The Top Five... Fine whiskies from far away from Scotland
Many awful spirits have been marketed as whisky away from the Highlands but a few have excelled
Few commodities are as Scottish as whisky. True Scotch connoisseurs might turn their nose up at anything that isn't made in the region of the Highlands or Islay, and even when there are variations around the world a link with Scotland is often hinted at.
India is a significant consumer of whisky and makes some of its own. Yet often the names for the spirits (arguably often better classified as rum) suggest an influence from elsewhere: one of the most popular is McDowell's no.1.
Sometimes the link is less well thought through. Bottles of whisky made in Japan at the end of WWII are supposed to carry the claim 'Made with real Scottish grapes'. We haven't tried any here at Paul Fraser Collectibles, but we somehow doubt that 'Chateau Ardbeg' would ever have been up to much.
Nevertheless, quality whisky production has sneaked out and travelled the world a little further than bagpipe mastery (and not just as far as Ireland either). Here are our top five global whiskies:
The English Whisky Company's Chapter 6
Admittedly England is about as close to Scotland as you can get, geographically, but it has hardly been known as an exemplary place for the creation of whisky. But in 2009, the dream of a father and son team by the name of James and Andrew Nelstrop to change that came to fruition.
Created using local East Anglia barley and water from the Breckland aquifer, the whisky from the Norfolk pair always looked likely to impress… Jim Murray of the Whisky Bible had already described their St George distillery 'fabulous outpost' in a recent edition of that book.
The first genuine whisky sold out at speed and even had eager buyers in Scotland.
Who's laughing now? In 2008 Yoichi 20 years old, distilled on the shores of the Sea of Japan, became the first variety produced outside Scotland to win the coveted single malt award in an international competition run by Whisky Magazine, the main industry publication.
Selling for £150 a bottle, it was lauded by the judges for its "amazing mix of big smoke and sweet blackcurrant", "explosive aroma" and "big, long and sweet finish".
…and they weren't even real Scottish blackcurrants.
Hobart's Lark Distillery Single Malt
On the other side of the world to Scotland, Australia might not seem like a great place to find great whisky. But some there take it very seriously indeed, especially in Tasmania.
The Burnie-based Hellyers Road boutique distillery's Peated Single Malt Whisky recently won at the Malt Whisky Society of Australia's Awards for Excellence in Adelaide.
But it's not just one distillery. Hobart's Lark Distillery sold a bottle of one of its 1998 whisky for AUS$1,800 (US$1,600) in spring this year - the highest price paid for Australian whisky to date, and one which compares well to many Bowmore or Springbank classics.
18-year-old Sazerac Rye
Whilst the high rating for an English whisky might have been a shock, the most shocking thing that the Whisky Bible has claimed in recent times must be that the best whisky in the world isn't Scottish.
The 18-year-old Sazerac Rye from Kentucky, USA was named the finest dram in the world by the 2010 edition.
The Sazerac - celebrated for its oak, leather and molasses overtones with hints of mint and eucalyptus - is described as "reaching previously unknown heights," by Whisky Bible author Jim Murray.
That a whisky was being made in Taiwan was strange enough. But what infuriated the purists about Kavalan whisky was its youth: just two years of maturing went into one big release.
Selling a spirit a mere two years after distillation as whisky is considered ignorant by whisky connoisseurs - and it would be illegal in to sell a two-year-old as Scotch whisky in Scotland. But the makers claim Taiwan's climate encourages faster maturation.
Taiwan's two-year-old Kavalan had won a silver award in the International Wine & Spirit Competition before it was set before a panel of whisky tasters in a mischievous move by British newspaper The Times as part of a selection which included some three-year-old Scotch whiskies.
Kavalan bested all of them, with one critics comparing the taste to 'tropical fruit jam'. It's the final word that which whisky, age doesn't come before beauty, and a beauty is what Kavalan is.
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