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: The Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016

By Christopher Null | March 18, 2016 |

In 2014 Jim Murray pronounced The Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 the best whisky of the year, and the world promptly exploded. Everybody likes Japanese whisky — why wouldn’t you? — but giving this small bottling a “best in the world” award led to the expected chaos. All of Japanese whisky has been impacted by the…

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Review: Hibiki Japanese Harmony

By Christopher Null | September 18, 2015 |

A little of this and a little of that, Hibiki’s latest is a blended whisky, something we don’t see often represented from Japan on American shores. If you can’t find something to like in this dram, well, you shouldn’t be drinking whisky at all. Let’s back up a bit, though, with some Suntory time background:…

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Tasting Report: Whiskies of the World Expo San Francisco 2015

By Christopher Null | May 10, 2015 |

This year marked my sixth consecutive in attendance at Whiskies of the World, a fantastic event that’s typically held on the San Francisco Belle paddleboat, docked in San Francisco Bay. I asked organizer Douglas Stone why it seemed so empty this year, and he told me it was an optical illusion: He pushed the distilleries’…

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Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2014

By Christopher Null | November 5, 2014 |

Another WhiskyFest has come and gone, filling the masses with a smorgasbord of Scotch, Bourbon, Irish, and a little bit of everything else. There was nothing not to like in San Francisco this year, with the masses gobbling up the west coast introduction of Yellow Spot, a rare showing from Stranahan’s, and a surprise appearance…

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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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