If you haven't spent every moment of the last few months staring at the bottom of a glass, you've already heard Japan is king in the what's-hot world of whiskey. Yes, everyone’s freaking out about that great new Japanese whiskey sensation, as if the world is shocked that it was made outside the English speaking world of post-colonial British haunts.
Suntory (the distributor of most of Japan's whiskey) is in a great position right now: They have the world's most sought-after spirit in the category (or maybe second to Pappy), and a tight grip on supply chains. It's going to be difficult to get your hands on that award-winning bottle for the whiskey-lover in your life (read: you).
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But Japan isn’t the only game in town. And even if you're bored by offerings from Scotland, Ireland, the U.S., and Canada, there are still plenty of great countries making great whiskey. Some even won awards as recently as last year. So rather than waste time and money to scrounge up a bottle of Yamakazi, be adventurous on your own and sip the nectar of one of these other grain-fermenting lands.
Most of the spirit-sipping world knows France for Cognac (and some for Armagnac, to a lesser extent), but the French have made whiskey for quite some time, too. Allison Patel who owns French single malt Brenne, found a cognac-producing vineyard owner to supply her barley by chance. The Frenchman (gotta love them) had been growing grain and distilling it to replenish the soil in unused field space around the vines. Patel added a few months of finishing in ex-cognac casks. The result is a surprisingly sweet and floral expression of whiskey that, as a mystery bottle, will challenge even the most experienced palates, and please at every experience level. [$65; drinkbrenne.com]