The Whisky Tasting Club The Whisky Tasting Club

World Beaters

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If you had asked anyone in the 1970s whether they had drunk Australian or English wine (not least a good one), they would probably have laughed in your face. As far as many people were concerned, proper wine was made in France, Spain, Austria, Germany and Portugal. End of story.

Except it’s not the end of the story, as the shelves in any good wine shop today will attest. However, ask most people whether they prefer Dutch or English whisky, and you’ll probably get a similar reaction. As far as they are concerned, proper whisky is made in Scotland, Ireland, the United States and perhaps Canada. End of story.

Except it’s not the end of the story, and why would it be? Whisky (or ‘whiskey’ in the US or Ireland) is made from grain, yeast and water and matured in oak casks - hardly the most difficult ingredients to come by. So why hasn’t whisky been produced outside of its traditional heartlands? Well the fact is, it has. The Czech Republic, for example, has been distilling since 1877, Japan since 1924 and Spain since 1962, although little would have been seen outside of their own borders until relatively recently. However, once a Japanese whisky had been voted the world’s best single malt by Whisky Magazine, people realized that Scotland, Ireland and the US didn’t have a monopoly on great whisky.

Since the 1990s, there has been a veritable explosion in world production with every continent except Antarctica making its own whiskies. The Whisky Tasting Club has been incredibly lucky to have sampled a variety of stunning whiskies from around the world and has selected five very different examples of world whiskies from three continents for you to try. This includes a Bourbon from the United States, a single malt from Sweden and India, an award-winning blended whisky from Japan and a peated single malt from England. Although the received wisdom is that a whisky should be 10 years and older to be any good, three of these whiskies are under six years old, proving that age doesn’t always matter when it comes to high quality whisky. Enjoy!

Mackmyra Brukswhisky

Swedish distillery Mackmyra was conceived at a reunion of eight whisky-loving university classmates in 1998. Unlike most people who come up with whisky fuelled cunning plans, they actually followed through with their dream of making Swedish whisky. Being engineers, they embarked on a period of extensive experimentation, using alternative fuel to dry the barley (most notably Juniper twigs, a taste prominent in early releases), before starting commercial production in 2002. Their first spirit, the Preludium 01, went on sale in 2006 and their first large scale whisky release was in 2008.

Sweden is one of the main countries to watch as far as New World whiskies is concerned. You only have to visit Islay to realise how much the Swedes love whisky, they seem to make up half the tourist population. Laphroaig distillery centre has more Swedish flags for their Friends scheme than any other nationality and Ardbeg went to the lengths of having a special distribution deal in Sweden for their recent Alligator release. There are currently eight other Swedish distilleries which will be coming on the market over the next decade. Watch this space.

The Mackmyra Bruk Distillery is now operating near capacity and Mackymra are looking to expand internationally, although they probably won't advertise the fact the name Mackmyra translates as mosquito swamp. They will no doubt let their whisky sell itself. We have followed Mackmyra since the early Preludium releases to the latest specials.

Mackmyra Brukswhisky is their most accessible whisky to date. Their trademark Juniper smoke flavour is present but not overwhelming.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Aromatic. Tropical fruit, sherbet, hint of juniper and smoke. Fresh coconut and cream. An underlying biscuit richness.
Palate: Immediately soft but the sherbet soon kicks in. Grape and more coconut. Develops into a lovely soft and spicy finale.

Retails for around £35

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Elijah Craig 12 year old

Last but certainly not least we come to the United States. Although the States produces its own single malts, it is far more famous for its Bourbon.

Although mostly produced in Kentucky, Bourbon can in fact be produced anywhere in the United States. By law, it has to contain a minimum 51% corn and be matured in new charred oak barrels. The charring of the oak barrels gives bourbon its lovely vanilla, candied fruit taste. As with India, the speed of maturation in the US is rapid and, legally, bourbon only has to be matured for a minimum of two years.

Elijah Craig is credited as the inventor of Bourbon whiskey. The Heaven Hill distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, keeps his name alive with this very old (in Bourbon terms) multiple award-winning whiskey, regarded as one of the most complete Bourbons available today.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Wispy and subtle, traces of cherry and mint, pine and forest flowers.
Palate: Rounded, smooth and moreish. Traces of candied cherry and spearmint. Oakiness holds the sweet vanilla heart in check.

Retails for around £32

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Nikka All Malt

While Japan has made whisky since the early part of the twentieth century, it remained, to a great extent, a world secret. Now Japan has been elevated to the whisky world's premier league. Japan is the second biggest producer of single malt whisky in the world.
Japanese whisky making is dominated by two large companies: Suntory and Nikka. Both companies now own Scottish distilleries, and both produce whiskies with a range of taste profiles.

Nikka all malt is made from a combination of malts from Nikka’s two distilleries Yoichi and Miyagikyou and is an excellent introduction to Japanese whisky.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Sweet, almost like a bourbon. Coconuts and bananas.
Palate: A gentle sweet introduction, with barley and apple notes, builds to a spicy, cinnamon chocolate taste that has surprising length.

Retails for around £30-35

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Paul John Brilliance

John distilleries was set up in 1992 in Bangalore but its whisky distillery was set up on the island of Goa in 2008. In Goa, the whisky matures more quickly than it does elsewhere due to the high temperature, resulting in an annual loss of between 10-15% of the spirit in the cask (compared with 2% in Scotland). This means that after three years, there may be only 150 bottles’ worth of malt left in a cask (compared with 350 in Scotland) so, like Amrut, they cannot afford to mature it for longer than 4 or 5 years. This Brilliance expression is matured in bourbon barrels for 3-5 years.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Clean and crisp. Toffee apples. Tropical fruit salad. Macaroons.
Palate: Incredibly juicy. Crisp and clean and yet quite rich and sweet with a ginger and lemon curd finish.

Retails for around £40

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English Whisky Company Chapter 6

Set up in rural Norfolk in 2006, St Georges (as it more commonly known) was the first legal English distillery in 100 years.

Aided by distilling legend Iain Henderson, they produced their first spirit in November 2006 and released their first whisky in December 2009, to huge acclaim. Signing Iain Henderson was likened to Norwich City signing David Beckham! If only...

An English distillery was always going to stir massive interest, and the fact that that interest is still being stirred a year after its whiskies have been sampled is testament to their quality.

The first whisky was Chapter 6, an un-peated and distinctly fruity three year-old.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Mango, kiwi fruit with green fruit salad, and cream with a background of light oak.
Palate: An immediate hit of spice that is lately joined by barley and citrus. The finish is of medium length with pepper and fading vanilla.

Retails for around £46

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