There’s no wrong time to branch out and try a whisk(e)y from abroad. Even right now. In 2020, you can find delicious whiskeys made all over the world and even amid the quarantine delivery services like Drizly and Instacart are still rolling. With social distancing stretching on and International Whiskey Day coming on March 27th, now just might be the time to drop your first order.
Cody Henson, beverage director at The Alida Hotel in Savannah, Georgia looks to Japan for his global spirit. “I’ve been into the Iwai whisky from the Mars Shinshu distillery,” he says. “It’s mostly corn and aged in ex-bourbon barrels, so you get some familiarities of American whiskey. I think it’s one of the best ‘bang-for-your-buck’ whiskies in the Japanese whisky world.”
Henson isn’t the only bartender with opinions about worldwide whiskeys. So we decided to ask some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the best global whiskeys to order for International Whiskey Day, whether the quarantine is still rolling or not.
Canadian Club (Canada)
Billy Cox, bar chef at Ocean Prime in Boston
Canadian Club whisky. See what your grandparents were all about, because they weren’t wrong. The O.G. C.C. is a bottle I always am sure to keep at my home bar.
Compass Box Hedonism (Scotland)
Drew Hairston, beverage director at Dirty Habit in Washington, DC
Compass Box Hedonism is a smooth baking-spice-driven, blended grain whiskey. Compass Box represents a facet of whiskey-making that is generally overlooked: transparency. They advocate for all whiskey makers to inform consumers on exactly what they are drinking and how it was blended. This is something lost on many distillers.
Teeling 15 (Ireland)
Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC
Teeling Irish Whiskey has been one of my go-to pours. I love the notes you get from the ex-rum cask. The vanilla is balanced with a nice pepperiness. It’s great to sip on neat or with sparkling water.
Glendronach 15 Year (Scotland)
Stephen George, beverage manager at 7 Mile Kitchen in Carlsbad, California
I’ll have my fair share of Irish whiskey on March 17th, so I’m going to go with a Scotch whisky. I’m going to go with Glendronach 15 Year, which has hints of rich fruit and spice. Glendronach is known for its sherry influence and it shows very well here.
Highland Park 14 (Scotland)
Kayla Grogan, mixologist at Monarch Rooftop in New York City
Highland Park is a great non-American Whiskey brand. The distillery is located on the Orkney Islands, of the northeastern coast of Scotland. It’s the most northern distillery in the world. The location truly plays into the flavor of the whiskies they produce — as the harsh climate and terrain draws out very distinct smoky and floral flavors.
Kavalan Solist (Taiwan)
Alfred Stovall, beverage director at O-Ku Sushi in Washington, DC
I’m going with Kavalan Solist. Taiwanese whisky is entirely underappreciated and Kavalan is outstanding, one of my favorites of any bottle I’ve ever had
Amrut Spectrum (India)
Thomas Nesselhauf, manager of Datz Restaurant Group in Tampa, Florida
Amrut Spectrum. It’s a crazy-unique Indian whisky, aged initially for three years in bourbon barrels then finished for three and a half years in a special cask made from a combination of five different types of wood: American, French and Spanish new oak, and ex-Oloroso and ex-PX sherry casks. It is a quintessential international whisky because it is sourced and distilled in Scotland, matured in India, and sold all over the world.
Aberfeldy 12 (Scotland)
Colin Stevens, bartender at Thyme Bar in New York City
I’m a big fan of Aberfeldy. For a Highland Scotch they are very approachable for those who may not be too comfortable with the category, yet still full-flavored and in a way that will satisfy die-hard fans. Additionally, they helped pioneer the use of biomass boilers to power distilleries.
The Balvenie 12 (Scotland)
Marina Barona, director of restaurants at The Vinoy Renaissance in St. Petersburg, Florida
Balvenie 12. Smooth and mellow with beautifully combined flavors, Balvenie 12 offers a nutty sweetness, cinnamon spiciness and a delicately proportioned layer of sherry.
Dewar’s 12 (Scotland)
Hector Ortiz, beverage manager at Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve in Puerto Rico
The non-American whiskey that everybody should see it would be Dewar’s 12 on the rocks or with a splash of coconut water. Why? It is all because of the double aging that Dewar’s work with, it gives a tremendous extra smoothness and great flavor to the product.
Nikka From The Barrel (Japan)
Alex Reznik, director of operations of Mrs. Fish in Los Angeles
Whisky drinkers should turn to Nikka From The Barrel. Released to the US in 2018, this consummate Japanese blend drinks easy. This Japanese favorite has been around since 1985 and its colorful palette of whiskies combine for depth of flavor. Tasting notes of soft, sweet butterscotch and orange peel compliment poached pears and stone fruits to make for a well-rounded drink.
Suntory Toki (Japan)
Larry Day, beverage manager at Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Beam Suntory has one of the better ones. Suntory Whisky Toki is a blend of selected malt and grain whiskies from the Hakushu, Yamazaki, and Chita distilleries in Japan. If you want to get away from American and Canadian brands, go Japanese. Makes a great High Ball.
Laphroaig 10 (Scotland)
Vince Diorides, lead Bartender at Jack Dusty in Sarasota, Florida
Laphroaig Scotch Whisky all the way. This Irish whiskey is the perfect sipper for those whiskey connoisseurs celebrating this holiday. It contains smoky characteristics making it a bold choice, while also being smooth on the palette.
Lot 40 (Canada)
Rus Yessenov, director of mixology at Fairmont Royal York in Toronto
If I have to pick a great “international” whisky, I have to go with one of the best offerings from Canada: Lot 40 100% Canadian Rye. It’s a true rye-whisky that exemplifies Canadian craftsmanship.