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Global Whisky Festivities Commence Across the World

Image Source: donfiore / Shutterstock

As March 27 approaches, the date for International Whisk(e)y Day looms nearer. It’s the perfect moment to indulge in the rich and robust amber elixir. After sampling an array of libations, here are several selections from the rugged shorelines, isles, and peaks of Ireland and Scotland that I find particularly delightful.

Arbikie Highland Estate Distillery, Montrose, Scotland

Operating from farm to bottle, the family-managed Arbikie Highland Estate Distillery in Scotland has launched its third edition of the limited Highland Rye Single Grain Scotch Whisky.

Boasting a honeyed bronze hue, aged for five years, and matured in charred American oak before a finish in Jamaican rum barrels, this velvety whisky refrains from chill filtration and artificial color additives.

The initial matured Scotch whisky crafted with rye in over a century, the ingredients originate directly from the distillery’s family farm, with the blend featuring Arrantes Scottish Rye, Viscount Scottish Wheat, and Odyssey Scottish Malted Barley.

Located on a sea cliff along the east coast of Angus, Arbikie Highland Estate dates back to 1794 as evidenced by historical records of distillation. The Stirling family, comprising John, Iain, and David, uphold a family legacy of farming at Arbikie spanning four generations. Nestled on fertile soil tinted by red sandstone near the North Sea, the distillery benefits from the unique microclimate of Lunan Bay, which extends the growing seasons.

Kirsty Black, Arbikie’s Master Distiller, characterizes the aroma of the Highland Rye Single Grain with notes of ripe bananas, grilled pineapples, vanilla ice cream, roasted almonds, and caramelized sugar. The palate reveals flavors of stewed fruits, demerara sugar, cocoa, grilled pineapples, blackcurrants, and cloves.


Powerscourt Distillery, Wicklow, Ireland

Taking inspiration from the evocative bodegas of the Andalusian region in Spain, Powerscourt Distillery, near the charming village of Enniskerry, presents its most mature release to date – a 21-year-old single malt Fercullen whiskey. This whiskey is matured in a blend of 70 percent bourbon, 20 percent Oloroso, and 10 percent PX sherry casks.

Whiskey connoisseur John Cashman describes it as a fusion of the distinct dark fruit notes from the Spanish terroir with the gentle sophistication of a 21-year-old bourbon-matured malt whiskey, bestowing a delightful vanilla sweetness to the spirit.

He further states, “When intertwined with the dried fruits from the sherry casks and the spice essence from the European oak, this single malt exhibits exceptional depth of flavor and intricacy.”

Established as a classic three pot still distillery in mid-2018, Powerscourt Distillery laid down its first barrels in August of that year, coinciding with the launch of Fercullen. ‘Fercullen’ is derived from the native Irish title for the ancient Celtic land stretching from Dublin city across the Wicklow Mountains.

In addition to the 21-year-old single malt, the distillery produces Fercullen Falls, a blend of malt and grain whiskies aged in first-fill, ex-bourbon barrels, with the grain component aged in a mix of ex-bourbon and freshly charred oak casks. The distillery also offers an exclusive ‘Prestige Cask Programme.’


Wayward Irish Spirits, Killarney, Ireland

In the establishment of this distillery in southwest Ireland, Maurice O’Connell maintained his family’s longstanding involvement in the beverage industry, spanning six centuries back to the importation of brandies and wines from Spain by his ancestors.

Named in honor of the 18th-century Irish luminary Daniel O’Connell, nicknamed ‘the wayward Irishman’ for his impassioned speeches, the distillery is situated on the picturesque Lakeview Estate overlooking Lough Leane, the largest of the Three Lakes of Killarney.

Among its exceptional offerings is the inaugural Single Pot Still Whiskey, aptly named the ‘Coming of Age Release.’ Post-distillation, this whiskey is initially aged in ex-Bourbon casks for three months, followed by a further 40 months in ex-Premier Cru Bordeaux NEOC barrels, with a 10 percent finish in ex-peated casks for an additional three months. To ensure integration and smoothness, the whiskey undergoes a six-month aging process, with no artificial coloring and minimal filtration (no chill filtration).

In terms of flavor profile, anticipate aromas of cherries, rich honey, and a subtle hint of smoke.

O’Connell emphasized that the region’s microclimate, often humorously likened to ‘four seasons in one hour’ due to daily temperature fluctuations, enhances the whiskey’s maturation as it interacts with the cask. Created from locally-sourced barley, the whiskey matures on-site at the Estate itself.


