Eat & Drink

Bhutan Gets into the Whiskey Game

Booze from the only country in the world that measures its progress by Gross Domestic Happiness.

  • couple in love having spritz time with lake view  Photo: fcscafeine/Thinkstock

  • Want to be as happy as the Bhutanese? Can't hurt to start here.   Photo: Courtesy of Spirits of Bhutan

If ever there was a country with a spirit worth trying to bottle, it would be Bhutan.

The only nation in the world to measure its progress by G.D.H. or “Gross Domestic Happiness,” Bhutan—with its high Himalayan peaks and mega-biodiversity—truly has a spirit worth savoring.

Bhutan’s Army Welfare Project K5 Himalayan Whiskey AC Shilton alcohol whiskey Eat & Drink The Current hard alcohol Himalayas G.D.H GDH Gross Domestic Happiness Bhutan Bhutan Ventures outside online outside magazine
  Photo: Courtesy of Spirits of Bhutan

K5 Himalayan Whiskey aims to help you do just that—but without the misery of 12-plus hours in coach.

“K5 was actually made for the coronation of the current sitting king,” says James Fitzgerald, founder and chairman of Bhutan Ventures, which imports K5. (In America, all we got when Obama took office was a recession-appropriate homebrew recipe. Thanks, Obama.) 

The whiskey itself is smooth, smoky, and dry, with hints of citrus, oak, and caramel. It finishes with just a touch of sweetness. So far, Fitzgerald says, it’s been a hit with women—just like the king it was made for. “He’s young, he’s handsome, he looks like Elvis—the girls love him, he’s very well liked,” says Fitzgerald. (Unlimited access to his namesake whiskey probably doesn’t hurt either.)

K5 is produced by Bhutan’s Army Welfare Project, a branch of the country’s military that uses proceeds from the sales to pay army pensions, provide loans, and finance scholarships.

Note: K5 is actually a blend of two Scottish malt whiskeys (an eight and a 12-year) that’s finished in Bhutan. But Fitzgerald swears he can taste the effect Bhutan’s alpine water and air has on the final product.

Despite its notes of 9,000-foot-high Himalayan air and streams, drinking K5 will never quite rival being in Bhutan, but that’s because there’s little in this world that does. Still, cracking open a bottle at home has been known to result in its own little version of gross domestic happiness. 


Subscribe to Outside

Outside Magazine Latest Issue

Save 66% and get All-Access: Print + iPad

Not Now

What You Missed

Our most important headlines, sent to you every weekday.

Thank you!