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 for World Whiskies

Tenjaku Pure Malt Japanese Whisky
91 points
$70
Pale gold color. Aromas of fresh grain, banana bread with raisins, toasted walnuts, and honey-drizzled pears with a supple, crisp, dryish light-to-medium body and a smooth, interesting, medium-long melon, smoked peppercorns, pimiento, marinated mushrooms, and banana nougat finish. A shape-shifting Whisky that offers a charming and delicate nose followed by a swift and assertive rush of piquant flavor on the palate.
Tenjaku Blended Japanese Whisky
91 points
$39.99
Gold color. Aromas of raisin toast, sticky rice, gingerbread, iodine, straw, violet, and ripe melons with a satiny, vibrant, fruity light body and a peppery, charming, medium-long pears, honey, marmalade, and pink peppercorns finish. A rock solid Japanese Blended Whisky with nice balance; a good bridge for traditional Scotch Whisky drinkers.
91 points $39.99
Hibiki Harmony Blended Japanese Whisky
91 points
$64
Pale amber color. Aromas and flavors of candied raisins, toasted fruitcake, roasted pineapple, buttery pastry with honey, and walnut praline with a velvety, vibrant, dry-yet-fruity light-to-medium body and a graceful, engaging, long finish revealing notes of cinnamon babka and bananas foster finish. A delicate, understated, sherry-influenced Whisky that delivers lasting complex flavor.
Nikka From the Barrel Japanese Blended Whisky
91 points
$69.99
Dark amber color. Aromas of cinnamon pastry, pickled ginger, sourdough, honey, and raisins with a silky, crisp, fruity medium body and a tingling, compelling, medium-length crepes, dulce de leche, butter-poached pear, and toasted spice cake finish. A rich and toasty Japanese blended whisky that offers big character that will stand up in craft cocktails.
91 points $69.99
Helios Distillery Kura The Whiskey
89 points
$70
Clear color. Aromas of honey on whole wheat toast, peat, sliced asian pear, cherry wood, and tobacco with a silky, crisp, dryish light body and a tingling, breezy clover blossom, toasted rice, charred bell pepper, and burnt sugar finish. A smoky malt for superb highballs.
Starward Two-Fold Double Grain Whisky
88 points
$32
Golden amber color. Unusual aromas of spicy rye, pickled ginger, chicory coffee, black tea with cream, and pear kombucha with a satiny, vibrant, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a tingling, captivating, medium-length herb focaccia, custard, and ancient grain porridge finish. A complex, twisting and turning craft Whisky that offers something truly different to the category.
Suntory Toki Blended Japanese Whiskey
87 points
$34
Pale straw color. Aromas and flavors of rice candies, orange blossom, raisin toast, and kiwi-banana yogurt with a lean, crisp, dryish light body and a smooth, appealing, medium-long finish with accents of honey, sliced pear, minerals, and clove. An ethereal Japanese Blended Whisky with delicate fruit and mineral characters.
Togouchi 15-Year-Old Japanese Blended Whisky
85 points
$189
Golden amber color. Aromas of croissant with honey, orange marmalade, caramel, apple pie, and pink peppercorn with a supple, crisp, dryish medium body and a tingling, appealing, medium-length hints of dried cranberry, buttercream, coconut, spiced tea, and hazelnut finish. A nutty and mild Japanese Whisky that will play well in Manhattan-style cocktails.
Togouchi Premium Japanese Blended Whisky
84 points
$49
Pale light gold color. Fruity aromas and flavors of sweet pear drops, spumoni, honey cake, and smoked chocolate with a velvety, vibrant, dry-yet-fruity light-to-medium body and an interesting, medium-length finish evoking accents of lavender-scented biscuits, creamy taffy, and tea with cream. A fruity-sweet Japanese Blended Whisky with toasty, biscuity flavors.