Here at Whiskey Tramp, we argue that whiskey isn’t just liquid in a bottle. Whiskey is an experience and should be treated as such. And with a growing number of distilleries opening across the US and abroad there has never been a better time to take that whiskey trip you’ve always dreamed about.
But let’s all sit back and think for a minute before we get started, and just consider those wonderful yet predictable trips of yore. What if there was a different way? What if there was a world of whiskey experiences to be had right under our noses, ready to be grabbed? Where would we start? Where would we go?
Of the hundreds of treks possible, here are a few to get you started in the unique, once-in-a-lifetime direction. Dust off that travel glass and get out there!
1. West coast of Scotland sailing tour on the Flying Dutchman
Scotland might not have created the first barrel of uisce beatha (that honor belongs to Ireland, according to new research), but you would be hard pressed to think of a nation more closely connected to the idea of whiskey than Scotland.
Few places in the world are as beloved by whisky fans as the land of Nessie and Braveheart. Now imagine spending 8 days sailing around Oban, Crinan, Jura, Islay, and Campletown. And of course this will be a tour wet with whiskies and ocean spray, strong with culture and history.
Who should visit: Those with a sense of adventure, love of whisky, and comfort with the cold confines of an antique sailing ship.
Who shouldn’t visit: Everyone else.
2. Tour the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in a genuine RV
Until the growth of Japanese whiskies, Kentucky was probably the second most popular region in the US for whiskey. Even when the US consumption of our native spirit showed a significant decline, purchasing abroad was consistent if not growing.
Let’s be honest for a moment. Think back to the last tasting tour you went on and how you felt, say, three stops in. Was it really a great idea to drive all the way to McDonald’s after? Should you have driven to the hotel for a much needed nap before dinner or really watched a movie for a bit and let the liquor work its way through?
Now what if your hotel and car traveled with you? What if you could simply park in the corner of a parking lot or in a nice, quiet grouping of trees for a few hours or the night?
Your mind should feel blown, behind the veil of discomfort at the thought of zooming around in what is essentially vinyl siding and flame retardant couches mounted on a Ford chassis. But think about the convenience. Your car and your hotel are one, like the Voltron of travel.
Who should: Those familiar with America and the American dream. Or are retired. Or summer in National Parks as camp hosts. Also those who thrive on telling good stories. How many of your friends stayed in a timeshare in Mexico this year? Time to stand out from the pack.
Who shouldn’t: Those who hate freedom. And Cousin Eddie.
3. Luxury tour of the spirits of Japan
With whiskey, Japan has earned the respect of the world. Whiskies from Yamazaki, Hibiki, and Nikka rank among or better than the prevailing brands Scotland of just a few years ago. The fact that Yamazaki Sherry Cask has beaten out the competition to rank as the top whiskey in the world this year should be a sign that Japanese whiskies should be taken very, very seriously.
And as one of the world’s great destinations, what if an experience could combine award winning whiskeys with the trappings of one of the world’s richest and oldest cultures? What if your trip included a stop at Sukiyabashi Jiro, the world’s most exclusive and well known sushi restaurant? What if you could spend 13 days in a different world, getting a sense for the history and culture that went into the Yamazaki, Hibiki, and Nikka whiskies you will be tasting along the way?
Who should visit: Those who own Japanese knives, drink Japanese whiskey, or watch Kurosawa.
Who shouldn’t visit: Well, it’s expensive, so let’s leave it at that.
4. Motorcycle tour to the great Irish distilleries
Yes, it seems a bit contradictory to earlier in this article suggest you shouldn’t drive after drinking and that an RV would be good for that. We, of course, still hold to that positions. Safety first. But imagine driving from town on a motorcycle, fields of green passing by as you make your way through the beauty of the emerald isle? Then when you get to wherever you are staying, you park and simply take a cab.
Ireland has rich history and deep roots in some very flavorful whiskies. What, I ask you, could be better?
Who should visit: Those with a sense of adventure AND a motorcycle license. Those who don’t mind a little rain.
Who shouldn’t visit: Those without a sense of adventure OR a motorcycle license. Those who do mind a little rain.
Learn more: http://www.motorental.ie/
5. Discover French whiskey distilleries before anyone else
France leads the world in per capita whiskey consumption. Let me say that again: France beat Ireland, Scotland, and the US for the title of champion whiskey consumer (*note, in terms of sheer quantity, the title actually belongs to India.) at an astounding average of 2.1 liters per year (compared to the US at 1.4).
While European nations such as Sweden and Belgium are beginning to bring their A game, France has been quietly producing whiskey despite as wine and cognac has taken the majority if not entirety of our French alcoholic beverage mindshare. But there has been some discussion that it could in fact be France who takes the Whiskey title over in terms of production and mindshare in 15 years.
As they refine their products, continually breeding out scotch flavors for those more French, there are a number of great options that will give you a break from the standard wine offerings.
Who should visit: DIYers. Someone with a taste for novelty and that I totally listened to that band waaaaay before they got famous vibe.
Who shouldn’t visit: Someone who wants to come home and have any chance of finding their new favorite whiskies at home.
Learn more: Your friends at Whiskey Tramp have created a custom Google Map with some of the more prominent whiskey distilleries of France.