If you think of whiskey (or whisky!) as a spirit native mainly to Ireland, Scotland and North America, it's time to reconsider. The brown spirit is getting more cosmopolitan than ever, with bottles from around the world showing up at bars and liquor stores coast to coast. Here are five countries making fantastic varieties, and where to find them in the U.S.
While some critics disagree on whether certain India-based brands adhere to official “whisky” definitions,” that hasn’t stopped demand of from going through the roof. No-frills whiskey bar Reserve 101 in Houston, a favorite of visiting celebs like Shakira, The Killers and Sean Penn, offers more than 340 varieties including Amrut, which translates to “nectar of the gods.” One taste of the heavenly spirit, complex and smoky with notes of oak, barley and sugar, and you’ll be hooked.
Brenne Single Malt, made in Cognac, France, has fruit-forward flavors of bananas and tropical fruits and notes of burnt caramel, with hints of warm spices. Twice-distilled and finished in Cognac casks, this super-smooth, eminently drinkable spirit can be found at the rustic New Orleans beer and whiskey-centric spot, Barrel Proof.
South African bottlings are gaining steady ground on the global market as they make their way into bars from the UK to the U.S. In New York City, you can taste South Africa’s Bain’s Cape Mountain at Bo’s Kitchen & Bar Room. The corn-based spirit, run through a double maturation process, goes down smooth with its hints of spice and oak.
While Japan's Scotch-style whisky has been around more than 90 years and is a hit in its native country, it’s only recently made waves in the U.S., where it can also be harder to find. Part of the reason is that certain bottlings have received so much hype, they've become nearly impossible to nail down. Chicago bar Delilah’s is known for its collection of rare spirits, which includes Japan's Yamazaki Whisky; the brand earned a "best in the world" title from critic Jim Murray's Whisky Bible in 2014 for its Single Malt Sherry 2013, and kicked off a frenzied search for those bottles in the States.
Look out for Taiwan's Kavalan, voted the best single malt in the world at the 2015 World Whiskies Awards. Connoisseurs in Los Angeles know to hit up Seven Grand for a pour of the sweet, dry and nutty spirit, matured in wine-aged American oak barrels before hitting your glass.
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