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 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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Review: Nikka Days

By Christopher Null | September 6, 2020 |

Whiskeymania has struck every region of the world, but nowhere has the impact of feverish demand been felt more strongly than Japan, where prices have skyrocketed and stocks have dwindled to near-nonexistence. As such, any new whisky from Japan is cause for some level of celebration, so let’s raise a glass, at least preliminarily, to…

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Review: Tenjaku Blended Whisky

By Christopher Null | April 29, 2020 |

The popularity of Japanese whisky continues to grow unbounded, and as prices skyrocket we’re seeing numerous new players jump into the game — generally releasing younger spirits at lower prices (but with prominent Kanji script on the label). The latest of these is Tenjaku, a mystery blend — of both single malt and corn-heavy grain…

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Review: Hatozaki Japanese Whisky and Small Batch

By Christopher Null | February 16, 2020 |

Japanese whisky isn’t easy to come by these days. As such, it’s always exciting to see a new brand hit the market, and here we have a new bottling, complete with kanji script on the label: Hatozaki. Hatozaki is made at Kaikyo Distillery (location: unknown), but it isn’t all distilled here, including both malt and…

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Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2019

By Christopher Null | November 6, 2019 |

Another year is in the books for San Francisco WhiskyFest, a typically packed event with hundreds of whiskeys to explore… plus, for those confused on where they are, libations from The Mocktail Project. My dance card was full of whiskies from around the world, with highlights to be found in just about every region. My…

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Review: Shinobu Blended Whisky Mizunara Oak

By Christopher Null | October 16, 2019 |

Hey Japanese whisky fans, if you’re frustrated by your inability to find Suntory and Nikka products, there’s a new option on the market to consider, called Shinobu. Formally billed as The Shinobu Blended Whisky Mizunara Oak, Shinobu is made by the eponymous distillery in Niigata Prefecture, about 200 miles north of Tokyo. Shinobu isn’t distilled…

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