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: Hibiki 17 Years Old and 21 Years Old

By Christopher Null | October 14, 2014 |

Great news for lovers of Japanese whiskies. Suntory has just launched two older Hibiki expressions, 17 Years Old and 21 Years Old, to join its 12 year old bottling that arrived on our shores way back in 2009. We got fresh looks as the first shipments hit the U.S. Hibiki 17 Years Old – Nicely…

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Review: Nikka Miyagikyo 10 Years Old

By Rob Theakston | July 30, 2014 |

Finding any sort of Japanese whisky in the middle of Kentucky seems to be a very complex chore at the least, nearly impossible at best. Limited to a scant few offerings — Hibiki, Yamazaki, and the yearly arrival of Hakushu — the choices within the Commonwealth are muted amongst a frothy sea of bourbon enthusiasts…

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Review: Nikka Miyagikyo 12, Yoichi 15, Taketsuru 17, Taketsuru 21, and Coffey Grain

By Christopher Null | March 5, 2014 |

An old part of the Asahi empire, Nikka (est. 1934) suddenly finds itself part of the new guard of Japanese whiskys positively flooding into the U.S. Nikka makes a massive number of whiskys in a wide variety of styles and ages. What we present here is but a small selection of Nikka’s world, reflecting the…

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Review: The Yamazaki 25 Years Old

By Christopher Null | November 21, 2013 |

For relaxing times, make it Suntory time… 25 years old. Yamazaki is the top-selling single malt in Japan and has made huge inroads Stateside in recent years, with no small thanks to Lost in Translation, which did for the whisky what Sideways did for Pinot Noir. Lately, Yamazaki (and pretty much all Japanese whisky) has been expanding…

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Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2013

By Christopher Null | October 24, 2013 |

WhiskyFest 2013 is now in the books, and my what an embarrassment of riches this show was. While I heard grousing about the show not having as many hits as usual (most of the independent Scotch bottlers like Samaroli were absent), I managed to find a ton of them. Driven this year perhaps by a…

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Tasting Report: Whiskies of the World Expo San Francisco 2013

By Christopher Null | April 16, 2013 |

Either Whiskies of the World is getting bigger or I’m getting slower. Looking at the list below you’d think I scoured this increasingly high-quality event from top to bottom. In reality I barely scratched the surface, completely missing tastings from Kavalan, Amrut, Tyrconnell, and more. Note to self next year: Focus! Brief thoughts on everything…

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Review: Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 12 Years Old

By Christopher Null | December 25, 2012 |

Japanese whisky fans have long been anticipating the arrival of Nikka, a company which operates two separate distilleries in the north of Japan, one (Yoichi) in Hokkaido and one (Miyagikyo) in Sendai, northern Honshu. Thanks to Anchor Distilling, two of Nikka’s malts are making it to the U.S. We finally got to taste the first,…

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Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2012

By Christopher Null | November 1, 2012 |

Another sold-out show this year for WhiskyFest San Francisco, and yet it didn’t feel overly crowded. I missed out on some of the whispered highlights by arriving late, when the rarities were all gone. (John Hansell has some coverage, which I hope to catch up with in coming months.) Otherwise, good times all around. While…

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Review: The Hakushu 12 Years Old

By Christopher Null | January 13, 2012 |

The Japanese whisky magnates at Suntory have released their third product to the American market: The Hakushu, a whisky distilled and aged “at the foot of the Southern Japan Alps.” Available in ages from 10 to 25 years, only the 12 year old has made it into even remotely wide availability. This single malt whisky…

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Tasting Report: The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza 2011

By Christopher Null | December 4, 2011 |

The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza is the smallest of the whisky shows, but that doesn’t mean it has something to prove. With fewer crowds and more thoughtful selections — no white dog here, folks — you can find quality whisky (overwhelmingly Scotch) at every table in the room. This year the Extravaganza seemed…

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