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 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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Tasting Report: WhiskyFest Washington DC 2018

By Drew Beard | June 7, 2018 |

As with each of DC’s past three WhiskyFests, everyone in the room looked like they could use a few drinks. Thankfully, there was no shortage of unique whiskey options, from Knob Creek Single Barrel samples that were pulled directly from the barrel(!) to a young Tennessee whiskey whose distillery still doesn’t have a name. I…

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Tasting Report: Jack Rose Dining Saloon’s Premier Drams 2018

By Drew Beard | April 26, 2018 |

Not many bars can throw their own whiskey festival, but when a bar happens to have the largest selection of whiskey in the Western Hemisphere, it becomes an ideal setting. Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, DC held its inaugural and appropriately named Premier Drams festival on March 25, and we were invited. The bar…

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Tasting Report: Whiskies of the World Expo San Francisco 2018

By Christopher Null | April 13, 2018 |

Hey, look who’s not breaking his foot this year! Last year’s Whiskies of the World Expo was cut extremely short for me, but this year, safety was the name of the game. (Reminder: Don’t text while on the stairs, kids!) I spent a lot more time than usual on American whiskeys this year, reflecting an…

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Review: Ohishi Kaito’s Cask, Islay Cask, and Tokubetsu Reserve Whisky

By Christopher Null | February 9, 2018 |

Ohishi made a splash in 2016 when it arrived in the U.S. after over 140 years of producing rice-based whisky. We reviewed its inaugural offerings at the time. Today we turn our attention to three new releases, each more exotic than the last. Ohishi Kaito’s Cask Whisky – This is a special selection of Ohishi’s…

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Tasting Report: Whiskies of the World Expo San Francisco 2017

By Christopher Null | April 25, 2017 |

This year’s Whiskies of the World was shaping up beautifully, but a tragic tumble down the stairs (PSA: Don’t text and navigate staircases!) cut my evening very short. I had time to taste only a handful of spirits before leaving for treatment — shout-out to the crack ER team at Kaiser San Rafael! — but…

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Book Review: Whisky Rising

By Rob Theakston | April 23, 2017 |

Obsessive Japanese whisky fans are no doubt familiar with the writing of Stefan Van Eycken via his website, Nonjatta. It was one of the first and most comprehensive resources on Japanese whisky available on the internet, and Van Eycken and his intrepid staff diligently scour the island for the rarest of bottles. They have even…

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Tasting Report: WhiskyLIVE Washington DC 2017

By Drew Beard | April 11, 2017 |

With so many whiskeys out there to try, from distillers big and small, whiskey festivals can easily be overwhelming. WhiskyLIVE offers a good balance of options, showcasing industry heavy-hitters along with up-and-coming American (and several international) craft distillers. It’s small in comparison to events like WhiskyFest, in both attendance and vendors, so your options are…

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