Over the last few years, a new whisky wave has built up force. New distilleries all over the world are being established, and many of their first releases have become available within the last year. They benefit from a democratization of distilling knowledge. As a result, the quality of the spirit distilled and subsequently matured is excellent, no matter the country it is being produced in.
While very hard to keep track of every single new distillery, here are some examples that truly stand out from this wave. This is by no means an exhaustive list. There’s many more to check out, but they are representative of this exciting new direction that promotes creativity, integrity and sustainability in whisky.
Because they are new, the whiskies they offer are all very young but are already delicious. Most importantly, these distilleries stand out as through their supply chain and production they have established a unique identity for themselves that not only ties them to their physical location and local communities but also promotes sustainability.
That coming together of environmentally conscious whisky making and expressing a sense of place through production and flavor profile will be the winning combination for any new whisky distillery looking to break through a market that already has so many products available to consumers.
Here they are in alphabetical order:
Basque Moonshiners (Spain) – A venture started by three friends outside Bilbao in the Basque region is steadily picking up steam. Basque Moonshiners produces a single malt brand, Agot, which is made with local barley and is malted near the distillery. Many casks used for maturation are sourced from a winery just a short drive away in the nearby province of Rioja. Its young whisky has already picked up a few awards and the team are now collaborating with different distilleries to create a unique brand of global blends, Bikkun, which features Basque Moonshiners whisky mixed together with other whiskies from different countries.
Nc’nean (Scotland) – Located in the west highlands of Scotland, Nc’nean stands out not only for its delicious whisky with a very light, lemony profile but also for its deep and admirable commitment to sustainability in production. It is the first Scotch whisky distillery to achieve net zero carbon emissions. It uses recycled glass for its bottles, sourcing only organic-certified barley, and green energy sources are used to power the distillery. It also supports a number of environmental charities. Fun fact: it’s first ever whisky bottle sold at a charity auction for £41,004 ($55,968), a sign of the enthusiasm for Nc’nean’s present and future.
Mosgaard (Denmark) – Founded and owned by Gitte and Jes Mosgaard, this micro distillery has already picked up a number of awards. It uses organic-certified Danish barley grown in the Thy national park. Its whiskies are mostly matured in 50-liter casks recoopered from a variety of ex-Sherry and ex-bourbon casks, and its releases reflect this wide variety of maturation.
The Oxford Artisan Distillery (England) – TOAD is at the forefront of a fascinating experiment. It uses regenerative agricultural practices in local farms to grow and harvest the heritage varietal grains used in its delicious and punchy artisanal rye whiskies. However, the grain harvest changes year on year so flavor profile consistency across releases is almost impossible. That’s part of the charm, with each release providing a new and unexpected aromas and flavors.
Three Societies (South Korea) – There is no distillery on earth that enjoys (and suffers) such a variety of climates as Three Societies. It is Korea’s first single malt distillery, located outside of Seoul in the Namjangyu area, which reaches temperatures as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as -4 degrees. As a result, spirit and oak casks go through an intense exchange, and the Three Societies team themselves have no idea what will emerge in a few years’ time. However, a 13 month old release is delicious and extremely promising, while further experiments featuring maturation in Korean raspberry wine casks are on the cards.
Felipe is a whisky writer, musician, author, spirits competition judge, and tastings host. As a whisky writer, Felipe has been widely published across industry magazines and websites. His book, London Cocktails, is published by Cider Mill Press and is distributed worldwide by Simon and Schuster. As a musician, he is...