A Quick Preface to a Japanese Whisky

The exciting aspect of any alcoholic drink is the diversity it provides — especially in terms of geography. When it comes to whiskies, those from Japan are rightfully earning their name. So, what is it about a Japanese whisky, that many are fondly fascinated towards?

How a Japanese Whisky Is Unique

The first differentiation is that of the spelling — if you want to compare it with an American Whiskey (with an ‘e’). This in itself has nothing to do with taste, but it is a distinguishing factor.

What really shines the spotlight on Whiskies from this part of the world is the flavor profile, and the art with which they are blended. For the most part, Japanese whiskies result from being mostly “self-reliant” — as far as the distillation process goes. What I mean by that is that everything is mostly done in-house, from owning different types of barrels, casks, etc. The benefit of having all of that at their own disposal enables them to create some of the finest blends out there.

Another interesting feature is that the drinks are made to be consumed with food. As far as Japanese philosophy about food and nature goes, inherently, they believe or have wanted to, that whisky should be enjoyed with food. For this reason, they tend to be on a lighter and tolerant note.

More Tidbits About a Japanese Whisky

tidbits about a Japanese whisky
Photo by Fidel Fernando

I think the biggest reason Japanese whiskies received their fame was probably because The Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 was declared a winner in the “JIM MURRAY’S WHISKY BIBLE 2015” guide.

Nevertheless, below are more facts and information about Japanese Whiskies:

  1. Most of the core primary ingredients that go into making a whisky are actually imported from Scotland. For this reason, a lot of the tasters sometimes can’t tell the differences between a scotch and a Japanese whisky — in a blind test. As said though, what starts to separate them is the distillation process.
  2. Almost all of the distilleries are owned by two companies. Suntory and Nikka. Interestingly enough, and sort of mentioned above, these distilleries do not share processes, unlike many other distilleries. Because of that, innovation, creativity, and fineness, all comes from within. (Recall the in-house note I stated before).
  3. The purity of water is critically important to a Japanese whisky (not that it’s not important to others). It is said that Yamazaki has even its own water source.

A more prominent differentiation, in my opinion, comes in consistency versus evolvement. You see, most of the Scotch have a consistent taste, year after year. The Japanese believe in the process of refinement, and the constant pursuit to make things better or different. Due to this belief, every year, the distilleries can produce different blends and single malts.

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In Summation

If “different” yet familiar (to Scotch) is what you’re looking for, you have to try a Japanese Whisky. With mesmerizing flavor profiles, lighter tones (mostly), and a lot of meticulous craft, Japanese whiskies deserve a chance.

After all, one of them was declared as the best whisky in 2015.

And, last I heard, Japanese whiskies are incredibly harder to purchase, so the scarcity of availability is also one of the appeals that can be enticing enough to hunt for one.