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Scotch whisky is best… right?

Look, I’m biased. I work at an outstanding 5* Visit Scotland, family owned distillery. The distillery also happens to lay claim to the oldest written reference to Scotch Whisky. You’d afford me a little partiality towards Scotch Whisky now wouldn’t you?

Exchequer Rolls

Is Whisky from other countries rubbish then?

Because it’s not Scotch whisky, can it still be good whisky?

Enter…‘World Whisky’ a catch all term for anything which isn’t ‘Scotch’, ‘Irish’, ‘Bourbon/American Whiskey’ or even perhaps these days Japanese.

The Japanese Whisky that the world goes mad for isn’t a modern construct, nay Masataka Taketsuru studied at the University of Glasgow in 1918 then spent a good few years with Scottish Whisky distilleries before eventually sailing back to Japan to establish Yoichi with Suntory then a few years later to establish the mighty Nikka whisky company. They have been honing their art for a good few years and have gotten really very good at it.

Japanese whisky bottles

English Whisky

So what of ‘world whisky’ you cry. Well let’s look at England, which up until the turn of the 20th century made single malt. England has now been making Whisky again since the opening of the St. Georges distillery in 2006 (around the time of Kilchoman on Islay). There are some excellent young Whisky’s coming from the likes of Bimber, Cotswolds, The Lakes and Adnams.

Further afield and we have Kavlan in Taiwan, sweeping up awards left right and centre. Mackmyra of Sweden, Paul John and Amrut of India all hold their own against single malt whisky’s with 100’s years’ experience. Cast your gaze even further and Australia has a very exciting growing Whisky making scene with the likes of Lark and the new Archie Rose.

See through whisky

Scotch Whisky

In the spirit of fairness, Scotch whisky is tightly regulated and only whisky made to the official standards which is both produced, matured and bottled in Scotland can be called Single Malt Scottish Whisky. For all other nations, the rules on Whisky making are far less regulated and arguably a little more ‘malleable’. Japanese Whisky for example can include Scotch Whisky and still be called Scotch. Other countries may permit the use of enzymes to increase alcohol yield, or allow for the use of alternative maturation techniques or even use things like molasses or rice. That said, I’d suspect most ‘world whisky’ producers make their whisky using the exact same processes that we do here in Scotland. After all ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’.

So is Scotch better? Well, that’s up to you – let me know what you think!


Tim Foster

One response to “Scotch whisky is best

  1. So …………. I’ve been a whiskey drinker and in a small way collector for about 10 years. in that time I have tried many different whiskeys both standard ones you find in super markets and some very expensive stuff including (for example) some Rosebanks and 25 year old special release Glenlivets and Ardbegs. I’ve also done the all obligatory whiskey bar experiences and tastings. Plus I ‘ve also opened early Bimbers where the market has got a little heated.

    In my opinion (and it is just an opinion) it all depends on what you like. Famous Grouse sells well because ……. well it in OK. I’ve tried one Rosebank which was absolutely superb and another that was sort of OK. I’m not keen on strongly peated whiskeys at all. I do like Bimber (with a little water but it is still young)

    Scottish whiskey has an age advantage over most easily available other bottles in the UK so likely that there will many more refined bottles out there (having said that I don’t think age is everything – I’ve had the odd 3 year old that I really enjoyed and a 30 year old that was “disappointing”). In reality 10 – 15 year olds probably command a huge portion of all sales. Take Glenfarclas – I have tried all sorts of many ages but still think the 21 year old is the best.

    I recently sat with someone from North of the border and when I mentioned English Whiskey he said (and its a literal quote) “I don’t understand – you can’t have English whiskey”. There lies the issue. There are so many new distilleries opening that to be really successful each one will have to try to stay ahead of the competition. North or South – West (Wales) or even further West (Ireland) success will depend on quality, price (think famous grouse !!) and not taking customers for granted.

    Now here’s the honesty bit :

    I’m 56
    From almost as far south as you can get in the UK
    The best whiskey ……….. by a very long way that I have ever tasted was a 1963 Lochside that was bottled in 1980 and sampled in 2018 (JAMES MACARTHUR)

    In conclusion (final thoughts) – the best easily available whiskeys on the market are currently Scottish. But to stay the best you have to work very hard or else the competition will overtake you before you know it.
    As to taste – its personal. The best is what I like – its also what you like and it might be different but we can all share a glass or two and happily agree / disagree.

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