World Whisky Day (20 May 2023) is a global celebration of all things whisky. It was established in 2012 by Blair Bowman, when he was a student at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
Held on the third Saturday in May each year, World Whisky Day is marked with special events, tastings and get-togethers. The central message of the day is to celebrate the best whisky: wherever it comes from and however you like to drink it.
Whether you prefer your dram neat, with water or ice, mixed or in a cocktail, this is a chance to enjoy whisky in all its glory. Anything goes, as long as it’s fun and accessible – and, of course, responsible.
Of course, distillers are keen to mark the occasion too, with many launching special bottlings and new releases. So if you’re keen to find a new addition for your whisky collection, it’s a good time to take a look at the options.
To get you started, we’ve rounded up a selection of our favourite bottles from recent tastings. They range from special cask finish Scotch to rye whiskeys from the US and Finland. You’ll also find Japanese whisky finished in a sake cask, an award-winning single malt from Israel, English whisky and classic pot-still styles from Ireland. Enjoy!
Best new whisky releases: 12 to try
Tasting notes by Neil Ridley (NR) and Julie Sheppard (JS)
Bushmills 30 Year Old
One of Ireland’s best loved whiskeys, Bushmills has recently celebrated the opening of a brand new state-of-the-art expansion at its distillery, which is a stone’s throw from the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. This landmark release will set you back a cool £1,975. The aromas are deep and complex, with well-ripened stone fruit, dark chocolate, a touch of fresh toasted coffee beans and bonfire toffee. On the palate, layers of tropical fruit arrive first, with mango and papaya, a nutty, praline note and a lingering, charred blood orange note. NR Alcohol 46%
Glenfiddich Grand Yozakura
The latest release from Glenfiddich celebrates Hanami – the Japanese cherry blossom festival. It’s a 29-year-old single malt Scotch finished in ex-awamori casks; this rice spirit is only made in Okinawa and just a small percentage is aged in oak, which makes awamori casks a rarity and helps to explain its £1,500 price tag. Distinctive aromas: a lifted herbal note overlays notes of apple, fruit cake and toasty oak, which follows through to the palate. Complex layers of creamy toffee (from the awamori), dark spices, cigar box, fresh green apple, grapefruit pith, and a warm, earthy base note. JS Alc 45.1%
Glen Scotia 11 Year Old White Port Finish Campbeltown Malts Festival 2023
From a small Scottish region of just three distilleries, Glen Scotia has released this annual bottling to coincide with the festival of malt and music which happens on the 23-25 May. A wonderful lightly peated coastal smoke note arrives first, with sea salt, toasted oak, rich caramel fudge and a fruity floral fresh grape note. The palate is complex, with more light smoke, milk chocolate and a lingering dark fruit and spiciness. NR Alc 54.7%
RyeLaw is the first spirit produced by the innovative InchDairnie Distillery, located at the heart of the Kingdom of Fife in Scotland – and one of only a handful of Scottish rye whiskies. Made from a mash of Scottish-grown rye and malted barley. The nose is full of rich, pungent spiciness (think cracked Szechuan pepper and toasted clove) with vanilla, sweet oatcakes, malted cereal and dried fruit notes of raisin and dates. NR Alc 46.3%
Kyrö Wood Smoke Malt Rye Whisky
Kyrö is the brainchild of a group of friends and spirits enthusiasts in Finland, who decided to develop a distillery, using one the nation’s most abundant crops,: the humble rye grain. On the nose, an immediate smoky aroma hits home, with an additional layer of aromatic wood, soft brown sugar, some earthy notes and a distinct peppery spice. On the palate, the smoke is more pronounced and bonfire-led, with grilled meat, a sweet vanilla note and then a lovely contrasting dry, peppery rye bread note. NR Alc 47.2%
Lagavulin 14 Year Old Armagnac Finish
This unusual cask finish Scotch – a first for Lagavulin – brings together flavours of the famous French brandy, alongside the classic pungent, smoky aspects of Islay’s Lagavulin, bottled especially for the Fèis Ile whisky festival, held on Islay at the end of May. The nose brings coastal notes of sea salt and smoked meat, alongside a slightly fruity grapey aroma, whilst the palate offers waves of potent iodine, bonfire smoke and a deep drying oakiness. NR Alc 58.4%
Michter’s 10 Year Old Single Barrel Rye
This limited-production Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey was released in the UK earlier this year. The liquid spends 10 years in new American white oak, developing appealing aromas of caramel syrup, spice, vanilla toffee and sultanas. The palate delivers plenty of rye spice, alongside toasted nuts, ripe orange, toffee, ginger and cinnamon biscuits and a crack of black pepper on the finish. JS Alc 46.4%
Milk & Honey Classic Single Malt
Israel’s Milk & Honey distillery was the recipient of this year’s ‘World’s Best Single Malt Whisky’ award at the World Whiskies Awards – for its Elements Sherry Cask release, which sold out after the announcement… Opened in 2014, the distillery has built up a great reputation amongst whisky connoisseurs globally. On the nose, an abundance of fresh honey and citrus fruit, leads into a slightly malty flapjack aroma of toasted oats, alongside vanilla ice cream. The palate is spicy, with dark chocolate, raisins and a slight clove-led woodiness. NR Alc 46%
Teeling Wonders of Wood Second Edition Virgin Portuguese Oak
The second installation of Teeling’s Wonders of Wood series marries pot still Irish whiskey with new Portuguese oak, known for its serious tannins. No surprises that it delivers big, boisterous flavours and aromas… The nose is packed with spices, dark chocolate, dried orange peel. Super-charged spice on the palate is balanced by mellow dried fruit – raisins, figs, sultanas – ripe apple and clean citrus, toasty oak and tobacco lingering on the finish. JS Alc 50%
Togouchi Sake Cask Finish
Founded in 1918, Sakurao Distillery is based in Hatsukaichi, southern Japan, and began producing whisky in 1990. This blended whisky was initially matured in bourbon barrels, then finished for three months in sake casks – in fact it’s the only sake cask finish Japanese whisky available in the UK currently. Light and fruity aromas: ripe pear, Cox’s Pippin apple, apricots and a touch of citrus. Creamy palate with notes of vanilla, butter biscuits, flapjacks and caramel, balanced by baked apple and pear fruit with light sake notes weaving through. The distinctive bottle shape is modelled on a shochu jar. JS Alc 40%
Turntable Spirits Track 1 Joy. Discovery. Invention.
A boutique blended Scotch from newcomers Turntable Spirits, founded by brothers Ally and Gordon Stevenson. Fresh and fruity on the nose, the initial aromas are ripe pear, icing sugar, a touch of lemon zest and vanilla. The palate is creamy and zest-laden, with hints of green apple, vanilla ice cream and a dusting of cinnamon. Ideal for a summery highball serve over ice with soda water. NR Alc 46%
Wire Works Caduro
Hailing from the Derbyshire Peak District in England, Wire Works is a new small batch, limited-edition English whisky. It’s produced at the White Peak distillery, founded by husband and wife team Max and Claire Vaughan. A rich nose, with wild dark honey and honeycomb aromas, coupled with a light, slightly floral smoke and thick raspberry jam. The palate is charismatic and peaty, alongside fresh orchard fruit, spicy toasted oak notes and a touch of sweet, aromatic tropical fruit flavours. NR Alc 46.8%