There are many types of whisky in the world, but Japanese whisky is unique. What makes it stand out from other whiskies?
One reason is that the climate in Japan is perfect for aging whisky. The humidity and temperature levels are consistent throughout the year, which helps to create a smooth flavor. Additionally, Japan has a rich culture and history that contributes to the uniqueness of its whisky.
Many distilleries use traditional methods and ingredients to make their whisky, which sets it apart from other varieties. Finally, Japanese whiskies often have lower alcohol content than other whiskies, making them a bit more mellow and complex.
Let’s take a closer look at what makes Japanese whisky so unique in this article.
What is Japanese Whisky?
Japan’s whisky is not like Scotch. Japanese whiskies are made most commonly from barley and distilled in a continuous still (as opposed to the pot stills used for Scotch). Suntory, Yamazaki, and Hakushu (all owned by Kirin) all age their malt in casks that previously held bourbon, sherry, or other types of wine. The casks are then stored in different locations – some in cold, humid cellars; others in hot warehouses – to create a variety of flavors and aromas.
Due to the blending process, they are often lighter and more fragrant than Scotch whisky. They are also very much influenced by the type of cask used for maturation, not to mention the additives used. The Japanese are well known to be prolific users of fruit and other essences (like rose petals or cherry blossoms).
Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve is a good example of a smooth, aromatic whisky that is rich in fruit and honey. Hakushu also has a variety that has been finished in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks to enhance sweetness, known as Sherry Cask 2013.
Suntory Kakubin, on the other hand, is an affordable blended whisky that’s lighter than many scotch whiskies but still has a nice smoky flavor to it. It’s a great whisky for beginners or those looking for something different than your average blended Scotch.
So, what is Japanese whisky? It’s a unique spirit that is made with barley and distilled in a continuous still. It’s influenced by the type of cask used for maturation, as well as the additives used. It’s light and fragrant, with a variety of flavors depending on the distillery.
History of Japanese Whisky
Japanese whisky is easily one of the most controversial spirits produced around the world. This is mainly because it isn’t often discussed, and there are a lot of myths surrounding how it’s made.
Some believe that this type of whisky was simply born from Scottish or Canadian whisky being exported to Japan only to have them transformed into Japanese whisky at some point during the process. This is not the case at all, and here’s why:
Whisky production in Japan was actually well underway before World War II, and it started with a number of laws and regulations being rolled out by the Japanese government that would ultimately lead to whisky distillation becoming legal. The first laws to be introduced were those that brought about the distillation of shōchū, and it was only a few years later that whisky production would become legal.
The first distillery to open in Japan was called the Yamazaki Distillery, and it was founded all the way back in 1923 by Shinjiro Torii. This distillery is still in operation today, and it is one of the most well-known producers in Japan. Other distilleries followed thereafter, and it wasn’t long before Japanese whisky would finally go on sale to the public in 1930.
The first whiskies that were ever produced in Japan weren’t very good. In fact, they may have been some of the worst whiskies that anyone has ever had the displeasure of drinking. Production was halted during World War II, and it wasn’t until after this time that truly great Japanese whiskies would begin to emerge onto the market.
Things That Make Japanese Whisky Unique
There are a number of differences between how whisky is produced in Scotland and Japan, and we’ll take a look at some of them below.
Japanese Whisky Production is Seasonal
Whisky production in Scotland happens all throughout the year, whereas whisky production in Japan is seasonal. This means that the annual yield of Japanese distilleries will be lower than it would be if they were making whisky all year round, much like how it works in Scotland.
Japanese Whisky Uses Natural Spring Water
The water used for Japanese whisky comes from natural springs, and it is said that this water has a significant impact on the taste of these whiskies. This means that each distillery will need to control the quality of their water before they even begin to consider producing any whiskey at all.
Japanese Whisky is Distilled Twice
Japanese whisky is often distilled twice, much like Scottish single malt whisky. However, there are some Japanese whiskies that are distilled up to four times, which is far more than any Scottish distillery will do. These whiskies tend to be much smoother and easier to drink as a result, but they also have less complexity when it comes to their flavor profile.