Gortinore Distillery, Waterford, Ireland 

Situated in southeastern Ireland, this distillery aims to blend Irish and American whisky traditions with its brand, Natterjack, named after the solitary toad species native to Ireland.

Founded by Aidan and Lisa Mehigan, the distillery occupies a repurposed woollen mill along the banks of the River Mahon, housing three traditional copper pot stills alongside aging whiskey casks. Under the guidance of Master Distiller Jordan Via, the distillery is housed within a 150-year-old building.

Natterjack whiskies, distinguished by innovative bottle designs, undergo aging in ex-Bourbon barrels before a finishing touch in virgin American oak carefully selected at the distillery’s Kentucky site. Triple distilled, the whiskey presents a smooth, almost creamy palate with notes of orange, spice, cedar, and hints of tobacco. The special cask strength variant is bottled at 63 percent ABV, showcasing prominent flavors of orange and char, complemented by malt, subtle clove hints, anchored by butterscotch and earthy oak undertones.


Ballykeefe Distillery, Kilkenny, Ireland 

A familial venture, Ballykeefe Distillery is helmed by Morgan and Anne Ging, whose legacy of farming can be traced back through written records in an area known as ‘Ireland’s Ancient East.’

After a quarter-century of research and painstaking dedication, they transformed their dream into reality by diversifying their farming operations to include a ‘field-to-glass’ single estate distillery six years ago. Commencing operations in 2016, whiskey production at Ballykeefe began in 2017 with a Single Pot Still, followed by Single Malt and Single Rye expressions. Emphasizing sustainability, the distillery grows its grain on-site and repurposes distillation by-products as livestock feed.

Crafted in Italian handcrafted copper pot stills from 100 percent malted barley, the Single Malt Irish whiskey from Ballykeefe showcases an intense medley of fruit, sweet licorice, and malt flavors, dominated by apple notes, accompanied by tropical fruit hints, tarte tatin, marzipan, and clove undertones. The Pot Still variant offers an initial burst of orange peel and dark chocolate, followed by a wave of spice swirling with notes of licorice, clove, cardamom, concluding with a hint of refreshing menthol oil.


Rademon Estate Distillery, Crossgar, Northern Ireland

A recipient of numerous accolades, Rademon Estate Distillery was established in 2012 by the partnership of Fiona and David Boyd-Armstrong. Positioned within a historic 500-acre estate in County Down, Northern Ireland, dating back to AD565, featuring an original house constructed in 1667, the distillery showcases a vintage courtyard, cottages, a workers bell, and a majestic obelisk.

With over seven years of whiskey-making experience, Rademon Estate Distillery introduces its double-distilled Shortcross Rye and Malt edition, crafted on copper pot stills, including one of the smallest in Ireland. Aged in a blend of chinkapin oak and ex-bourbon barrels, the mash bill comprises 100 percent Irish malted rye and barley. An innovative addition to their line-up is a small-batch Irish poitín, boasting a bouquet of fresh fruit medley on the nose, with sweet, light verdant undertones, culminating in flavors of sweet blackberry crumble.


Dingle Distillery, Kerry, Ireland

As Ireland commemorates a national holiday in honor of Brigid, the ancient Goddess of fertility, Dingle Distillery in Kerry unveiled its triple-distilled Lá le Bríde Single Malt, paying homage to the ancient Celtic celebration of Imbolg, heralding the arrival of Spring. Rested in bourbon casks and given a rye cask finish, Lá le Bríde emanates light, sweet aromas of honey, raspberries, biscuits, powdered sugar, and butterscotch. On the palate, the whiskey delivers a profusion of spices, herbal essences, caramel, and ginger, with a subtle mint touch, culminating with a toffee and spiced fruit conclusion.

DingleFounded by Oliver Hughes, Liam LaHart, and Peter Mosley in 2012, the Distillery launched with a unique offering known as the ‘Descendants Cask Programme’ which allows connoisseurs to invest in whiskey crafted by Master Distiller, Graham Coull, and aged for an impressive eight years.


Clonakilty Atlantic Distillery, Cork, Ireland

Nestled at Cork’s waterfront in southwestern Ireland, the Scully family, founders of Clonakilty Atlantic Distillery, have tended this coastal land for nine consecutive generations spanning over 300 years.

Barley is cultivated on their farm beneath the towering Galley Head lighthouse. The distillery believes that the pure, crisp air carried across vast distances – from wild Atlantic storms to gentle sea mist and soft rains – bestows a pristine freshness untouched by human hands.

