Why The Faroe Islands May Be One Of The Best Locations For Whiskey Distilling

The Faroe Islands are a collection of 18 volcanic islands sitting halfway between Iceland and Norway and they may have one of the best climates for distilling whiskey. Due to an alcohol prohibition that lasted until the 1990's, the Faroe Islands haven't yet had a chance to prove themselves on the barroom floor — but that's all about to change. There are now two distilleries on the Faroe Islands and they're convinced they're sitting on a whiskey goldmine.

Whiskey is a complex spirit to distill. The variety of factors that affect whiskey as it matures can be overwhelming and largely outside the control of the distiller. That's why location matters. The distiller can't control everything, but by choosing the right location they can leverage the local climate to help them achieve the desired result.

The Faroe Islands have a hyper-oceanic climate, meaning the temperature fluctuates very little year round. The summers are cool and the winters are mild. That level of consistency can help whiskey distillers hone in on their craft, providing a level of control that simply isn't available in other locales.

How will Faroese whiskey compare?

The major whiskey groups roughly include American, Scottish, Irish, Japanese, and Canadian. The whiskey of the Faroe Islands will likely share a lot of similar qualities to the Scottish and Irish brands due to their similar climates. They have high humidity, low temperatures, and are near the salty ocean winds.

In warmer climates, like in Tennessee or Texas, whiskey ages much faster because the water evaporates faster than the alcohol. Scottish whiskey, on the other hand, can mature for much longer because the rate of evaporation is fairly even. Since these distilleries are fairly young, they won't have the luxury of aging their whiskey for 12 years or more — at least, not at first. Fair Isles Distillery put the first batch of its new make into casks in February 2023, with plans for an inaugural release of three-year aged whiskey in 2026. The first bottles of Faroese whiskey, from Einar's Distillery, were made available to buy in November 2020 and sold out in a single day.

The Faroese intend to bring their own history of curing food into the mix, a process they call raest. To raest a piece of meat, you simply leave it outside. The ocean air is salty enough that the meat cures within a few days. It gives a unique briny, fermented taste to their food. As an example of how this has translated into the world of alcohol, one of the distilleries has made a vodka fermented with seaweed. If that's any indication of the local preference, we may be in for a surprisingly unique and aquatic twist on the classic whiskey profile.