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 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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Review: Hibiki 12 Years Old

By Christopher Null | September 23, 2009 |

Yamazaki isn’t the only whiskey Japanese distillery Suntory makes, but for ages it’s been the only one it has sold overseas. Now Suntory is expanding the distribution of another of its products: Hibiki 12 Year Old Whiskey. This is a very easygoing, blended whiskey, pale gold in color and with a light, blonde-wood character that…

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Review: The Yamazaki 1984

By Christopher Null | September 18, 2009 |

With just 300 bottles coming to the U.S. this fall, odds are good you are not going to be drinking any of Suntory’s Yamazaki 1984 vintage whiskey — the first vintage-dated whiskey the company has released in the U.S. And that’s a shame, because based on what is the teeny-tiniest sample of a whiskey I’ve…

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Three Words: Japanese Ice Balls.

By Christopher Null | April 18, 2009 |

We’ve covered ice before, but it’s never looked like this. Check it out: With these unique molds, you can make enormous, completely spherical balls of ice, pattered after the hand-carved ice balls that apprentice bartenders in Japan are forced to create. With these special ice trays, you don’t need a chisel to create the orbs.…

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Review: The Yamazaki 18 Years Old

By Christopher Null | March 4, 2009 |

I’m quite the fan of Suntory’s 12 year old Yamazaki Japanese whisky, and finally got the chance to compare the 12 year to the 18 year version of The Yamazaki, side by side. Everything you like about the 12 year — honey and citrus galore — is present in the 18, but amped up into…

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Review: The Yamazaki 12 Years Old

By Christopher Null | June 16, 2008 |

“For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.” With those words, Bill Murray (in Lost in Translation) immortalized Suntory whiskey, a brand that few had heard in the U.S. and even fewer had actually tasted. Japanese single malt whisky? When it comes to alcohol, wasn’t Japan all about beer, plum wine, and sake? In truth, Yamazaki…

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