Japanese whiskies are barely a century old. That's a baby in the world of spirits. But they've got the look of an impending heavyweight. While directly descended from scotch, they've proven to be visionaries of what a whisky can be and have provided an injection of excitement and possibility into a liquor that's been around for centuries. The innovation coming from Japan has resulted in a variety of exceptional whiskies that range from light and precise to smoky and fat.
Today, Japanese whisky is commonly regarded as one of the most popular in the world. Behind Scotland and the United States, Japan has become the third-largest producer of whisky in the world. There's probably no other country that's gone from pretender to contender in the liquor game so quickly.
Japanese whisky began with two men: Masataka Taketsuru and Shinjiro Torii. After taking a trip to Scotland in 1918, Taketsuru joined forces with Torii for Japan's first distillery. Almost 10 years later he split off to launch his own operation. Today those two distilleries, Nikka and Suntory, continue to dominate the Japanese whisky market.
Fast and Nimble:
Unlike in Scotland, where distilleries honed one or two techniques over centuries, Nikka, Suntory and others have developed a multiplicity of styles within their own operations. And while Scottish distillers swap single malts with each other for their blends, the Japanese often forgo this, typically choosing instead to create blends in house.
Types of Japanese Whisky
Finding the perfect Japanese whisky is good fun. You get to sample as many whiskies as you want until you find the ones that make your taste buds go wild. Until 1990, only Suntory was available for import. But craft distilleries and a growing love of Japanese whisky have opened the doors for you to try several types no matter where you are. Most Japanese whiskies are similar to scotch, yet they've evolved into their own unique type. You can't go wrong by starting with one of these top Japanese whiskies:
How to Drink It:
On. Its. Own. That's the best way to enjoy the peaty appeal of Japanese whisky. Adding a touch of water will actually open up some flavors and aromas.