Japanese Whisky

Japan did not have a commercial whisky distillery until 1923, when Shinjiro Torii opened Suntory outside of Kyoto. Suntory’s first distiller was Masataka Taketsuru, a Scotch whisky enthusiast and engineer who learned the art of whisky-making in Scotland. Japanese whisky is thus made in the Scotch style, with a focus on malted barley; expressions are bottled as both blends and single malts, with many distilleries today using traditional pot stills and importing peat and barley from Scotland. Despite its Scottish roots, Japanese whisky has increasingly distinguished itself in quality and style. Because the Japanese whisky industry is vertically integrated, blends are almost always created in-house from one producer’s stocks. The unique flavors of Japanese whisky are often attributed to long fermentation times and unique yeast strains, which are used to create a crystal clear wort prior to distillation. The turn of the century growth in the popularity of whisky, and in single malts in particular, has led to a global explosion in the demand for Japanese whisky.

Top Japanese Whisky Posts:

A Visit to Suntory’s Yamazaki Distillery
5 Whiskies from Japan’s Nikka Distillery
Kaiyo Japanese Mizunara Oak Whisky
Suntory Whisky Toki
Talking Toki with Suntory Master Blender Shinji Fukuyo

Review: Nikka Discovery Yoichi and Miyagikyo 2022

By Christopher Null | November 28, 2022 |

Nikka’s Discovery series, which launched last year, was a fun way to explore unexpected flavors from the Japanese icon’s two distilleries. While the 2021 expressions focused on the use of peat (or lack thereof), this year’s takes a deep dive into one of the unsung heroes of distillation: yeast. The two whiskies in this year’s…

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Review: Yamazaki Limited Edition Tsukuriwake Selection 2022, Complete Lineup

By Christopher Null | November 14, 2022 |

For the 2022 holiday season, Japan’s Yamazaki has launched four whiskies in its Limited Edition Tsukuriwake Selection, “a fundamental piece of its unrivaled craftsmanship” that “introduce the foundational pillars of Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky – Puncheon, Peated Malt, Spanish Oak, and Mizunara. The collection honors Tsukuriwake, which means ‘artisanship through a diversity of making’ and…

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Review: Fukano Chizuru Japanese Whisky

By Christopher Null | July 22, 2022 |

As importer ImpEx tells us, “This small batch release of Fukano Whisky (limited to 3000 bottles, though it’s readily available) has been created in collaboration with Women Who Whiskey club to celebrate the career of Chizuru Fukano,” who is the former and recently retired Managing Director of Fukano Distillery. This 100% rice whisky is matured…

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Review: Fuji Single Grain Japanese Whiskey

By Christopher Null | June 14, 2022 |

Fuji is a storied distillery that earns its name for a distinctly relevant reason: It’s the closest distillery to Japan’s Mt. Fuji, mere miles away from the base of the iconic peak. Fuji Single Grain Whiskey is a blend of three different grain whiskeys produced at the distillery. Per the distillery, “those different grain whiskeys…

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Review: Takamine Koji Whiskey 8 Years Old

By Robert Lublin | April 21, 2022 |

Japan’s Takamine Koji Whiskey is made using a special mold that helps convert barley into sugars for fermentation. The mold, koji, is Japan’s national mold and is utilized widely in such Japanese staples as soy sauce and miso. Their website explains how it is used to make whiskey: Takamine Koji Whiskey is made with the…

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Review: Nikka Discovery Yoichi and Miyagikyo 2021

By Christopher Null | April 5, 2022 |

Here’s a wild new idea from Japan’s Nikka Whisky: Taking the “house styles” of its two distilleries and spinning them around. The new “Nikka Discovery” series will release “distinctive limited editions” over the next three years, in anticipation of Nikka’s 90th anniversary in 2024. “Each year will focus on a different component of the whisky-making…

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Tasting Report: Whiskies of the World Expo San Francisco 2021

By Christopher Null | October 25, 2021 |

One of the staff asked me what the biggest surprise was at this year’s Whiskies of the World San Francisco. “That it was actually happening” was my response. WotW marked the first time in nearly two years that I’d attended a spirits event of any substance, and while it was wonderful to stroll the booths…

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Review: Mars Whisky Iwai 45, Komagatake 2020, and Tsunuki the First

By Christopher Null | June 21, 2021 |

While it’s lesser known than fellow Japanese distilleries Suntory and Nikka, Mars claims a distilling history that dates back to 1909, though it only began producing whisky in 1949. Mars now operates two distilleries. Shinshu, the main distillery, is tucked away at 2,625 feet in the Nagano Alps and is Japan’s highest whisky distillery. Tsunuki…

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Review: Shibui Japanese Whisky, Complete Lineup 2021

By Christopher Null | February 24, 2021 |

Shibui is a new Japanese whisky brand with a tagline that clarifies things from the start: “We don’t distill, we discover.” In other words, Shibui is a blender that collects casks of all types from all over Japan — and beyond — and figures out how they might show themselves best. For its initial production…

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Review: Suntory Ao World Whisky

By Christopher Null | February 3, 2021 |

It’s safe to say that a whisky like Suntory Ao is one of the most unique whiskies the market has ever seen. The idea, however, is simple: Gather up whiskies from the five most noteworthy whisky regions in the world —  Japan, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and the U.S. — and blend them into a perfect…

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