Whisky is steeped in history. From the bourbon of the American South, to single malt of Scotland and Ireland’s smooth drams that once dominated the world, the mouth waters as you think about it. But this notion of tradition has led to a rather stuffy ‘old boy’ image for the spirit, series such as Mad Men detail the image well: male-dominated offices, whisky bars and the over use of “sweetheart, pour me another” being thrown around), while other spirits diversified – flavoured gin? Who doesn’t love it. But in recent years, whisky has started to experienced a comeback.
In Scotland, there were just 96 working distilleries in 2000; that number is expected to reach 140 in the next few years. In the 1800s, 60 per cent of global sales of the spirit were from Ireland; that figure dropped to just one per cent by the late 20th century. But it’s back and the demand for high-end premium Irish whiskeys jumped more than 1,000 per cent from 2002 to 2018, fuelled predominantly by the US market. American whiskey is holding its own too, with bourbon (check out our review of Makers Mark) with production increasing 150 per cent over the past 15 years. Non-traditional countries are also now making whisky, from India to Belgium, and with the range of climates and grains these countries grow, the flavour profile is expanding.
The new resurgence in whisky is being led by drinkers, obviously. Palates have become more sophisticated as a result of a bottomless gin market, which introduced us to a variety of flavours and botanicals. The whisky bar world is becoming more accessible, too, in how they advertise their bottles and engage with their customers.
Mia Johansson, of award-wining bar Swift in London, believes that cocktails have played a key role in whisky’s rebirth. “The neater-styled drinks such as Manhattans have become very prominent as the quality of the spirits have increased and people know what they want and how they want it to taste”. Right now, the industry is calling it the golden era of whiskey, certain brands are fetching five times the retail price on the secondary market. We don’t know about you, but we’re certainly looking forward to this revolution.