Thursday, December 27, 2012

International House of Whisky

As I mentioned in a previous post, WhiskyFest New York was certainly a highlight for the year.  One of things that made the night so memorable was the chance to sample whiskies from four different continents.  While there were obvious and wonderful expressions from Scotland and the US (Kentucky and Utah!), there were really interesting and flavorful samples from some very unexpected locations:

Sullivan's Cove (Tasmania) - When I settled in to WhiskyFest, the first booth I found was Sullivan's Cove.  From The Tasmania Distillery - that's what I'm talking about when I say whiskies from around the world.  The man behind the counter told me about the abundance of pure mountain water and Franklin barley.  That made sense to me.  I sampled the double cask, matured in French and American Oak.  It had a beautiful gold hue.  A little unfinished taste, not the long draw I like.  But still, it had nice vanilla and spice flavor and I just had whisky from Australia so, wow.

Amrut (India) - Sharing the table with Sullivan's Cove were two of the friendliest guys I ever met from Amrut Distillery in India.  I had read about the rise of Indian whisky - it's one of the fastest growing markets for whisky in the world - and I knew I wanted to try it.  The gentlemen explained how the climate presents different challenges to maturation and how much they lose through evaporation in the barrel.  Then they told me about the malt grown in the Punjab in the foothills of the Himalayas.  Himalayan malt in the glass in front of me.  I'm in.  I tried the Fushion and the Cask Strength expressions.  Very grassy and a little buttery.  The Fushion packs wallop - the guys were just waiting for my reaction and then smiled knowingly.  I'd go back for more of that.

Armorik (France) -This whisky comes from Brittany in the north of France. The distillery's website refers to this region as "a cousin of Ireland and Scotland, where the Celtic spirit lives on".  Because of the terrain, the sea air, and the grains, it makes sense that there would be at least one distillery here.  The Armorik Classic has a fruity flavor and hints of sea air.  It's a nice, smooth, fresh whisky that's extremely drinkable.  This would be easily mistakable for a middle of the pack Highland Scotch.

Mackmyra (Sweden) - One of the more recognizable names in international whisky, this Swedish distillery makes their whisky in the traditional style.  It's matured in bourbon casks and finished in sherry and Swedish oak casks.  The malt is dried using a combination including Juniper and peat.  It makes for a truly unique flavor.  Mackmyra is delicate and light, with a little bit of lemon in it and unusual smokiness.

One of my resolutions for the year was to sample whisky from different countries. WhiskyFest certainly helped with that.  Scotland, Ireland, America, Canada, England, Wales, Sweden, France, Japan, Tasmania, and India.  It's all out there waiting for you to try.

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