If you didn’t realize it already, whiskey is a global spirit. Sure, plenty of go-to brands are all crowded into the same corner of Kentucky, but high-quality whiskeys are also made in Japan, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, France, and even Taiwan (as well as dozens of other countries around the globe). While there are plenty of highly-acclaimed distilleries here in the US, to truly enjoy this aged spirit we need to get out of our comfort zones and see what’s really out there.
“The snarky answer is to tell people, ‘go to Scotland, slowly rotate yourself 360 degrees, and pick the distillery that looks most exciting,’” says Trevor Alderson, bartender at Blue Smoke in New York City when posed with the question, “who makes the best whiskey outside of the US?” Alderson’s answer reveals a truism: The whole conundrum comes down to your interpretations and particular tastes. You are the curator of your own “best list.”
Still, a little help couldn’t hurt, so we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their favorite non-US whiskeys. Their answers ranged from Japan, to Scotland to Ireland and beyond. Check them out and travel your palate with the next bottle you buy!
Yamazaki 18yr Mizunara Japanese Whisky
Justin Campbell, beverage director for The h.wood Group in Los Angeles
Yamazaki 18yr Mizunara is the best non-American whisky on the market. If you ever see this bottle, take out a second mortgage on the house and thank me later… after the divorce.
Craigellachie 17 Scotch Whisky
Mark Tubridy, mixologist at 21 Club in New York City
I’ve been learning a lot recently about some of the amazing single malt scotches that are blended together to create Dewar’s. One of those single malts, which is especially unique, is Craigellachie from Speyside. Craigellachie became available for purchase in 2014 with four age statements, but my personal favorite is their 17-year-old. It is a beautifully hearty whiskey with soft smokiness and tons of exotic fruit notes. This expression captures all of the meatiness and complexity of the spirit and it is absolutely worth seeking out if you’re a fan of single malts.