Spirits

New World Whisky Producers to watch

Here are five New World Whisky producers you should have on your radar...

It will come as no surprise to you discerning drinkers that there’s excellent whisky to be had from all over the world. 

If you combine the varying climates to grow barley in, the way temperature and humidity affect the maturation process, and a keenness to look at production methods from a fresh perspective - it's inevitable that there are so many amazing new discoveries to be found.

Over the past five years, New World Whisky has gone from small pockets here and there to a becoming very visible, burgeoning group of makers who are are finding an audience across the globe and bringing the entire whisky category into a new era. 

Not only are they making it differently, they are presenting it differently (with less pomp and circumstance) and in doing so, are connecting with drinkers whom the traditional producers have struggled to engage with.

If you are looking for a new trends in the spirits world - this is a one of the most dynamic areas of the industry right now. 

Starward Whisky production
Starward Whisky production

So what is New World Whisky and what should you be looking for? 

New World whisky isn't an official category, rather a loose grouping given to whiskies made in places not usually associated with whisky production. You tend to find that these producers have a deep respect for the traditions of established regions, but are focused on innovation and reflecting their environment in the spirit they make. As we've mentioned already, they are a lot less formal about what whisky ‘must’ or ‘must’ not be as they are unshackled by decades of legacy and expectation. 

It's not just about new-to-whisky countries though, the "New World" moniker also encompasses unconventional whisky made within established countries. For example there could be a Scottish or Irish Rye, American Single Malt etc.

Traditionally, Japan was the first place that would come to mind when thinking of New World Whisky, but after decades of production and a dozen years going from fringe enthusiast offerings into the mainstream, they are now firmly established within the Whisky heartlands. 

More often than not, New World is being used to describe Antipodean and new European producers.

Australia is home to dozens of whisky distilleries, but despite the international acclaim and reputation many of the Tasmanian distilleries have achieved, only a handful are available outside the country. With bigger players now emerging, this is changing rapidly. Styles vary hugely, but the regional expertise and world class pedigree in winemaking is playing a key role in shaping many, with wine cask matured single malts becoming a key trend for recent releases.

Scandinavia is also experiencing a surge, each focusing on a different aspect of the region's unique terroir. For example, the sub-zero climate or using local grains in unusual mash bills. Meanwhile, there are now over forty distillers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who are busy establishing their own styles and forging a new chapter for their respective countries.

Here are five to have on your radar…

Kyro Distillery Single Malt. New World Whisky.
Kyro Distillery Single Malt. New World Whisky.

Like many of the ideas in Finland, and some of its population, Kyro was conceived in a Sauna. 

A group of friends were having a sauna and drinking rye whisky, when they began to discuss why nobody was making rye whisky in Finland. One thing led to another and they launched in 2012. Since, they never looked back - having made gin, liqueurs and an awful lot of hand sanitiser, slowly evolving into a craft distilling powerhouse. 

The spirits they make are always made from Finnish wholegrain 100% rye, and the while the attitude to making them is deadly serious, the conversation around the distillery never is.

Our pick in their range is the flagship Kyrö Malt, which has been double pot-distilled and aged in new American white oak casks. Earthy rye greets the nose, followed by aromatic vanilla and dried fruits. To taste, it's moved towards sourdough, honeyed oak and a peppery finish.

Kyro Single Malt Whisky.

Abasolo Distillery. New World Whisky
Abasolo Distillery. New World Whisky

Destileria y Bodega Abasolo in Jilotepec de Abasolo (located around 90 minutes north of Mexico City), was Mexico’s first dedicated Whisky distillery.

Not just an amazing piece of architecture, at over 2,300m, Abasolo distillery is also one of the highest in the world, with the climactic conditions playing a key role in shaping their spirit. If this wasn’t different or ground-breaking enough, the whisky itself made from 100% Ancestral Mexican Corn, known as Cacahuazintle.

The corn is treated using a 4,000 year old Mesoamerican process called nixtamalization and once it’s been transformed (or nixtamized), the corn solution is then double-distilled in copper stills and finished in new toasted and used oak casks. Expect deep, nuanced notes of roasted corn, honey, vanilla, black tea and leather – delicious!

Abasolo Whisky.

Starward Distillery. New World Whisky
Starward Distillery. New World Whisky

Starward very deliberately sets out to be a whisky for a curious, food-obsessed generation. Irreverent, informal and yet, implements all the right kinds of detail focussed production and blending to deliver great booze. 

They use red wine barrels to mature the whisky, source all their whisky ingredients from just a day's drive away (which in Australian terms is nearby) and let the regional weather and local atmosphere do the rest. 

A lot has been said about their Two Fold Whisky. We love it too and yes, in the context of a New World Whisky article it’s the logical expression as it reflects new attitudes, production and ways of serving. That said, there’s something about the Nova that has us returning over and again…

By using lightly charred barrels sourced from Australian wineries making great Shiraz, Cabernets Pinot Noirs and filling them “fresh” when the barrel is still wet with wine, the result is spectacular. Bright red berries, dried orchard fruits, caramel and lingering oak spice.

Starward Distillery.

Macmyra Distillery. New World Whisky
Macmyra Distillery. New World Whisky

Macmyra are the big name in Scandinavian whisky, and one of the more established players in the region. There's no resting on laurels for the team though, and today they produce whisky with the same sense of adventure as they did when starting in 1999, and have built one of the world’s most modern distilleries. 

A large part of their whisky is stored in new Swedish oak, and they combine more experimental seasonal releases with a more classic permanent range meaning fans of all levels of experience and taste preferences can find something they like.

The MACK by Mackmyra expression is one of the distillery’s most accessible offerings. It got a bright, fresh character with notes of vanilla, pear and citrus, making it great in cocktails but also on its own, straight or on the rocks. 

Mackmyra Distillery

Cotswolds Distillery. New World Whisky
Cotswolds Distillery. New World Whisky

While they might be better known for their gin currently, Whisky production is at the heart of everything for Cotswolds Distillery. 

The flagship Single Malt was first whisky ever distilled in the Cotswolds and is currently acting as a trailblazer for English whisky. By picking up awards, actively leading the discussion around what it means to be an English Whisky, connecting with thousands of visitors each year and more, it is helping set a high bar for what this new generation of producers are capable of. 

They have a few good offerings in the range, but in our opinion, the best introduction to what they do is their flagship. It's made by using 100% locally grown, floor-malted barley and matured in first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels and reconditioned red wine casks. Expect rich, fruity notes, honeyed oak and a marmalade-like citrus to finish.

Cotswolds Distillery

Spirits Kiosk
Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky
Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky
70cl46%GB
£37.45
MACK by Mackmyra Single Malt Whisky
MACK by Mackmyra Single Malt Whisky
70cl40%SE
£33.95
Abasolo Whisky
Abasolo Whisky
70cl43%MX
£39.45

By Olivier Ward

23 March 2021