Sure, you’ve sampled your fair share of whiskey. But could you name the top whiskey exporting countries in the world? Some of the countries on this list from Yahoo! Finance might surprise you. As an adventurous whiskey drinker, this list might inspire you to go in a new direction with your next bottle of spirits. It could also come in handy on trivia night!
Whisky exports in 2021: $169 million
With just one large-scale whisky distilling operation, it may come as a surprise to see Spain on the top whiskey exporting countries list. But Spain is making a name for itself in the whisky world, led by the fruity, competitively priced whiskies created by Destilerías y Crianza del Whisky (DYC). Beyond DYC, microdistilleries are popping up all over the country as the Spanish population develops a taste for whisky and aficionados the world over get curious about the country’s craft whisky boom. Currently governed only by the European Union’s relatively lax rules about what defines “whisky,” Spanish distillers are already talking about getting additional regulations on the books as their industry grows.
Whiskey exports in 2021: $285 million
Fun fact: although Germany's reputation for whiskey pales in comparison to Ireland’s, Germany boasts more than double the number of whiskey-producing distilleries. Many of these German distilleries began making brandies and fruit liqueurs generations ago, and only expanded in the 1990s when whiskey production really began to take hold in Germany. Like Spain, Germany has less regulations than many other heavy hitters in the whiskey industry, but German law does require distillers to age their product for three years in oak barrels. While some whiskey connoisseurs believe more regulation is necessary, German whiskey is gaining the attention of experts like Jim Murray, author of the esteemed Whiskey Bible, who gave an astounding 96 out of 100 points to the Fitzke Distillery’s Derrina Schwarzwälder Einkorn Single Malt.
Whisky exports in 2021: $295 million
Although some whisky enthusiasts look down on Canadian whisky’s light, smooth-drinking flavor, the industry boasts plenty of award-winning spirits and is expanding at a rapid pace. Unlike spirits such as bourbon, Canadian whisky may legally contain caramel and flavoring. It must, however, be mashed, distilled, and aged at least three years in Canada. Pro tip: if you’re in Canada, speak like a local and call it “rye.”
Whisky exports in 2021: $345 million
No strangers to distillation with generations of gin, genever, and brandy production under their belts, the Dutch have quickly made a name for themselves with a growing wave of innovative craft distilleries. Something that sets Dutch whisky apart is the unique culture surrounding its consumption, particularly whisky events like the International Whisky Festival which bring together thousands of revelers from all over the world. At the popular Whisky Festival of the Northern Netherlands, patrons can purchase a wet shave followed by a single malt! Perhaps the most unique whisky festival in the Netherlands is Malstock, where visitors bring a bottle of whisky to share, camp in the woods, and drink together around a campfire.
Whisky exports in 2021: $362 million
Given that the French are some of the world’s leading consumers of Scotch whisky, it’s no surprise that local production has taken off in recent years. France is also set up for success when it comes to distilling whisky. France has more barley available than any other European country, and with all the wine being produced in Bordeaux, Burgundy and other regions, aged barrels are in no short supply. Some French distillers opt to use new oak barrels, which are also easily procured from widely available French Oak. Combine all that with the historic expertise of French wine and spirits makers, and you have the ingredients for an increasingly dominant whisky producing country.
Whisky exports in 2021: $420 million
Newer on the scene, Japanese whisky production started in earnest around 1920. But in just 100 years, it has developed a reputation for innovation, refinement and high quality. Although Japanese whisky boasts a wide range of flavors like fruit, vanilla, herbs, spice, and honey, it is usually thought of as having a dry, smoky finish. In terms of the distillation process, Japanese whisky is very similar to Scotch whisky. And Japanese distilleries often have a variety of stills of different shapes and sizes, allowing for more customization. Japanese whisky is wood-aged like nearly all of the whisky produced worldwide, but Japanese distillers do not limit themselves to a specific type of tree. Japanese whisky is aged in American oak barrels, Sherry casks, and Japanese Mizunara oak barrels, among others.
3. Republic of Ireland
Whiskey exports in 2021: $1.49 billion
Made using a mash of malt and often triple distilled with water and caramel coloring, Irish whiskey’s light, smooth flavor is well known to nearly every spirits enthusiast. The three main varieties of Irish whiskey include single pot still, single malt, and single grain whiskey. Distilleries in the Republic of Ireland must adhere to the Irish Whiskey Act of 1980, which includes strict regulations about ingredients and process (Irish whiskey must be aged at least three years in wooden casks.)
2. United States of America
Whiskey exports in 2021: $1.8 billion
As you are likely well aware, American whiskey is usually broken down into the subcategories of bourbon, rye, and Tennessee whiskey. Also popular the world over, each of these types of whiskey has a taste and style all its own. Bourbon, which must be aged in charred, new-oak barrels for at least two years, must be made with at least 51 percent corn. It can be made anywhere in the United States, but may not contain coloring or flavoring additives.
Tennessee Whiskey, as the name implies, must be made in Tennessee using 51-79 percent corn. It uses a filtering step called the Lincoln County Process, which means it is filtered through charcoal chunks to remove impurities before aging. Spicy, crisp rye must be made with at least 51 percent rye, aged in charred, new-oak barrels for at least two years, and be free from coloring or flavoring additives. Even with a much later start in whiskey-making than its main competitors, American whiskey has earned its place as a giant in global whiskey production and exportation.
1. United Kingdom
Whisky exports in 2021: $6.3 billion
Drumroll please…And the number one exporter of whisky in the world is (no surprise here) the United Kingdom. With Scotland as part of the Commonwealth, there simply isn’t much competition when it comes to making lots and lots of whisky. Scotch whisky alone makes up $3.7 billion in exports, more than doubling the United States at $1.8 billion. Around since the Renaissance, Scotch whisky will be anchoring the UK as the dominant global player in whisky exports for the foreseeable future.
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