The events of the past year have only highlighted alcohol’s important ability to transport drinkers via the glass. And few categories currently offer such exciting opportunities for exploration as world whiskey.
While America, Ireland, and Scotland’s roots in the category run deep, in recent years producers in Japan and Taiwan have shaken up the space, prompting drinkers to consider the world’s “other” whiskey regions. And there’s much to embrace: From Australia and Israel to France and India, distillers in a growing number of nations are reimagining whiskey, building upon traditional foundations with local ingredients, innovation, and the influence of unique climates.
Offering nine exceptional destinations to begin that journey, here are the best New World whiskies to drink right now.
Alfred Giraud French Malt Whisky Harmonie
This triple malt French whisky combines three malt distillates (two non-peated and one lightly peated), which are aged in a range of ex-Cognac and new French and American oak casks. Living up to its name, the resulting blend is seamless, with the aromas and flavors of each base spirit married into one elegant and inviting malt whisky. Despite being relatively anonymous on the nose, peated notes kick in on the palate, leading the flavor profile without overpowering. While undoubtedly pricey, if you’re willing to spend extra to splurge on something majestic and exciting, this bottle justifies the lofty price tag. Average price: $190.
Amrut Fusion Single Malt Whisky
Produced in Bangalore, India, this single malt is distilled from Indian barley and peated barley imported from Scotland. Since its launch in 2009, Amrut Fusion has scooped up dozens of awards, and it’s quickly apparent upon tasting as to why. Layers of different flavors and aromas arrive in perfect harmony — peat is one of those, but it’s an individual component in this extraordinary and complex spirit. The light kiss of smoky earth weaves perfectly among its extravagant dried fruits, lively stone fruit, and a decadent but subtle sweetness. Average price: $73.
Cotswolds Distillery Founder’s Choice Single Malt Whisky
Cask-strength bottlings don’t occupy as much of the shelf space within Scotch as they do in American whiskey, and high ABV is just one of a few instances where this English single malt ties those categories together. Aged in former red wine casks, the influence of oak grabs the senses from the get-go, with the aromatics arriving richer and more decadent than single-malt drinkers will be accustomed to. Caramel, cocoa, and ripe red berries command the palate, leaving a lasting impression of a powerful English single malt that speaks with an American accent. Average price: $78.
Gouden Carolus Single Malt Whisky
This single malt draws much inspiration from beer, which only befits its Belgian roots. Produced by Het Anker, the whisky shares both its name and mash bill with the brewery’s Gouden Carolus Tripel beer. Aged in first-fill bourbon casks and then “Anker ” barrels (casks repurposed to the producer’s specific requirements), it is immediately rich and decadent. The palate is well rounded and approachable, but not shy on flavor or depth. Average price: $62.
M&H Elements Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky
Israel’s M&H Distillery, which stands for “milk and honey,” claims this to be the first-ever single malt matured in Kosher sherry casks. The impact of those vessels is notable without taking over the show, presenting a great example of casks being used as a tool rather than an ingredient. While luscious sherried fruit notes populate the nose and palate, evidence of maturation and the character of the base spirit are just as easy to identify. Notes of dried fruit, earth, and caramel don’t linger on the finish but rather stand out boldly, declaring this party isn’t finishing anytime soon. Average price: $65.
Penderyn Distillery Single Malt Welsh Whisky Madeira Finish
When it launched in 2004, Penderyn became the first whisky distillery to operate in Wales in over 100 years. One of its “Gold” range of single malts, this whisky ages in ex-bourbon casks before a finishing period in former Madeira barrels. Both oaks shine brightest on nose and palate, making this a great pick if you typically enjoy cask-finished releases. Yet the subtle character of malt distillate is also present to enjoy. Average price: $69.
Reisetbauer & Son 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
Distiller Hans Reisetbauer grows many of the base ingredients that go into his eaux de vie, clear grain spirits, and whiskies on his family’s Austrian estate. This 12-year-old release quickly identifies itself as an outlier in the single- malt space. It leads with distinctive aromas of cedar wood, spice, and orchard fruits, and finishes with a herbaceous note. That same savory, green complexity continues on the palate, which culminates with spicy, dried fruit notes. Lighter than most single malts, this whisky delves into a botanical territory that at times feels like barrel-aged gin. Suffice to say, this is a sipper. Average price: $145.
Starward Nova Single Malt Australian Whisky
Australia’s Starward proves to be a keen member of the community, with the nation’s brewers and winemakers each playing a part in this release. Its malted barley mash calls upon brewer’s yeast for fermentation, while the finished distilled spirit rests exclusively in red-wine barrels from Australian wineries. The combination delivers bright red fruit and baking spice notes in bold but balanced proportions. There’s enough maturity and complexity for sipping occasions, but don’t shy away from mixing this in your favorite whiskey cocktails. Average price: $51.
Stauning Floor Malted Rye Whisky
From the West Coast of Denmark, this is a stunning reimagination of rye whiskey. Pot distilled from malted rye and barley, it adeptly recalls the caraway seeds that typify traditional rye breads and Nordic cuisine in general. But the aromas arrive with more depth and a fuller character than expected — a phenomenon that continues when sipping. While this will appeal to regular rye drinkers, it displays extra layers and dimensions that will surely please all whisky aficionados. Average price: $80.