Spirited Away<br />
World of Liquor Travel
By Robert Riesmeyer, Founder of Travel Unrivaled

Spirited Away:

A Traveler’s Odyssey through the World of Liquor

In every journey, there exists an opportunity to discover more than just the landscapes and landmarks. It is in the nuances—the tastes, aromas, and traditions—where true adventure begins. As a travel enthusiast who thrives on crafting unparalleled experiences, I invite you to join me on a remarkable exploration of the world’s most beloved spirits. This is not merely a trip; it’s a deep dive into the cultural heartbeats of diverse regions through their cherished alcoholic beverages.

1. The Highlands of Scotland: Whisky’s Windswept Realm

Our odyssey commences amidst the stark beauty of Scotland’s highlands, where the ancient craft of whisky distillation is interwoven with the fabric of national identity. Distilleries here are temples of taste, each altar preaching its own version of whisky gospel, influenced profoundly by its surroundings—from the peat-laden whispers of Islay to the honeyed elegance of a Speyside malt.

A pilgrimage to distilleries like Glenfiddich or Macallan is not merely about sipping spirits; it is an educational journey through the history and meticulous processes that define Scotch whisky. Witness the golden hues of the barley, smell the earthy aroma of peat, and hear the serene silence of aging cellars—a multisensory insight into why Scotch is so revered.

2. The Sake Breweries of Japan: Purity in Every Drop

Venturing east, Japan offers a stark contrast with its polished sake breweries, where cleanliness and precision play leading roles. Sake, a sophisticated brew distilled from rice, is a testament to the Japanese commitment to perfection. In the historic breweries of Kobe and Kyoto, observe the transformation of simple rice into an array of sakes, each with a distinct personality, from the robust umami of a Junmai to the delicate sweetness of a Ginjo.

Engaging in sake tasting sessions in these tranquil settings is to partake in a centuries-old tradition that celebrates seasonal shifts and regional flavors. This experience is not only a taste exploration but also an enlightening glimpse into Japanese culture and the social rituals that sake upholds.

3. Tequila and Mezcal in Mexico: The Spirit of the Desert

Mexico’s agave fields are our next stop, where the spirits of tequila and mezcal capture the essence of Mexican fervor and fiestas. Tequila, known for its pure blue agave derivation, is celebrated globally, but it is in the rustic distilleries of Jalisco where its spirit truly resonates. Meanwhile, mezcal, with its smoky depth, offers a different narrative, one of artisanal tradition and family legacy.

Visiting places like Oaxaca’s small-scale palenques, where mezcal is crafted using age-old methods, you’ll witness the dedication to authenticity that defines this spirit. From the earthy pits where agave hearts are roasted to the intricate flavors of each batch, mezcal tasting is as much about community and heritage as it is about enjoyment.

4. Cognac in France: A Legacy in Each Bottle

In France, the journey becomes decidedly more genteel in the rolling vineyards of Cognac. Here, distillation isn’t just a process; it’s an art form. The region’s double distillation techniques and the aging in Limousin oak casks create spirits that are as complex as they are captivating.

Exploring the historic houses of Hennessy and Martell, you are introduced to the strict denominations that define Cognac and the proud traditions that have polished its global reputation. Tasting these brandies offers a palette of flavors—from floral to fruity to spicy—that encapsulates the elegance of French distillery.

5. The Rum Distilleries of the Caribbean: Sunshine in a Bottle

Our spirited journey wouldn’t be complete without savoring the tropical zest of Caribbean rum. Each island here—from Jamaica to Barbados—presents its own version of this sugarcane spirit, imbued with local character and sunlit cheer. The rum of this region is a celebration of its history, from the times of pirates and plantations to its current status as a symbol of leisure and festivity.

Tours of distilleries like Mount Gay in Barbados or Appleton in Jamaica offer more than tastings; they provide insights into the deeply ingrained traditions of rum production. Feel the heat of the distillation rooms and the sweet aroma of molasses as you learn how time and technique meld to mature this spirited beverage.

6. Bourbon in Kentucky, USA: America’s Native Spirit

Crossing into the United States, Kentucky’s rolling hills beckon with the promise of bourbon—America’s native spirit. Here, corn-based liquors are distilled with a passion that mirrors the region’s deep-rooted American heritage. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail presents a chance to explore historic distilleries like Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey, where the craft of bourbon-making is displayed in rich detail. From the selection of grains to the charred oak barrels, each step is a testament to the tradition and pride that elevate this robust spirit.

Experiencing bourbon in Kentucky is quintessentially American, offering flavors that range from deep vanilla and caramel to bold spices and woodsmoke. Guided tours often end with tastings that illustrate the complex aging process, showing how each year in the barrel enhances the bourbon’s unique profile.

7. Exploring Vodka in Russia: The Essence of Resilience

No global tour of spirits is complete without delving into the heart of Russia, where vodka is not merely a drink but a cultural icon, encapsulating the spirit of survival and festivity. The best vodkas are smooth, clean, and characterized by their purity, reflecting the traditional methods preserved over centuries.

A visit to a distillery in Moscow or St. Petersburg offers insights into the distillation process that can involve anything from wheat to rye to potatoes. The experience is stark in its simplicity, emphasizing the elemental nature of vodka that makes it both a robust drink and a versatile base for cocktails.

8. Arrack in Sri Lanka: The Spirit of the Island

The journey reaches a spirited conclusion in Sri Lanka, where arrack commands a storied history woven into the island’s fabric. Distilled from the sap of coconut flowers, this spirit is as exotic as the land itself, offering flavors that range from subtly sweet to richly aromatic.

Visiting local distilleries provides a glimpse into the traditional methods of arrack production, from the tapping of the coconut flower to the fermentation and distillation processes. The experience is a celebration of local craftsmanship and the community’s connection to this unique beverage.

A Toast to Travel and Tradition

Traveling to explore the world’s spirits is about more than sampling different alcohols; it’s about understanding the essence of each place through the flavors that define it. Each distillery visit, each sip of a new spirit, is a lesson in geography, history, and cultural identity.

So, as we traverse continents and cross seas, let’s toast to the spirit of discovery and the joy of new experiences. Let’s celebrate the artisans who craft these beverages with passion and precision, and let’s connect with fellow adventurers over a glass of something truly memorable.

Here’s to the explorers, the dreamers, and the drinkers. May your journeys be as flavorful as the spirits you encounter, and may each drink tell a story of a place you’ll never forget. Cheers to adventure, culture, and the timeless art of distillation. Here’s to dreaming big and exploring even bigger—glass in hand.

Robert Riesmeyer

Introducing Robert Riesmeyer: The Visionary Behind Travel Unrivaled

Robert Riesmeyer, a passionate traveler, and experience curator extraordinaire is redefining the way we explore the world. For Robert, travel isn’t just about reaching a destination; it’s an exhilarating journey that begins the moment you step out of your comfort zone. Born and raised in the Midwest, he left behind an insurance business to create Travel Unrivaled, a venture that combines his expertise in personal protection and safe travel with his insatiable wanderlust. Robert’s unique talent lies in crafting one-of-a-kind group experiences, where every moment is meticulously curated, leaving clients with unforgettable memories.

If you’re seeking more than just a vacation, if you crave extraordinary experiences that transcend the ordinary, and if you’re ready to embark on journeys that redefine adventure, then Robert Riesmeyer and Travel Unrivaled are your gateways to the extraordinary. Join Robert on his quest to make every travel experience an unforgettable tale, and you’ll soon discover that the world has so much more to offer when seen through his adventurous eyes.