Japanese Whisky – From Japan…With Love

Far too often I’ve seen people rolling their eyes and scoffing at the mere mention of Japanese whisky.

“Not in my glass,” they’ll say.  “I only drink real malt whisky.”

Well, if you’re like me – the above statement made you roll your eyes and scoff yourself, then you’ll totally understand why I was delighted to read, and chose to Digg this article by Jack Bettridge over at Cigar Aficionado – educating whisky lovers about the amazing products available from this fantastic whisky region.

Yamazaki 12yr Japanese Single Malt Whisky

The Yamazaki 12yr

If you can’t already tell – I’m a great believer in Japanese whisky.

So it was fantastic to learn what I did, and I wanted to share that to help spread the good word about Japanese whisky. Because even for a novice peat freak there’s enough in Bettridge’s piece to school anyone on the basics about the early history of Japanese whisky, starting of course with most people’s gateway to Japanese whisky -Suntory’s The Yamazaki.

Nikka seems to be leading the charge recently in representing Japanese whisky to the Western world as perceptions concerning Japanese whisky shift.

Currently, there’s currently quite a few great Nikka products up here in Vancouver in case you’re on the whisky hunt – including: Nikka ‘From the Barrel’, Pure Malt White and Pure Malt Black, the Nikka Super and the 17 year Taketsuru. But if you’re not sure how well it has gone over, Nikka’s awards page might be a worth a glance.

And now their Northern distillery Yoichi has started to up the bar another couple levels with several products that have knocked my socks off – namely their 10 and 15 year single malts.

Chichibu - Ichiro's Malt - The Peated

Chichibu – Ichiro’s Malt – The Peated

But my recent love – (yes love) is the three year (yes three year) offering from the Chichibu distillery named Ichiro’s Malt – ‘The Peated.’

Smoky chocolate, vanilla and sweet earthy peat. It’s absolutely astounding at the young age of three, and could easily outshine whiskies some five times its age without breaking a sweat. (Send me a bottle someone  – please!)

If you’re starting to get a little interested in the details about some Japanese distileries, Whisky Magazine’s Japanese website has thankfully they’ve provided us equal opportunity whisky lovers with a great English resource page on their site, mapping out all the Japanese distilleries with some great tidbits about each of them. All that makes it a great place to meet and greet with a couple great Japanese distilleries.

Japanese whisky map

Whisky Magazine Japan’s map of Japanese Distilleries

But my favourite piece about Japanese whisky still has to be this one from Spirit of Speyside that tells the tale of Duncan Elphick .

He’s running the Highlander Inn in the heart of what’s pretty much Downtown, Whiskytown, Scotland – and has the largest collection of Japanese whiskies outside Southeast Asia alongside 400 or so Scottish Malts. Whether or not it started as a way to position his collection uniquely in such a busy whisky hub – it seems to have become a passion for him.

He says “If anyone questions it, I remind them that a Japanese single malt -Yamazaki 25- year- old – has been voted the best single malt in the world for the past four years running.”

So my question to you is have you tried Japanese whiskies yet? If so – share a little about your faves and your experiences with Japanese whisky.

And if you think they’re great – show your support here by discussing how you feel about the perception that Japanese whisky is inferior whisky.

6 thoughts on “Japanese Whisky – From Japan…With Love

    1. whiskeydrummer Post author

      Hey Sarah – There’s some absolutely fantastic Japanese whiskies out there for sure. And yes it’s definitely exciting! The Nikka ‘From the Barrel’ or the Yamazaki 12yr are both good places to start. If you can find one around – try it and let us know your thoughts!

      Reply
  1. maribberry

    I’m not a big fan of whisky but I know someone who’s a huge fan of Yamazaki. He and I used to work for the same agency in Japan and because he and her wife love Yamazaki to death, they bought a house near its factory so that they can go there whenever they want. Doesn’t it sound crazy?
    It’s good to know that there’s someone who likes Japanese whisky in Canada. I hope you won’t buy a house near a whisky factory in Ireland or Scotland. 😉

    Reply
    1. whiskeydrummer Post author

      Heya maribberry! Wow that’s dedication! People get crazy about their whisky, and some will do anything to be closer to it. As for not buying a house near Ireland or Scotland – I’m not making any promises….aw.. who am I kidding? I’d move there in a heartbeat!

      Reply
  2. Social Change Media Consulting

    Peat freak… great term. I too am surprised that Japan is a whiskey making region on par with Scotland. I wonder: what are the techniques, flavours, waters, conditions that give Japanese whiskey it’s taste? Are there specific characteristics that Japanese whiskeys have that are different from classic Scotch ones? Interesting post.
    Cheers,
    Elaine

    Reply
    1. whiskeydrummer Post author

      Hey Elaine – great question in regards to the conditions that give Japanese whisky it’s taste.

      In whisky production, you only really have a few limited factors that really change the flavour output – and many claim that the big two in Japanese whisky are the water, and the wood. Specifically – Mizunara oak barrels – which is an oak varietal native to Japan, which is said to impart very unique earthy and incense like spices. The water factor is a little less specific. In the case of Yamazaki – 16th century legendary tea master Sen no Rikyu was said to use the same water source as Yamazaki – believing it had mystical mysterious qualities to it – but as for what specifically it is in the water that sets it apart – no one really knows. And the same is true for many of the water sources. But one thing for sure – even if it’s ever so slightly different – it can make a huge difference!

      Reply

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