10 best world whiskies: Find a single malt dram to suit every taste

Nick Moyle
·7-min read
<p>Japan spurred the global surge in single-malt whisky distilling</p> (iStock/The Independent)

Japan spurred the global surge in single-malt whisky distilling

(iStock/The Independent)

Looking for a new single malt whisky? Then why not broaden your choice beyond Scotland and pick a dram from a less well-known whisky-producing nation.

These days there’s excellent whisky to be had from all over the world, with a rapidly expanding list of countries that have whisky-producing distilleries distributing their products to a global audience.

With the varying climates and conditions in which to distil and age the spirits, and a keenness to look at production methods and ingredients from a fresh perspective, there are lots of amazing new discoveries to be had.

So just what is behind the global surge in distilleries producing single malts, and why folk are more eager to try whisky from outside the more traditional whisky-producing nations?

According to Eddie Ludlow, founder of The Whisky Lounge, much is down to the good work done by Japanese distilleries. Japanese whisky is, he says, “now accepted as a high-quality alternative to Scotch whiskies and has helped kick the door down for whiskies from anywhere in the world.”

As a result, you can find quality whisky from hot and humid countries such as Taiwan and India along with other cooler regions such as Scandinavia. Ludlow believes that whisky fanatics should also look closer to home and some of the excellent distilleries throughout England. “English whisky is really riding a wave at the moment,” he says. “Many of the key distilleries – such as The Lakes, Spirit of Yorkshire and Bimber – all ‘came of age’ last year, with single malt whisky releases from all of them.”

To test the best of these globally produced spirits, we joined numerous tasting sessions hosted by The Whisky Lounge and The Whisky Show, besides clearing the kitchen table for a few sessions of our own. We’ve not included whisky from more familiar places such as Ireland, USA and Canada, but in case your adventurous spirit doesn’t want to travel beyond Scotland we’ve thrown in a new, innovative treat from the old whisky country too. So cast aside any misguided preconceptions you may be harbouring and join us on this globe-trotting whisky adventure…

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

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Kavalan classic single malt whisky, 40%

The sub-tropics of Taiwan might be a world away from the chilly climes of Scotland, but that hasn’t stopped the King Car distillery producing a whisky with more awards than most. Along with skilful production, the heat and humidity also plays a key role too – causing a greater rate of alcohol evaporation that, in turn, draws more of a mature flavour from the oak. Those deep oak notes are accompanied by delicious tropical fruit syrup flavours and lightened with a bouquet of blossom, making it both rich and fresh.

Buy now £59.95, Master of Malt

Stauning peat single malt whisky

Stauning can claim its peated whisky is truly a product of terroir, with local malted barley smoked by peat unearthed from the Danish landscape. It’s not all smoke in the aroma, with an apple-fresh fruitiness vying for attention and, on tasting, the peat is reminiscent of the embers of a fire, fading on a gentle breeze, while the sweet fruits give way to a distinctive taste of cocoa at the finish.

Buy now £69.95, House of Malt

Rampur double cask single malt whisky, 45%

The Rampur Distillery is based in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where the climate can be challenging for the whisky maker. High humidity, cold winters and exceptionally hot summers can lead to overly woody flavours, but in Rampur’s expert hands the double casks (bourbon and sherry) have been well behaved, yielding tropical fruit aromas and figgy, chocolatey flavours that come with a hint of leather and wax polish.

Buy now £58.95, The Whisky Exchange

Milk & Honey classic single malt, 46%

Milk & Honey, Israel’s first single malt whisky distillery, is another that uses a hot climate to its advantage, with the Mediterranean sunshine accelerating the maturation process in ex-bourbon and refurbished red wine casks (known as STR casks). The resulting whisky evokes a sun-drenched landscape, with a dryness throughout and toasty caramel and black pepper edge to the spicy, tannic oak. Those bold flavours are balanced with a light body and a drip of honey as if squeezed straight from the golden Mediterranean sunshine.

Buy now £54.95, The Whisky Exchange

Mackmyra Jatlycka swedish single malt whisky, 46.1%

If you’re a fan of big, bold whiskies with bags of flavour then take your taste buds to Sweden with this seasonal release from Mackmyra. The distillery focuses its efforts on sustainability and producing distinctively local products, and this release celebrates a Swedish autumn, with local berry wine used to season some of the casks. It has a creamy feel and heady aromas and flavours of berries, ginger, tannic fruit and a whole load of prickly pepper. We think it’ll keep you warm through not just autumn but also into the harshest of winters.

Buy now £54.95, Whisky Exchange

Cotswolds Distillery Cotswolds single malt whisky, 46%

England’s whisky-barren decades have been consigned to history and the land is now blessed with many fine producers, from the excellent Lakes Distillery in the north to exciting new arrival the Dartmoor Distillery down south. For several years the English whisky standard setter has been Cotswolds single malt, with locally grown barley producing a fruity spirit that’s aged in ex-Bourbon barrels and reconditioned in red wine casks. It’s smooth and creamy with the kind of rich, fresh fruit flavours that give it a broad appeal and warming spices that help you to cosy up and relax.

Buy now £36.00, The Cotswolds Distillery

Starward Solera single malt whisky, 43%

Australia is a country teeming with distilleries, many of them small producers scattered around the whisky hotbed of Tasmania. Head over the Bass Strait to Melbourne and you’ll find Starward whisky, one of the few Aussie distilleries to regularly export to the UK. Matured in apera barrels (Australia’s alternative to sherry), its aroma gives an instant hit of rich fruit and sweet almond, and the fruity theme continues on the palate with lots of juicy goodness. There’s also a sprinkling of festive spices, a comfort of crusty toast and the final reward is a lick of dark chocolate.

Buy now £47.25, Master of Malt

Michel Couvreuer Blossoming Auld Sherried malt whisky, 45%

Michel Couvreur’s whiskies are a marriage of Scottish distilling expertise and French ageing craft, making them special dual-nation drams. Some of the finest Scottish single malt whisky is transported to Burgundy and allowed to mature in rare sherry oak casks, some housed in a dry cellar for a feisty high ABV spirit and some in a very damp cellar to produce a mellower liquid. Combining these whiskies has produced an exceptionally smooth sipper, with some deliciously rich oak flavours and a big wallop of intense sherry that has seeped out of a Christmas cake studded with orange. An outstanding glow-inducing whisky.

Buy now £208.40, Amathus

Penderyn Portwood single malt whisky, 46%

A unique still designed by Dr David Faraday, a descendant of the famous electromagnetic scientist, is the key component in the production of whisky from the Brecon Beacon’s Penderyn distillery. The distilled spirit weighs in at a very high 92 per cent alcohol, which gives it a fresh and fruity base before ageing begins. Some additional fruitiness in this whisky (and a slightly pink tinge) comes from its finishing in port casks, which not only gives it an immediate aroma of port but also adds flavours of sweet, dried berries while a swell of oaky, peppery spice adds depth before the lingering dry finish.

Buy now £55.90, House of Malt

Nc’Nean organic single malt, 46%

This new distillery may be from Scotland but it has adopted approaches to whisky production that have more in common with other distilleries on this list than most of its neighbours. Prioritising sustainability and innovation, the first batch of its organic whisky has light and elegant touches that you rarely find in young whisky, with the oak spices tickling rather than bludgeoning, while notes of sweet, malty grains and fruits bring some freshness to the palate. A superb first whisky that promises great things to come.

Buy now £49.95, Nc’Nean

The verdict: World whiskies

Proving that conditions very far removed from Scotland can produce great whisky, Taiwan’s Kavalan fully deserves its “classic” name.