Whisky
Japanese Malt Whisky is produced in pot stills from lightly peated barley malt. Standard Japanese Whisky is a blend of malt whiskey (Japanese or Scotch) and domestically produced grain whiskey. The whisky distilleries of Japan are scattered throughout Honshu and Hokkaido, the two main northern islands of Japan, with the malt whisky distilleries being located for the most part in mountainous regions where there are good water supplies.

The modern Japanese whisky industry can trace its beginnings back to one man, Masataka Taketsura. The son of a sake brewer, Taketsura went to Scotland in 1918 and spent two years studying chemistry at Glasgow University and working at a Scotch whisky distillery in the Highland village of Rothes. He returned to Japan in 1920 with a Scottish bride and a determination to change the Japanese distilling industry.

The Japanese were then, as they are now, major consumers of Scotch whisky. Locally produced spirits, however, were limited to the fiery sorghum or sweet potato-based shochu, and a handful of dubious "whiskies" that were little more than neutral spirits colored with caramel. Taketsura convinced the owners of what became the Suntory Company to begin production of barley malt and grain whiskies based on the Scottish model. These whiskies, some of which are made from imported peat-smoked Scottish malt, became very successful in the Japanese market. Other distilleries soon followed Suntory’s lead, and these grain-based whiskies, based on single malt and blended Scotch whisky models (and later Bourbon whiskey) soon came to dominate the Japanese market.

Modern Japanese distillers (including the Nikka Whisky Distillery, which was founded by Taketsura in 1934) have followed this trend and nowadays produce and market a full range of malt and blended whiskies.

New Zealand Whisky
New Zealand Single Malt Whisky is pot-distilled malt whisky. New Zealand Blended Whisky is a mix of domestic malt and grain whiskies. New Zealand malt and grain whiskies are double distilled in pot stills. New Zealand currently only has one operating whisky distillery in Dunedin on the South Island.

Indian Whisky
India produces a large amount of “whisky” made from various barley and non-barley ingredients. While many of the brands would not be considered “export quality” or even technically whisky, there is a trend leaning toward the production of higher quality brands geared to compete in both domestic and export markets. Because of the high demand for true Scotch whisky in India, a leading Indian corporation has recently purchased Scotch distilleries abroad to satisfy this remarkable demand.

Taiwanese Whisky
Remarkably constructed in only 9 months in 2015, the Kavalan distillery is Taiwan's first whisky distillery. Despite their relative youth, the malt whiskies made at Kavalan are amazingly flavorful, complex, world-class spirits—modeled after Scottish single malts—that are a product of ingenuity, Scottish tradition and ingredients, and the unique tropical Taiwanese climate that accelerates the aging process.

Top Picks and Reviews for World Whiskies

220132
Kavalan
Solist Port Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Dark mahogany color. Aromas and flavors of dried fruit melange, chocolate genache, port wine and ripe black cherries, and salted peanuts with a round, lively, fruity full body and a peppery, very complex, very long charred sweet corn, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, wassail, preserved hibiscus, rose jam, winter orange peel, and anise and soy sauce finish. An exemplary study in cask finished whiskey; superb depth, complexity, length and soul.
98 points $299.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
220129
Kavalan
Distillery Reserve Single Malt Whisky Peaty Cask
Pale mahogany color. Candied aromas of cafe latte and fine tobacco, cocoa nib and wet tropical leaves, butterscotch chips, and scotch oatmeal cookie with a slightly chewy, vibrant, fat body and a peppery, very complex, endless gingerbread and graham cracker with molasses, almond croissant with brown sugar glaze, dried figs and aromatic bitters, and ripe red cherries with rose petals finish. A stellar, rich and chewy whiskey for endless contemplation.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
220123
Kavalan
Solist ex-Bourbon Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Dark golden amber color. Nutty aromas and flavors of rack house, toasted marshmallow, sherry, and doctor pepper and hint of brine with a satiny, lively, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a peppery, complex, long butterscotch and sweet potato pie, toasted almond and coconut flakes, orange rind and pickling spices, and tamarind chutney finish. Incredible balance and acidity combine with heartwarming flavors to create a whisky that is at once familiar and exotic; attention commanding.
97 points $159.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
220124
Kavalan
Solist Sherry Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Clear mahogany color. Nutty, umami, roasted aromas of salted and roasted marcona almonds, Madeira cake with raisin, molasses with espresso beans, and soy sauce and braised oxtail with a slightly chewy, racy, fruity fat body and a peppery, thought-provoking, very long spicy peanut butter, sprouts and pimiento, mushrooms with raisins and honey, mexican hot chocolate, and Japanese peanuts finish. A profound study in cask finishing; rich, salty, satisfying, mesmerizing.
96 points $179.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
220133
Kavalan
Solist Amontillado Sherry Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Medium dark amber color. Meaty aromas of white miso and sourdough bread, mushrooms, soy sauce and brine, and sesame candy and petrol with a lightly tannic, lively, dry-yet-fruity fat body and a peppery, nuanced, long brazil nuts in caramel, fried almond skins and brown sugar, hush puppies with green olive, and carrot cake finish. A transcendent, umami-packed whisky.
96 points $599.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
220135
Kavalan
Solist Pedro Ximénez Sherry Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Bright dark amber color. Aromas of golden raisin and lychee shell, salted marcona almond, dark caramel and coriander, and caramelized pineapple with an fat body and a peppery, complex, endless brown sugar and sandalwood, poached pear on bread pudding, vanilla scented marzipan, and rum raisin paleta and rice pudding finish. A tropical and candied whiskey for sherry cask lovers.
95 points $699.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
216499
Nikka
Coffey Grain Whiskey
Dusty gold color. Creamy, fruity aromas and flavors of coconut cream pie, dried tropical fruits, pink peppercorns, and pencil shavings with a silky, vibrant, fruity light-to-medium body and a complex, medium-long creme Anglaise, delicate spice, sarsaparilla, and white cigar ash finish. A creamy, inviting whisky that is sure to please.
95 points $69.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
210936
Nikka
"Miyagikyo" 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
Gold color. Medicinal aromas of grilled lemon, banana and papaya, conditioned leather and lacquer, praline, and sassafras with an oily, lively, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a warming, complex, medium-long creme brulee, honeyed dried bananas, exotic spices, and sandalwood finish. A complex and intricate whisky with lots of tropical fruit, spice, and oak tones.
95 points $109.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
220128
Kavalan
Podium Single Malt Whisky
Light amber color. Herbal, exotic aromas and flavors of fresh ginger and eucalyptus, ground cinnamon, rice pudding, and carob chip with a slightly chewy, vibrant, fruity full body and a hot, interesting, medium-long cinnamon gum and pineapple, mint and lemon oak, cocoa butter, and galangal and coconut finish. A tropical whiskey with a pleasing richness.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
220817
Nikka
Yoichi Single Malt Whisky
Clear gold color. Aromas of green pear and coriander, cherry blossom, Jamon Iberico and melon skewer, and sea spray with a velvety, vibrant, dry-yet-fruity light-to-medium body and a peppery, very complex, long toasted peanuts with coconut sugar, Carr’s wheat crackers, chrysanthemum tea, honeyed-smoked turkey, creme de cassis, ginger, sweet potato pie, and lemon balm and white pepper finish. A lovely and refined Japanese whiskey that displays its enormous character with poised restraint.
94 points $79.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab