Think single malt, and the term ‘Scotch’ soon follows – understandably, Scotland being home to the world’s largest number of single-malt distilleries. There is, however, something of a single-malt uprising happening around the world. Inspired by regions such as Ireland (which can lay claim to an even greater history of distilling than its Celtic cousin) and Japan, which is approaching a century of ever higher-quality distilling heritage, the seed of single malt is being sown further and further afield into the New World. It has been flung into the fertile ground of Australia, led by such stellar distilleries as Starward and Lark, and arguably to even more striking effect at Taiwan’s Kavalan, a perennial star performer at the annual IWSC, at which it again took top honours in 2021 (and from which the following recommendations are taken). It is also being scattered nearer single malt’s spiritual home – in France at Château du Breuil, and in England at the Cotswolds and The Lakes distilleries, which are harnessing more than just the names of their evocative landscapes to yield fine single malts south of the border.
So, what of the quality? Are these merely imitations of Scottish fare? Bad facsimiles of well-established malts from Japan and Ireland? Not at all. These New World producers represent fresh green shoots that show single malt can not only travel but can thrive in a new landscape, a new terroir. The processes are the same, as is, often, the malt used, with much of the equipment and even the raw materials shipped from Scotland to these new, adventurous producers. What set these distillers apart are the people behind the stills, their unique landscapes and maturation environments, and the culture of their homelands, which is distilled into every bottle. Above all, they are driven by a desire to make great whisky. There is an increasing harmony between the traditional producers of single malt and their New World counterparts, and this widening of the single-malt landscape is good not only for the producers, who push each other on to greater excellence, but ultimately also for us, as consumers.