Celebrating World Whisky Day? Don’t limit yourself purely to Scotch. Spirited’s chief drinks editor Daniel Goh rounds up and recommends some world whiskies for your drinking pleasure.

Whisky or whiskey. However one defines it, whisky or whiskey remains one of the most popular brown spirits in the world.

In honour of World Whisky Day, which takes place on the third Saturday of May every year, here’s a look at some of the drams I recently tried that showcase what the world of whiskies has been up to. Of course, there are many more whiskies produced around the world, but hopefully this list offers new enthusiasts or seasoned drinkers a good place to start.

Balblair 15 Year Old

Balblair 15 Year Old

Of course, one can’t possibly explore the world of whisky without bringing up Scotch whisky. Not to mention the founder of World Whisky Day, Blair Bowman, is himself a Scotsman. But while there are plenty of great examples of single malt Scotch whisky, I recently reacquainted myself with a less well-known one, the Highland distillery of Balblair. At least in these parts.

The whiskies of Balblair may not be commonly on the lips of single malt whisky fans in town, but they should be. Edderton-based Balblair is among the oldest distilleries in Scotland. It changed hands a number of times – and even went silent between 1911 to 1949 – until it came into the possession of current owners Inver House Distillers.

The Balblair 15 Year Old I revisited is a classic example of the style of this house. First matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks and later finished in first fill Spanish oak butts, this 46% ABV drop is expressive with rich dried fruit notes and wood spices, underlined by subtle cocoa, leather and spent tobacco notes, the latter likely from the distillery’s use of slightly peaty water from the burn of Ault Dreag.

Dependable and delicious. An excellent way to toast World Whisky Day.

The Balblair 15 Year Old is distributed by Asiaeuro Wines & Spirits and is available from their web shop at a recommended retail price of S$199.

Wolfie's Whisky by legendary rock icon Rod Stewart.

Wolfie’s Blended Scotch Whisky

I first learnt of Wolfie’s Blended Scotch Whisky last year, when it was first announced that rock legend Rod Stewart had teamed up with Scottish Highland single malt distillery Loch Lomond to create a whisky. Yes, that Rod Stewart. He of the sexy, raspy voice. When I heard this whisky was released in Singapore to coincide with his concert here in March earlier this year, I had to get myself a bottle.

As you can imagine, Wolfie’s Whisky is inspired by the iconic British singer’s earlier hell-raising days as well as rock and roll influences from all over. To be clear, Wolfie’s is exactly what you’d expect from a blended Scotch. Clocking at 40% ABV, this expression marries both grain and malt whiskies that’s been aged in ex-bourbon American oak casks for a lightly peated blend. You’ll get hit by a blast of summery orchard fruit notes, accentuated by warming wood spice in vanilla and cinnamon much like in a baked apple pie, with just a hint of Highland peat and some oak to keep things interesting.

It’s really more like Stewart’s pop-oriented “Blondes Have More Fun” than his emblematic “Every Picture Tells A Story”, but music-loving blended Scotch drinkers should still find this a treat.

Wolfie’s Blended Scotch Whisky is available from Alcohaul.sg at a recommended retail price of S$68.

Grace O'Malley Maritime Cask Irish Whiskey

Grace O’Malley Maritime Cask Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey is experiencing a resurgence. For those who may not be aware, whiskey making in Ireland actually predates that in Scotland. Irish whiskey entered a Golden Age during the 18th and 19th centuries, but the Great Famine, Prohibition in the United States, and the Irish War of Independence – along with competition from Scotch whisky – put paid to its whisky industry. By the early 20th century, only a bare handful of operating Irish distilleries were left.

But that has changed drastically. Ireland counts almost 50 working distilleries today, with more in the pipeline. More interestingly, Irish whiskey has borrowed the practice of blending from its Scottish neighbour, with independent bottlers and producers drawing whiskey from different distilleries to blend as their own. An example is Grace O’Malley Spirits, named for the infamous Irish pirate queen of the same name. Their Grace O’Malley Blended Irish Whiskey, for example, combines multiple batches of whiskey matured in a range of different barrel types with varying age statements ranging from three to 10 years old.

