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Booze banter: our top global whiskies

To mark World Whisky Day tomorrow (21 May), SB‘s editors have shared their favourite whiskies from around the world.

Falling annually on the third Saturday in May, World Whisky Day invites everyone to try a dram and celebrate the water of life with events taking place all over the globe.

With both old and new world whiskies, blends and single malts in abundance, the opportunities for discovery are endless when it comes to global whiskies.

Read on to let our team take you on a journey around the planet, one dram at a time. And if you want to learn about more highly rated global drams, the results of The World Whisky Masters 2021 will make for very good reading.

Hibiki Japanese Harmony – Japan

For my first pick, I am taking you to the home of Suntory Whisky, the makers of Hibiki Harmony, a delicate blended whisky which is approachable, gentle and yes, harmonious in every sense of the word. The Hibiki Harmony family currently comprises five bottlings, ranging from the flagship release and the limited edition Master’s Select, climbing through the ages from 17 to 21 years before completing the set at 30 years old.

It is, however, the inaugural expression that will continue to keep my shelves company, even long after the last drop has been drunk. For me, this is the gold standard of blended Japanese whisky. A beautiful liquid presented in an equally beautiful bottle, it is made from a blend of whiskies drawn from five different types of cask, including American white oak casks, Sherry casks and Japanese oak casks. When sipping, I pick up notes of stone fruit, honey and orange blossom. Perfect for a summer’s day dram in the garden before dinner.

Georgie Pursey, digital editor

Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey – US

Uncle Nearest 1856

I love everything about the Uncle Nearest Premium Brand. I love the powerhouse of a co-founder behind the brand, Fawn Weaver. I love the female-centric team that drive the company’s success, including master blender Victoria Eady Butler. I wholly admire the brand’s production house, Nearest Green Distillery, partnering with Jack Daniel’s to pledge US$5 million to encourage diversity within the American whiskey sector via the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative.

I’m also a huge fan of the Uncle Nearest range because every bottling I’ve tried contains exceptional liquid. The 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey expression is up there as one of my favourite sippers, brimming with treacle, honey and caramel, which are complemented by spice and oaky flavours, and a touch of chocolate – highly recommended.

Melita Kiely, editor

Kyrö Malt Rye Whisky – Finland

The story of Finland’s Kyrö Distillery Company began after its five founders shared a dram of rye whisky in a sauna and pondered why nobody had ever made rye whisky in their home country, considering the nation consumes a major amount of rye.

Since then, the distillery has sought to put Finnish-made rye whisky on the map, embarking on the build of a second facility to bring its liquid to more consumers across the world.

A visit to the distillery’s home in the Finnish town of Isokyrö gave me the chance to sample the company’s first whisky, Kyrö Malt, which at the time was only available in limited quantities.

The whisky is made with 100% Finnish rye, aged in new American oak casks and distilled in Scottish-style pot stills. The addition of rye brings a delicious spiciness to the whisky, with notes of rye bread, orchard fruits, orange zest, vanilla, ginger and honey.

Nicola Carruthers, deputy editor

White Peak Wire Works – England

After visiting its distillery in Derbyshire earlier this year, I was bowled over by what White Peak Distillery had to offer the world whisky category. All distilled and matured on site, the producer uses a mixture of peated and unpeated English barley for single malt Wire Works.

The sweeter flavours of butterscotch and toffee sat comfortably on the palate when I tasted it, and I’m fortunate enough to own one of the 5,016 bottles that were first distributed in February.

I recommend this one served straight, and to give it some time to take in the aromas of chocolate, orange peel and vanilla on the nose. (The distillery’s gin isn’t half bad either).

Alice Brooker, staff writer

Starward Left Field – Australia

Starward Left-Field world whisky

I’m not sure what this Australia-based distillery thinks us Europeans like when it comes to our whiskies, but this bottling, created with a European palate in mind, has smashed it.

This new world whisky hails from Melbourne, where it’s not usual to experience a temperature swing of 20°C in the space of 24 hours. The weather, which fluctuates more than the UK interest rate, helps draw out the rich, fruity notes from the casks, which are all sourced from as close to the distillery as possible, which naturally means they are mostly ex-red wine barrels.

The result is a rich, moreish whisky that lingers like the hum of a crashed cymbal. Starward made this whisky with the intention that it be drunk – not left on a shelf to gather dust – which is probably why my first bottle didn’t last long.

If you’re heading to a barbecue this weekend, take this one with you. It’s an all round (European) crowd-pleaser; mixes well into a cocktail, pairs beautifully with almost any food and comes to life when with a large group of mates.

Georgie Pursey, digital editor

Slyrs Classic Single Malt Whisky – Germany

Bavaria might not be the first whisky-making region that springs to mind, but the team at Slyrs has nailed single malts. I was lucky enough to enjoy a refresher tasting at Prowein in Düsseldorf, Germany, earlier this week, and the Classic bottling was every bit as delicious as I remembered it to be.

At 43% ABV, this is a super silky whisky that is incredibly approachable, yet totally satisfying for whisky fans. The nose was fruity with malt character and cereal notes shining through, while the palate was sweet with caramel, nuttiness and warming spice for balance and complexity. Delicious.

Melita Kiely, editor

Aber Falls Single Malt Whisky – Wales

The inaugural release from Aber Falls, Wales’ first whisky distillery in North Wales for 100 years, sold out in 40 minutes and it’s clear to see why – the liquid is rich, full-bodied, yet very approachable.

Being one of several Welsh distilleries making whisky, Aber Falls creates its expressions using 100% Welsh malted barley and rock-filtered water from the distillery’s waterfall.

With sweet Sherry notes from the combination of oloroso and PX casks, the whisky has forest fruit flavours and a nuttiness with creamy malt and hints of espresso.

It’s also excellent in a Welsh twist on an Old Fashioned, using local honey, a pinch of black tea and several drops of coffee bitters.

Nicola Carruthers, deputy editor

Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon – US

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon makes for a great Old Fashioned, as I discovered at an event recently, where the brand unveiled its new bottle design.

So, if you needed another reason to be a massive fan of Matthew McConaughey, who holds the position of the brand’s chief storyteller, his stellar taste in a whiskey is one to add to your list.

I simply love the hints of honey, caramel and vanilla in this bottling.

Alice Brooker, staff writer

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