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

"Solist" Ex-Bourbon Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Bright golden amber color. Sweet, woody aromas and flavors of caramelized apples and tropical fruits, toffee, vanilla custard, and dusty straw and tea and clay with a chewy, vibrant, fruity full body and a prodigious, very long coconut gelato, sweet and peppery spices, and oak spice finish. An incredibly flavorful whisky with intense fruit and spice.
98 points $159.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
"Solist" Vinho Barrique Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Bright amber color. Fruity, spicy aromas and flavors of caramel spice cake, chocolate maple fudge, sweet and peppery spiced cherries and berries, and pencil shavings and leather with a round, vibrant, fruity body and a warming, huge, endless mocha gelato, cherry cola, exotic Asian spices and incense, and mango chutney finish. A rich, powerful single malt with flavors that explode and evolve in the mouth.
98 points $159.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
"Solist" Amontillado Sherry Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Brilliant bronze color. Rubbery, nutty, inviting aromas and flavors of dark roasted nuts, molasses orange rum cake, sherry, and mocha with a round, bright, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a complex, very long caramelized nuts and tropical fruits and rich brown spices finish. A fantastically powerful sherry influenced single malt.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
Sherry Oak Single Malt Whisky
Dark amber color. Nutty, buttery aromas of roasted pecans, rancio, dark chocolate, and conditioned suede with a silky, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a tingling, complex, long mocha raisin fudge, chocolate flan, cedar, and pepper and minerals finish. A wonderfully rich and flavor packed sherry centric single malt.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
"Solist" Sherry Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Dark bronze mahogany color. Complex, inviting aromas and flavors of molasses and cola, brandied raisins and dried cherries, melted chocolate toffee, ginger, and soy and Asian spices with a velvety, tangy, fruity full body and a very complex, endless spiced tropical fruits, honey cake, honeyed nuts, and black tea leaves finish. An amazingly powerful and flavor-packed whisky that really is quite remarkable.
97 points $184.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
Young Rye Whisky
Bright amber color. Rich aromas of grainy toasted raisin bran, nougat, pencil shavings, spice, apricot, and clay with a rich, supple, fruity-yet-dry medium-full body and a long, honeyed grain and nut and mossy earth driven finish. Fantastically delicious and rich. A paradigm of young rye whisky.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
The Yamazaki 18 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
Deep amber copper color. Rich aromas of sautéed almonds, suede, figs, honeyed cereal, and milk chocolate with a silky, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a long, spice, grains, and earth layered finish. Impressive with great sherried wood character.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
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
Ex-Bourbon Oak Single Malt Whisky
Brilliant gold color. Aromas and flavors of candied lime and mango, citrus blossoms, and white chocolate toffee with a round, vibrant, fruity medium-full body and an intricate, long pineapple-mango gelato, apricot cobbler, latte, and spice finish. A rich tropical fruit bomb of a whisky that has instant appeal.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
"Solist" Brandy Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Dark dark amber color. Tropical, spicy aromas and flavors of mango raisin chutney, caramel spice cake, and vanilla toffee with a chewy, vibrant, fruity full body and a warming, colossal, very long chocolate, exotic spices, and pepper finish. A remarkably vibrant and flavorful whisky with a rich core of dried fruit.
95 points $159.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab