Whisky 101: Here is What You Don’t Know About Japanese Whisky

What do you remember about your last toast of whisky? Of late, there has been an increasing demand for Japanese whisky because of its immense taste, notes, and rich flavor. There is more into this whisky, which makes it hardly sticky on the counter.

The Japanese whisky is always in scarce supply. Maybe whisky lovers have found some hidden secrets of the whisky.

Is it the right time to shift your glass to this glories brand of whisky? But wait, what exactly makes Japanese whisky that interesting? Here we uncover all the odds and evens of Japanese whisky. Stay put into finding out all about this select type of whisky.

A short History of Japanese Whisky 

Every special type of whisky has a history behind it, and Japanese whisky is no exception. This popular drink began its journey way back in the early 90s when the Nikka Whisky founder, Masataka Taketsuru, began his journey in the Yamazaki Distillery.

In a bid to turn his family skew brewery into a successful business, Taketsuru decided to study chemistry at the University of Glasgow. His passion for brewing grew, and in 1919, he found himself at the Longmorn Distillery. He returned to Japan in 1920 and turned his passion for brewing into reality by launching the popular Nikka Whisky in what was the first Japanese distillery at Yamazaki.  

While at Longmorn Distillery, Masataka recreated some stills that he would later use at the Yamazaki distillery. These stills are being used at the distillery to date.

Masataka Taketsuru is a well-known figure and has always been regarded by many as the father of Japanese whisky. Shinjiro Torii is another figure that is also popular in Japanese whisky. He is the brain behind the Suntory brand of whisky. Both Torii and Taketsuru share some background. Taketsuru worked in a Torii company for almost a decade before launching his distillery.

Yamazaki 12 yr. whiskey bottle - HDR | Yamazaki 12 year old … | Flickr

The Present Japanese Whisky Market

The current Japanese whisky market has gone through a lot to become what it is now. Today, a few more distillers fill the space of other distilleries that fell out in the late 90s. Asaka and Gaia Flow are examples of distilleries that recently started their production and are slowly finding space in the whisky market. 

Some of the top whisky brewers in Japanese are now competing fairly with some top whisky brands like Scotch. The supply for most Japanese drinks has also gone global because of the increasing demand. You can easily bump into a Japanese whisky these days when you go out with friends to have a good time.

The present may look promising, but this has not always been the case. The past of Japanese whisky is a bit turbulent. Japanese whisky has been growing steadily for the also two decades. It has been in the limelight, and most top brands are winning awards.

For instance, in 2003, Suntory’s Yamazaki 12 Year old clichéd a gold medal award at the International Spirits Challenge. It is clear today that the Japanese whisky stands out from the rest, but what makes the drink this precious is worth digging into that much.

Hibiki 21 | some very good Japanese whisky at the 1st class … | Flickr

The Intriguing Harmony 

A significant part of the Japanese whisky experience is the concept of harmony and balance. Most distillers of Japanese whisky always focus on bringing out the rich Japanese culture in every bottle they take to the market. The main themes and tones in Japanese malt reflect the country’s rich culture and the brewing journey.

For every bottle of Japanese whisky you take, there is always that desire to get the balance between the rich flavor and the liquid. An essential part of the whisky is the maturation and the texture. With these two elements, Japanese whisky beats most of the top whisky brands in the industry.

It is very common for most distilleries to use multiple stills when making the drink unique and bring out the rich Japanese flavor. Some distilleries will use pot stills, while others use coffey stills. Japanese whisky comes in a unique flavor. By choosing to use multiple stills, distillers can easily blend different flavors into every bottle and discover new tones that are not present in most whisky brands like Scotch.

The feed of grain in coffey stills is constant, which makes them more efficient than pot stills. The grain used in making Japanese whisky makes it smooth and strong, with a 90% ABV. The coffee stills make it easier for most Japanese distilleries to achieve the unique balance of harmony in every bottle they offer their consumers.  

Nikka’s Coffey Malt is a perfect example of how the Japanese brewers use the coffey stills to produce unique whisky. The drink is smooth and comes in rich flavor, rarely found in most types of whisky drinks. The oily texture, smooth mouth-feel, and bold, sweet flavors are unique features you find in every bottle of Japanese whisky you buy.

The Blending Process

Another concept that makes Japanese whisky unique is that distilleries in Japan are always carrying the blending process in-house. This way, they can come up with various tastes and flavors compared to their counterparts, the like of Ireland and Scotland.

An in-house blending of whisky ensures the master distillers are in full control of the blending process, allowing room for experimentation and discovery of new flavors, maturation, still types, and maturation periods.

Every Japanese distillery looks for a way to discover harmony in every bottle, and this is the reason behind in-house blending and the wide experimentation. Discovering harmony is possibly the signature taste in every brand of Japanese whisky you grab from the counter.

Summary: What makes Japanese Whisky Special 

There is more to talk about and say about Japanese whisky, but what stands out from this type of drink is its unique taste and flavor. Here is what makes Japanese whisky different from others:

  • The ingredients come from Scotland: The Japanese whisky shares some history with the Scotch whisky. Most of the distilleries in Japan source their ingredients like peated barley from Scotland.
  • It is a whisky, not whiskey: The Japanese whisky follows the scotch model of brewing. It is made of peated barley and aged in wood barrels. The drink is often smokier, drier, and comes in blends and single malts. This makes it a whisky and not whiskey.
  • The distillers focus more on refinement: Unlike other distilleries that concentrate on the whisky brand’s consistency, most Japanese distillers are always aiming for refinement and perfection. They show a lot of elegance and attention to detail, making them stand out from the rest of the whiskies in the market.
  • It is not easy to find: Although it has gone global in the supply chain for the last two decades, it is not easy finding some good Japanese whisky in your local bar because of the scarcity. Everyone is always looking for a bottle of Japanese whisky, and the demand seems to outdo the drink’s supply.
Final Thoughts 

Japanese whisky is a rising star in the whisky industry. Its rich history makes it one of a kind for most whisky lovers. The distillers are always out to achieve refinement and bring out the unique flavor in every bottle. Additionally, the desire to maintain a balance of harmony is another aspect of Japanese whisky that makes it stand out.

There is a lot to learn on Japanese whisky, right from the art of blending, the founders’ rich history, and the concept of finding harmony, among others. Always remember to take a sip of whisky; it can help you remember these remarks on Japanese whisky.

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