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A look back at 2012

By Dominic Roskrow

It's shot past, and barely a day has gone by without something exciting happening in the world of whisky. At the frontline - among the biggest producers - there have been distillery sales, takeovers, new plans for distilleries in Ireland, and the announcement of an interactive visitor experience to be built for next year in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

Whisky has taken centre stage as a premium spirit, it has become fashionable

Whisky has taken centre stage as a premium spirit, and it has become fashionable. We're seeing a better range of whiskies in pubs and bars, more promotion of them on their own or within a cocktail than ever before, and the icing on the cake came with the opening of The Whisky Shop's flagship store in Piccadilly opposite The Ritz, giving whisky a proper showcase alongside other premium luxury products. I edit the company's magazine and work on its website so I'm close to it - and I know for a fact that we're not finished yet.

Much of what's happened on the international corporate stage has eclipsed what has been going on among the new world whisky makers. But the expansion of the whisky across the world continues at a pace.

Indeed, let's start just there, with that name. It's hard to believe that as recently as two years ago I first raised the issue of world whisky and started to question whether 'Rest of the world' was an adequate way of categorising the growing number of whiskies from around the world. I started a campaign with the backing of a number of distilleries but mainly the ones in Australia, who argued that while Canada, Kentucky, Ireland and Japan were all judged within their own categories, Australia, which has more distilleries than any of them, was put in a dustbin category with a smattering of Indian, Taiwanese, Swedish, Dutch, French and Belgian whisky makers with which they had nothing in common beyond the fact that they were not considered worthy enough to join whisky's high table by the Old Order.

That was one of the main reasons I launched this World Whisky Review - to give a proper platform to the scores of exciting new distilleries that have something very special to offer but were largely being ignored. And indeed. followed the WWR up with the Wizards of Whisky World Whisky Awards.

In those two years America's Whisky Advocate, which to be fair had always made some attempt to cover world whisky, gave me a free rein to review whisky releases from the new territories and has encouraged me to write from the whisky frontline and on the whisky scenes in Tasmania, and fore the next issue, Sweden. In fact the next issue has a world whisky theme.

You realise just how far world whisky has moved forward when whisky writer Ian Buxton, in quite typical style, jumps on the new world whisky bandwagon and publishes a very average follow up to his excellent original 101 Whiskies book, which he calls 101 World Whiskies - and then fills it with a patchwork quilt of whiskies, a sizeable number of which seem to come from Scotland.

For the next issue of Whisky Advocate I also did a feature on the newest of the new world whisky makers - in Denmark, Argentina, Israel, and New Zealand. They will all be covered in World Whisky Review of course, but the main point of the feature was to say that world whisky has moved so far forward that it operates on three tiers - a top and established tier of about a dozen or so international world whisky producers such as Mackmyra, Amrut, Sullivan's Cove and Kavalan; a tier of producers who are just starting to bottle or are very small, some of which will join the top tier, others who will choose not to; and a large tier of distilleries waiting for their spirit to mature or in the process of building distilleries.

You'll find examples of all three categories in this edition, and this pretty much tells the story of 2012. If you go through my whisky reviews - added in to this E-zine for the first time - you'll see there are plenty of very good releases. But there isn't a real ground breaker such as the great Amruts or Larks or Glann ar Mors as in previous years. That doesn't mean it hasn't been an a wonderful year for new world whisky - it has. But the real story of 2012 is that the year wasn't about one or two distilleries but a whole movement, which has grown massively, both in terms of quantity and quality.

It's been a roller coaster year and it's just shot by. With so much going on, t's been hard keeping up - but it's been fun trying to, hasn't it?

Have a great Christmas and prosperous New Year.