Whisky is a spirit that has been around for centuries, with a rich history and many different styles. Japanese whisky is one of the most popular styles of whisky today, and is known for its smooth taste and unique flavor profile.
If you’re new to whisky, Japanese whisky is a great place to start. In this blog post, we’ll give you a crash course in Japanese whisky, including its history, production, and flavor profile.
What is Japanese Whisky?
Japanese whisky is a type of whisky that is produced in Japan. The majority of Japanese whiskies are made using barley, though some producers also use wheat and rye. Japanese whiskies are typically lighter and smoother than other types of whiskies, such as Scotch whisky.
How to Drink Japanese Whisky
There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to drinking Japanese whisky. However, if you’re new to the world of Japanese whisky, we recommend trying it neat or with a splash of water. When tasting Japanese whisky for the first time, pay attention to the flavors on your palate. Common flavor profiles include citrus, floral, oak, and spice.
The History of Japanese Whisky
Whisky production in Japan began around 1870, but the first commercial production was not until 1924. The style of Japanese whisky is more similar to Scotch whisky than any other major styles of whisky. The first Japanese distillery was built by Masataka Taketsuru, who had studied the art of whisky making in Scotland. Taketsuru brought back Scottish equipment and techniques to Japan, and used local ingredients to create a uniquely Japanese style of whisky.
Japanese whiskies are typically distilled using pot stills, which allows for more control over the final product. Japanese whiskies are also aged in a variety of different oak barrels, which imparts different flavors and aromas into the spirit. One of the most important aspects of Japanese whisky production is the use of pure spring water, which is abundant in Japan. The soft water helps to create a smooth, mellow flavor profile that is characteristic of Japanese whiskies.
Most Japanese whiskies are made using a blend of malt and grain whiskies, which are then aged in oak barrels for anywhere from 3 to 50 years. The resulting spirit is typically lighter and smoother than its Scottish or Irish counterparts, with a flavor profile that’s more delicate and nuanced.
The exception to this rule is single malt whisky, which is made exclusively from malted barley and aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 3 years. Single malt whisky makes up a small but growing segment of the Japanese whisky market, and it tends to be more expensive than blended whisky due to the longer aging process.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that some Japanese distilleries also produce what’s known as “Japanese single cask whisky.” These whiskies are made from a single barrel of whisky and bottled without being diluted or blended with any other spirit, which gives them a unique flavor profile that can vary greatly from bottle to bottle.
Japanese whiskies are typically light-bodied and smooth, with delicate flavors of fruit and floral notes. The long aging process gives Japanese whiskies a complex flavor profile that includes woody aromas and a touch of sweetness.
Japanese whiskies are subject to strict guidelines set by The Japan Spirits & Liqueurs Makers Association, and as a result, they tend to be of exceptionally high quality. They’re also typically characterized by honeysuckle, acetone, toffee, and orange flavors, which makes them perfect for use in cocktails.
When choosing a Japanese whisky, it’s important to consider what type of flavors you prefer. If you’re looking for a fruity whisky, opt for a bourbon cask-aged bottle. For a richer flavor profile, choose a sherry cask-aged bottle.
Japanese whiskies are some of the most versatile spirits on the market, so there’s sure to be one that suit your taste preferences.
There are several companies that produce Japanese whiskies, but the two most well-known are Suntory and Nikka.
Suntory whisky was first produced in 1923 at the Yamazaki distillery. The company also has another distillery called Hakushu, which started operating in 1973. In 1989, the Chita opened as a grain whisky distillery.
All three of these are located in the Osaka Prefecture. Nikka was founded in 1934 by Masataka Taketsuru, who studied chemical engineering and whisky production in Scotland before returning to Japan to start his own company.
The Miyagikyo distillery, which produces fruitier whiskies than Yoichi, opened its doors in 1969 and is situated in Sendai city of Miyagi Prefecture.
Blended as well as single malt whiskies and blended malt whiskies are produced by these companies, with their main blended whiskies being Suntory kakubin (角瓶, square bottle), and Black Nikka Clear.
Both companies produce single malts as well as blends. Some of Suntory’s more notable whiskies include Hibiki (a blend), Yamazaki (a single malt), and Chita (a grain). Nikka’s Taketsuru Pure Malt is a blend of their two single malts Yoichi and Miyagikyo, while Taketsuru 17 Year Old is a limited edition single malt comprised only of whisky aged for at least 17 years in one sherry butt cask.
Where do you start? How do you know what’s good and what’s not?
Fortunately, we’ve got you covered.
If you’re just getting started in the world of whisky, Yamazaki 12 Year Old is a great place to begin. This single malt whisky has a floral aroma with hints of stone fruits like peach and apricot. On the palate, you’ll find flavors of honey and citrus, followed by a long, gentle finish.
If you’re looking for a bottle that won’t break the bank but is still high quality, Nikka Coffey Grain is a great choice. This whisky is made mostly from corn, which gives it a creamy texture and sweetness that will appeal to bourbon fans. It also has notes of vanilla and baked goods, making it perfect for sipping neat or on the rocks.
If you’re working with a tight budget, Mars Shinshu Iwai 45 is a great option. This Japanese whisky has notes of vanilla, baking spices, pears and quince, making it an excellent summer sipper. Plus, at under $50 per bottle, it won’t break the bank.
When it comes to highballs (a cocktail made with whisky and soda water), Suntory Toki is hard to beat. This light and refreshing whisky has notes of pink grapefruit, making it the perfect base for a refreshing summertime drink.