Or the Grace O’Malley Maritime Cask Irish Whiskey, its newest release which blends grain, pot still, and malt whiskey and finishes the result in casks made with wood that’s been seasoned by the Atlantic Ocean for two years. How’s that for a point of difference? Alas this expression is not available in Singapore yet, but a little bird told me chances are we’ll see this here by August.

Grace O’Malley Irish Whiskey is distributed by Spirit & Penance, with the Grace O’Malley Blended Irish Whiskey currently available from Original Whiskeys at a recommended retail price of S$105.

Stauning HØST Danish whisky

Stauning HØST Double Malt Danish Whisky

Chances are you’ve not heard of this one – Stauning Whisky from Denmark. Danish whisky, you ask? Why, yes. Stauning Whisky has an unlikely origin story, started as it was by nine friends in 2005 who shared a similar interest for making whisky in a country that didn’t have a history in, well, making any.

Their unerring focus to make 100% Danish whisky using local ingredients – such as barley, rye, and even peat – attracted the attention of beverage giant Diageo, which invested in Stauning. One of Stauning’s founders introduced to me their whiskies at the Danish embassy in Singapore back in 2019, and I’m glad to hear they are finally in town as of last month.

I’m most impressed with the Stauning HØST Double Malt Whisky, out of the four core expressions released here. Crafted using 100% floor malted local Danish rye and barley, this is a rich yet velvety smooth whisky with fruity and floral notes but also offers a spicy dry finish that has you reaching the glass for more.

Stauning whiskies are distributed by Six Eight Distribution with the Stauning HØST Double Malt Whisky available at a recommended retail price of S$110. Enquiries can be directed to timothy@sixeightdistribution.com.

Westward Whiskey Pinot Noir Cask

Westward Whiskey Pinot Noir Cask

Then there’s American single malt whisky brand, Westward Whiskey. Yes, you heard it right – American single malt. Unlike the usual corn-forward American bourbons from the country’s eastern seaboard, Portland, Oregon-based Westward Whiskey leans entirely on malted barley like its Scottish single malt counterparts, tapping the American Northwest for quality American barley as well as the region’s beer brewing expertise to make some of the most interesting whisky to come out of the United States.

Probably the best example out of its core range is the Westward Whiskey Pinot Noir Cask. This whisky leverages on Oregon’s winemaking expertise in the Willamette Valley, particularly in the production of exceptional Pinot Noir. Aged in casks sourced from Oregon wineries that used to hold Pinot Noir, this particular expression not only possess the toasty cereal notes we associate with good single malt, but is also lifted by alluring vinous overtones that offer fruity freshness and a subtle tannin bite. A taste of Oregon terroir, if you will.

We’ll have this as a sipping dram any day – particularly on World Whisky Day – but it’ll make a great highball or even a New York Sour as well.

The Westward Whiskey Pinot Noir Cask is available from La Maison du Whisky at a recommended retail price of S$168.

Starward Whisky Nova

Starward Nova Single Malt Whisky

Australian whisky has been making waves in the world of whisky in recent years. Distilleries across the Australian continent – from Western Australia in the west to New South Wales and Victoria in the east, as well as Tasmania down south – have been garnering accolades for their contemporary and high-quality approach to whisky making.

Among the leading Australian producers? Melbourne-based Starward Whisky.

Since its humble debut in Australia’s whisky scene back in 2007, Starward has since garnered plenty of awards for its whiskies that are matured in red wine barrels procured from Australia’s renowned winemaking regions such as Yarra Valley and Barossa Valley. Like Stauning I had the good fortune to come across the Starward range at ProWein and revisited its range. The Starward Nova Single Malt Whisky, in particular, continued to impress. It’s the distillery’s signature expression. Wet-filled and aged in red wine barrels, the red wine notes come through strongly for an intense fruitiness on the palate and ends off with a captivating tannic dryness.

Keep this within easy reach in your whisky cabinet.

The Starward Nova Single Malt Whisky is distributed by Malt Wine Asia and is available from its web shop  at a recommended retail price of S$115.

[Photos courtesy of whisky/whiskey brands]

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