Japanese Whisky Uses Rice
Japanese whisky tends to use rice in the mash bill along with malted barley, just as it does in Scottish single malt whisky. There are some Japanese whiskies that have a mash bill that is 50% barley and 50% rice, but there aren’t many of them around these days.
Japanese Whisky Have Higher ABV
Japanese distilleries tend to produce a whisky that has a higher ABV than those found in Scotland because it doesn’t need to mature for as long as Scotch does. This means that Japanese whisky often has a bolder, richer flavor than its Scottish counterpart as a result of it maturing much more quickly than Scotch does.
Must-Try Japanese Whiskies
Japanese whiskies have taken Asia and the world by storm. The unique styles and flavors of Japanese malt whisky are now sought after by connoisseurs around the globe, with prices commanding as much as five times those of their Scottish counterparts!
Here are some Japanese Whiskies that you should give a try.
Yamazaki 12 Year Single Malt Japanese Whiskey
The Yamazaki 12 Year Single Malt Japanese Whiskey is a wonderfully complex whiskey that has a lot to offer the discerning drinker. It has a rich flavor that is complemented by notes of fruit, vanilla, and oak, making it a truly enjoyable experience.
What’s more, the Yamazaki 12 Year Single Malt Japanese Whiskey is made using only the finest ingredients, which helps to explain why it is such a popular choice amongst whiskey fans. If you’re looking for a delicious and sophisticated whiskey that you can enjoy on special occasions, then the Yamazaki 12 Year Single Malt Japanese Whiskey is definitely worth considering.
Komagatake Tsunuki Aging 2019 Single Malt Japanese Whisky
Komagatake Tsunuki Aging 2019 Single Malt Japanese Whisky is a new release from the Komagatake distillery that is said to be the most mature whisky made by the distillery to date. The whisky has been aged in oak casks for 19 years, and it has a mellow flavor with notes of vanilla and fruits.
As a new whisky released in 2018, Komagatake Tsunuki Aging 2019 is the perfect introduction to Japanese whisky for beginners and casual drinkers alike, and it is already making waves in Japan.
Hakushu 12 Year Old Japanese Whiskey
Hakushu 12 Year Old Japanese Whiskey is a smooth, single malt whiskey with a sweet and smoky flavor. It is made from barley malt, which is smoked over cherry and beechwood, and then distilled in copper pot stills.
The whiskey is matured in American oak casks for 12 years, resulting in a mellow and complex flavor that is perfect for sipping neat or on the rocks. Hakushu 12 Year Old Japanese Whiskey is a must-try for whiskey lovers looking for a unique, smoky flavor.
Kaiyo Mizunara Oak The Peated Japanese Whiskey
Kaiyo Mizunara Oak is made with peated malt. This gives the whiskey a smoky, earthy flavor that is unlike any other whiskey on the market. Kaiyo Mizunara Oak is distilled in copper pot stills and then aged in oak casks that have been treated with Mizunara, or Japanese oak.
It was the first whiskey of its kind to be released in 2018. Kaiyo Mizunara Oak is a very limited edition release that is available in Japan, Korea, and on United States soil.
Hibiki Japanese Harmony Whisky
Hibiki Japanese Harmony is a blended whisky that was created in 1989 by Suntory. The whisky is made with malt and grain whiskies that are all aged for at least 12 years. Hibiki Japanese Harmony is one of the most highly awarded blended whiskies in the world, and it has been praised for its incredible flavor and complexity.
Hibiki Japanese Harmony is a blend of malt and grain whiskies that are all aged for at least 12 years. The whisky has a complex flavor profile that includes notes of honey, dried fruit, and herbs. It is a well-rounded whisky that is smooth and easy to drink.
The Future of Japanese Whisky
Japanese whisky is continuing to grow in popularity all around the world, and this growth looks set to continue for many years to come.
It has been reported that sales of these whiskies have increased by an impressive 400% in the last few years, and it doesn’t look like this growth is going to slow down any time soon.
Distilleries in Japan are constantly innovating and experimenting with new flavor profiles, and this has led to some amazing whiskies being produced over the years. The future of Japanese whisky looks very bright indeed, and we can’t wait to see what’s next!