Scotch appears with the word whisky so often it’s easy to forget not all whisky is created in Scotland. In fact, only whisky created in Scotland may bear the name Scotch, though it has become a drink created all over the world. The consumption in 2005 was 300 million liters. It has gained popularity the world over since its Gaelic origin as “usquebaugh” or “Water of Life” to become the international spirit of choice.
First produced commercially in 1924, there are now many varieties to choose from. The Japanese tradition is double distilled in pot stills like Scottish whisky, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s the same. There is no cask trading, and Japanese whisky is matured in anything from specially charred new oak to Japan’s rare and slow growing oak.
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There are several varieties of whisky created in India, but only one, Amrut, passes EU regulations so far. Most of the beverages called whisky are actually rum and distilled from fermented molasses, but a few are true whiskies created from malt and other grains. Whisky has become fashionable among the affluent.
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French distillers are focused in the area with most Celtic heritage: Brittany. A few are found outside this region and are distilling barley with success. The wine crisis has changed the focus of some to include whisky, especially with new measures that may limit how wine may be created, such as the ban on chaptalisation.
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First distilled in 2001, there are two operational distilleries in Finland with a number of projects that may increase that number. The Scottish methods are used with Finnish malt and water. Recent bans on imports in Denmark, Sweden and Finland were lifted, changing the market, though Finnish whisky is still on the rise.
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Murree Brewery has been setting the Islamic republic of Pakistan on its head with news of its first 20 year old malt whisky. It has previously made 8 and 12 year vintages and continues despite shut downs. According to law, it cannot be exported and cannot be consumed by 97% of the populace. However, this ‘Rarest’ whisky maintains its presence amid debate.
Whisky newcomers are using similar techniques and blind taste tests with these brands next to old favourites will probably fool most testers. There are some new flavours due to the ingredients being local, but the flavour is not sacrificed for the innovations.