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: Fukano Vault Reserve 1 & 2, 6000, and Jikan

By Christopher Null | March 22, 2019 |

The importers at ImpEx have been on a tear lately; their latest acquisition is four new expressions of Japanese whiskey from Fukano, all of which are being released in very small numbers (with some 1200 to 5500 bottles of each hitting the market globally).  All four limited edition expressions are blends of stock between the…

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Drinkhacker’s 2018 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

By Christopher Null | November 22, 2018 |

2018 marks our eleventh annual holiday gift guide, and we’re hoping this year really gets you in the spirit of giving at Christmas. Ha! Seriously, you’ll need it. Prices are creeping ever higher, especially on popular categories like whiskey, and stocks of some of the most prized products seem to be more limited than ever this…

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Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2018

By Christopher Null | November 20, 2018 |

Another WhiskyFest is in the books, and although the lines for iconic bottles like Pappy van Winkle, Macallan No. 3 and No. 4, and Glenfiddich 30 Years Old (which those in the queue were surprised to find was not actually on hand when they got to the front of the line) were long, on the…

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Review: Kaiyo Japanese Mizunara Oak Whisky – Original, Peated, and Cask Strength

By Christopher Null | October 22, 2018 |

In the world of whisky, Japan is finally starting to see some competition. As much as I love Suntory and Nikka, it’s been a delight to see whiskies from the likes of Ohishi make it to the U.S. Now another new player has entered the game: Kaiyo, which has a story as interesting as any…

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Talking Toki with Suntory Master Blender Shinji Fukuyo

By Christopher Null | September 15, 2018 |

Master distillers get all the press, but their work is basically done before a whisky ever goes into the barrel. When it comes to putting out a finished product, the master blender rolls up his sleeves. In the case of Japan’s Suntory whisky operation, which spans three distilleries in the country, that task falls to…

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Review: The Chita Single Grain Whiskey

By Christopher Null | August 29, 2018 |

While The Yamazaki and Hukushu distilleries are Suntory’s best-known operations, it actually runs a third called The Chita. Officially known as The SunGrain Chita Distillery, it’s Suntory’s youngest distillery, in operation since 1972. You won’t find a lot of pictures of it online because, well, it’s not such a beautiful site, with an industrial design…

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Book Review: The Way of Whisky

By Drew Beard | August 23, 2018 |

Let’s face it. Japan is a fascinating place, and so, too, Japanese whisky. As the popularity of the latter continues to skyrocket, more and more books on the subject are hitting the shelves (as evidence, see our last book review). Well-known spirits author Dave Broom was an expert on Japanese whisky long before it became…

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Review: Nikka Super Rare Old

By Christopher Null | August 17, 2018 |

In Japan, anything with a name like “Super Rare Old” is considered “old man whiskey.” That’s definitely what “Super Nikka,” as it’s known colloquially, is, though not in the same way that many austere whiskeys can be. Super Nikka, which was introduced in 1962, is a blended whiskey, and the company doesn’t provide any real…

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Review: Nikka Whisky from the Barrel (Japan vs. U.S. Bottlings)

By Christopher Null | August 10, 2018 |

Nikka’s Whisky from the Barrel has been a global sensation since it was introduced over 30 years ago — with one problem: It hasn’t been available in the U.S. Until now. At long last, this coveted — yet surprisingly affordable — blended whiskey is making its way to the United States. If you aren’t familiar…

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A Visit to Suntory’s Yamazaki Distillery

By Christopher Null | July 22, 2018 |

Should a whisky fan make the lengthy trek across the Pacific in search of the secrets of Japanese distilling, one would be wise to start at the source. That’s what I did anyway, on a recent pilgrimage to Yamazaki, the first whisky distillery in Japan, which was built in 1923 and is still going strong…

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