Whissin on the rocks as Spanish launch the alcohol-free whisky

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Hoping to match the success of alcohol-free beer and wine, a company in the Spanish city of Granada is now offering what Scots and Irish may regard as the ultimate heresy: alcohol-free whisky.

Made from a mixture of barley, maize and wheat, the tipple is the product of more than two years' research and tests by the family firm, Espadafor, which specialises in non-alcoholic substitutes.

"Whissin", a short form of "whisky sin [without] alcohol", hits Spain's supermarket shelves on Thursday. Heating and pasteurising the mixture of grains and sugars prevents it from fermenting, and aromas are added to give it a passable tang.

"It is impossible to imitate on the palate the sensation produced by a drink containing 40 [per cent] alcohol. It has a different bouquet," Domingo Carrion, a spokesman for the company, admitted. "But Whissin is a substitute that you can drink like whisky: neat, with ice or with mixers."

The company, which originally produced wine and fizzy drinks, has been moving into non-alcoholic substitutes in recent years. Mr Carrion was convinced there would be a market for a whisky substitute, as the real thing is the most widely-sold spirit in Spain.

"As far as we know, there is nothing like it on the market at the moment," said Mr Carrion. He originally wanted to call the drink "Whissyn" but had to bow to objections from whisky producers who considered that name too similar to the real thing.

Authentic producers must feel their malt spirit has been subjected already to enough indignities, owing to the proliferation of Celtic-sounding whisky- based drinks. Some may feel that to extract the alcohol is going too far. None the less, alcohol-free drinks are increasingly popular in Spain, where it is customary to spend many hours of the day and night drinking socially, but where it is unacceptable - and rare - for people to be blind drunk.

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