Japanese whisky is, as you can guess, whisky that is made and produced in Japan! In the 1870s, whisky production began inJapan and is modeled after Scotch whiskies in the way it is distilled and matured. However, it was only in 1924 when the country’s very first distillery called the Yamazaki opened that Japanese whisky started to be sold commercially.
Although there are several Japanese whisky brands and companies that produce the best Japanese whisky, two of the best-known brands are Suntory and Nikka. These two brands have really introduced Japanese whisky to the world and currently dominate the Japanese whisky industry, forming nearly 90 percent of the market.
However Suntory and Nikka are not the first licensed distilleries in Japan. The first licensed distillery in the country is the Whie Oak Distillery in Akashi. Over the years, several Japanese whisky brands have open distilleries such as:
- Karuizawa - opened in 1955 near the Mount Asama volcano.
- Fuji Gotemba Distillery - opened at the foot of Mount Fuji, offering single malts and blended whisky
- Chicibu - opened in 2004 outside Tokyo and focuses on small batches of whiskies using hand-crafted techniques
At the beginning, Japanese whisky was produced as a conscious effort to recreate Scotch whisky. This is why, even now, Japanese whisky is similar to Scotch. Pioneers of the industry Shinjiro Torii and Masataka Taketsuru carefully studied the Scotch whisky making process and went on to recreate that process in the country. The difference between Scotch and Japanese whisky is that, in Japan, each company is self-reliant.
In Scotland, the distilleries often exchange whiskies with one another so that blended scotch whisky can be created. In Japan, distilleries do not do that, which means expertise has to be placed on each whisky that is used in their expressions.
Before the turn of the century, Japanese whisky was mostly marketed locally. This however, was changed in 2001 when Nikka Japanese whisky produced the Yoichi single malt 10 year old. This Japanese whisky won the Best of the Best at Whisky Magazine’s award. Having made its mark in the world, there are certainly a few bottles to explore and discover what the best Japanese whisky brands can offer.
In Japan, whisky is often paired with food. Similar to the typical scotch, the polished, bold and peaty flavours of Japanese whisky goes very well with Japanese cuisine.
Japanese whisky often goes hand in hand with a premium price as there is not enough supply to meet the growing demand. In the 1980s, many Japanese distilleries actually closed their doors or reduced the amount of whisky they were producing as the demand was not there then. The time it takes for ageing (between 10 to 30 years), whiskies that should have been made in the 1980s would have been sold over the past few years. However, since distilleries closed and the demand for Japanese whisky grew, the bottles simply do not exist or are more expensive.
How to drink Japanese whisky? Well you can enjoy it straight, with ice or with a splash of water. You can also enjoy it in cocktails such as some Japanese whisky bottles such as Nikka From The Barrel is incredibly smooth and the perfect addition to a mixed drink.
You can buy Japanese whisky from Whisky.my and get free shipping with purchases above RM350!