Norway, India, Australia. Perhaps it’s a sort of sacrilege to talk about other countries that make whisky so close to the festival of haggis, poetry and Scotch that is Burns Night. But, while whisky from Scotland is still a cherished favourite, drinkers are increasingly looking beyond it, towards more unexpected whisky regions. And I’m not talking about Japan, now considered an established producer standing alongside the US and Ireland in the pantheon.
‘What we’re seeing coming now is more unique producers who may not have big branding behind them, but they’re making fantastic liquids in different places, and there’s a lot of interest around them,’ says Jeremy Lithgow of Amathus Drinks. ‘For instance, Copenhagen whisky from Denmark. We ran a masterclass for it at our South Kensington store in London and it sold out more quickly than any other masterclass we’ve ever had.’
The Copenhagen distillery – a 100 per cent organic, urban craft distillery – opened in 2014, initially selling aquavit and gin. The whiskies, which unlike white spirits need time to age, came on stream later. It’s not the only Scandinavian distillery whose whisky is attracting attention. ‘We are seeing more and more exciting whiskies coming from the Nordic countries, from as far north as the Arctic Circle to cities like Helsinki,’ says Dawn Davies, head buyer at The Whisky Exchange. ‘What ties them all together are bold flavours from a variety of grains and a real commitment to sustainability.’
There are a lot of them. The Whisky Saga website lists 73 whisky distilleries across Finland, Denmark, Sweden,
Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland – with 25 of them in Sweden. They range from the all-rye Kyrö Distillery Company in Finland, which was dreamt up in a sauna, the first distillation done in the house of one of the founders’ parents while they were on holiday; to the remote Faer Isles Distillery in the midst of the chilly North Atlantic (check its website for an excellent display of sweaters), which plans to release its first whisky in 2026.
Whisky from France and New Zealand is also ‘gaining popularity’, notes The Whisky Exchange, name-checking Hautes Glaces, an organic farm-distillery in the French Alps, and Thomson New Zealand Whisky, which is just outside Auckland and makes a whisky that is aged in manuka wood.
Part of an upswing in warmer-climate whiskies, Australia also has more than 120 whisky distilleries. But the really big player? India consumes almost one in every two bottles of the world’s whisky. It became Scotch whisky’s biggest export market in 2022 and, no surprise with such a keen audience to play to, makes a lot of aged brown spirit of its own.
Originally, much Indian ‘whisky’ was molasses-based (meaning to Europeans it was technically rum), but India is a big wheat producer and a serious whisky scene has been growing, with Indian whiskies winning some big awards.
And they’re increasingly easy to find here. Majestic recently added its first Indian whisky (Rampur Double Cask Single Malt, £60) to its range. I was also impressed with the seven whiskies I tasted from Paul John, which is based in Goa where the heat and humidity accelerate the ageing process, bringing a soft warmth to the maturing spirit.
Bottles of the week
Kyrö Malt Rye Whisky, Finland
This opens with notes of butterscotch and apricot jam, backed up with cleaner notes and pinprick stabs of black and white pepper. Impressive.
Paul John Bold Peated Single Malt Whisky, India
Try this if you enjoy Islay whisky; it’s made using Indian barley and Islay peat and has richness with a smoky edge.
Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky, England
From the Cotswolds distillery, this is aged in ex-bourbon and old red-wine casks made from US oak and has a sweetly fruity personality.