Their award-winning Single Grain whiskey is matured in ex-bourbon casks for a decade, followed by two more years in ex-Bordeaux red wine casks. This process results in a luxurious, smooth flavor profile featuring notes of sweet red berries, hints of strawberries, honey, and vanilla. The finish is characterized by a touch of wood spice intertwined with cracked pepper.


The Eclinville Distillery, Newtownards, Northern Ireland 

Dubbed as ‘The Spirit of Belfast,’ Dunville’s Distillery in Belfast, dating back to 1808, was a prominent whiskey producer during the Victorian era. Revived by The Echlinville Distillery ten years ago, it clinched the title of ‘Ireland’s Best Whiskey’ at the Irish Whiskey Awards and secured twelve accolades at the World Whiskies Awards.

Dunville’s PX 10 Year Old Single Malt Whiskey ages for a decade and is finished in premium Pedro Ximenez sweet sherry casks. Bottled at 46% ABV without chill-filtration, this pristine malt boasts flavors of vanilla panna cotta, dried tropical fruits, clove, oak spice, and a lingering essence of PX sherry. Aromas include apricots, grapefruit, and toasted almonds, opening up to vibrant green cooking apples, apple tatin, spiced calvados caramel creme, and a rich fruit compote.


Sailor’s Home, Limerick, Ireland

Constructed in 1856 in Limerick by local authorities, close to the Shannon Estuary and the vast Atlantic Ocean, Sailor’s Home has been rejuvenated into a bustling distillery. Here, master whiskey craftsman Jack Ó’Sé has introduced the captivating ‘Explorer Series.’

Among their distinguished labels like Journey, Haven, Horizon, and Caravelle, stands out Stormchaser, a triple-distilled single malt whiskey aged in virgin oak and ex-Bourbon casks, finished with unique cask influences – craft Irish stout barrels and Madeira casks. Its aroma exhibits cocoa, bitter hops, and roasted malts, while the palate offers subtle spice, espresso notes, dark chocolate, creamy vanilla, and hints of orange peel. The finish is a delightful blend of treacle and fruity nuances.


Sliabh Liag Distilleries, Donegal, Ireland

Perched in the historic festival town of Ardara, overlooking Loughrosmore Bay, Sliabh Liag Distillers, spearheaded by James and Moira Doherty, revitalizes an ancient artisan tradition in Ireland’s northwest.

Their yellow-gold masterpiece ‘Midnight Silkie’ is the boldest blend in their arsenal, composed of four triple-distilled single malts and a peated single malt at its core. This distinct concoction combines five single malts aged in sherry, Bourbon, oloroso red wine, virgin oak, and imperial stout casks, blended without chill filtration to preserve its robust character.

Praised for its rich muscovado sweetness with undertones of pipe smoke, sandalwood, and zesty orange zest, the palate unfolds with intense molasses, raisins, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. As the experience progresses, flavors of toffee apples, toasted oak, and tobacco emerge.


Ardbeg Distillery, Isle of Islay, Scotland

With a legacy spanning over two centuries, Ardbeg whisky claims its origin on the remote Scottish Isle of Islay. Introducing one of its contemporary offerings, the 10-year-old peaty, smoky single malt is crafted on the Kildalton coast. Following distillation, the spirit matures in American bourbon barrels for a minimum of a decade before blending into the final product – all without chill-filtration.

Radiating a light gold hue, its aroma bursts with intense smoky fruit intermingled with peat, hints of zesty citrus, and waxy dark chocolate, leading to a sweet malty finish. Representing a lighter rendition of Islay styling, it exhibits mineral notes, honeyed undertones, and a floral essence.


Slane Irish Whiskey, Meath, Ireland

Making its debut on the grounds of a historic castle an hour’s drive from Dublin, Slane Irish Whiskey unveils a triple-casked amalgamation that marries grain and malt whiskies, matured in three unique casks. Some barley used is sourced from the castle’s own lands. Founded by Alex Conyngham alongside his father Henry and stepmother Iona, the distillery began its journey before partnering with Brown-Forman eight years ago.

This triple-cask blend offers a symphony of flavors including vanilla, banana, butterscotch, dried fruits, and subtle baking spices. The finish lingers with delicate hints of dry fruit and caramelized wood sugars. An added allure is the distillery, also serving as a vibrant live music venue, featuring exclusive releases like the Slane Special Edition and Slane Batch Proof whiskies.

Image Source: donfiore / Shutterstock

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