While in the UK whisky is traditionally drunk straight, in Southern Europe, up to 90 per cent of whisky is mixed
Whisky is now produced all around the globe, with distilleries starting in some seemingly unexpected locations. There are currently over 20 countries, outside of the traditional big four of Ireland, Japan, Scotland and the USA, that are distilling single malt whiskies. Europe is a particular hotbed of activity as the market for whisky is traditionally strong, due mostly to its relative proximity to Scotland and Ireland. Most are small with many having previously distilled or continuing to distil other spirits such as fruit or berry brandies, eaux de vie, vodka or fortified wines. The whiskies are generally produced for the local market but some are expanding their ranges and distributing their products further afield. In addition, there are numerous other distilleries where whisky is produced on an occasional basis.
Across Europe, the production of malt whisky is a young industry. There are a couple of older exceptions such as the DYC distillery in Spain but the new whisky distilleries face a number of problems before anyone ever gets to taste their product. The first is the huge cost of buying all the necessary distilling equipment, setting up the production facilities and the money needed for raw materials. The second issue is the fact that the product takes time to mature (at least three years by law to be allowed to be called ‘whisky’) and therefore the distilleries have to spend a lot of money before they start to see any return. As a result, many are very innovative in their approach to keep cash flowing through the business.
This is not a definitive guide to all European distilleries that produce whisky but we have selected the main players who concentrate the majority of their time and energy on the distillation of single malts.