Whether enjoyed as a cocktail, or used as a constituent in cooking, sipped as a digestive in a fine ‘n dine restaurant, or while sitting in front of a warm fireplace, whisky enjoys a sort of cult status that very few spirits can even come close to. Be it in sunshine yellow or dark blood, this rich beverage is one of those few spirits that has a very rich tradition behind it. It’s no wonder that its history makes it so much part of heritage and culture, and is engraved as a way of life in areas where they’re made.
Whisky is truly becoming a global phenomenon and long gone are the days when it was restricted within the perimeters of Ireland and Scotland. It successfully crept deep into the regions of Europe such as France, Germany, England and many of the Scandinavian countries. Although still in their nascent stages, a few of their distilleries have been successful in producing popular whiskies, many of which have received global recognition.
Early settlers from Scotland and Ireland took this whisky wisdom when they immigrated to the United States and Canada. Here they applied their knowledge using indigenous grains such as corn, rye and barley to produce what is now known as American and Canadian whisky. Although initial attempts at the whisky were coarse and harsh, its evolved over decades into what Tennessee, Bourbon and Rye whiskies are truly known for.
The East wasn’t spared either; thanks to the British Rule in the early 1800s, whisky was gradually introduced into the Indian Subcontinent and this naturally led to the rise of several breweries. Few decades later whisky also began raising its head in countries such as Australia and Japan and the rest I guess is history!
In this 2 part blog, we will ‘tete-a-tete’ on some of the recent entries, starting ‘Down Under’ with the Australians, moving over to the Orients, aka ‘The Japanese’ and then finally settling down in India, the land of the Maharajas (such a cliche right!?).
You might think that Australia as a nation would have a relatively young history when it came to making whisky, but what is surprising is that its history with the golden juice was a revival and not a recent invention. This reincarnation happened in an island which was locally popular for its wine and it is this island that is home to a majority of the distilleries from the continent. The island is home to none other than Looney-toon’s little ‘ol Taz, yup…Tasmania!
This rebirth began quite recently, in the early 1990s, post prohibition which lasted close to 153 years. The manufacturing process is still very traditional, highly influenced by the Scottish.
The Island of Tasmania naturally evolved as the whisky central due to its crystal clear waters, a very hospitable climate and the added blessing of being gifted with a rich source of indigenous grown barley. What’s even better is that the highlands of Tasmania also boast of the presence of peat which is very much used in the drying process. The wines obtained post the distillation process are aged in either quarter , sherry or bourbon casks some of which are cut to smaller sizes. This they say makes their whiskies more rounded, flavorful and smooth since the surface area is dramatically increased.
Barley isn’t the only grain being used; distilleries in other regions, such as Wales and a few in Tasmania also use Rye as the main constituent and sometimes a blend of Rye, Corn and Barley. Although double distillation is the norm, some also mirror the Irish’s triple distillation process and ‘borrow’ their ‘e’ in whiskey.
Jim Murray brought recognition when he crowned Sullivan’s Cove French Oak Cask the world’s best single malt whisky and this fortified the rebirth of Australian produce and led to a huge surge in global demand. So famous did Sullivan’s French Oak Cask get that some connoisseurs were willing to shell as much as 20,000 dollars for the ‘limited in numbers’ prized spirit!
This increased popularity and global appeal has encouraged several newer distilleries in and around Tasmania, New Zealand and the rest of the continent. It’s sure to say, Australian Whisky is here to stay!