Over the last several years, Japanese whisky has seen a meteoric rise in popularity. Distilleries have alleged that they are unable to keep up with demand because of the category’s fast expansion. Blends and NAS whiskies are filling the hole, and many of them are excellent cocktail ingredients. A word of caution while looking for Japanese whiskey: some firms use a combination of whiskies from several nations, then bottle it in Japan under the name of Japanese whisky. However, it’s grown so famous for a reason: the drams available are excellent. The Yamazaki 12-Year-Old is a great entry point into the category, which is why it’s our top pick.
With the help of a few experts, we’ve put together a list of the best bottles we’ve come across.
Among Suntory’s single malt offerings, Yamazaki 12-Year-Old may be regarded as the brand’s flagship expression. It’s one of Suntory’s best-known whiskies, and it used to be simple to find.
Despite its flowery and fruity flavour, this single malt is distinct from other scotch-style single malts. Overall, it’s a great place to start if you’re interested in learning more about Japanese whiskey.
Nikka Coffey Grain
One of Japan’s leading whiskey producers, Nikka, is also based in the country. As the creator of the continuous still Aeneas Coffey was known for his invention, Coffey Grain is named after him and is mostly derived from maize. This gives the whiskey a creamy mouthfeel with a hint of bourbon sweetness.
Mars Shinshu Iwai 45
Japan’s Nagano province is where this whiskey hails from. The mash bill for this beer is mostly composed of maize, with small amounts of malted barley and rye added in. It boasts vanilla and baking spice flavours on the nose and a lean flavour profile with hints of pear and quince on the tongue. Because of its 45 percent alcohol content, this is a superb summer sipper and cocktail base.
A mix of some of Suntory’s finest whiskies goes into Toki, which translates to “time” in Japanese. Pink grapefruit, almonds, and a subtle vanilla finish are all included in this scent. It’s as simple as adding sparkling water and touch of lemon to make a delicious Highball.
The term “single malt” has the same meaning in both Japan and Scotland—scotch whiskey produced only at a single distillery using malted barley. Whisky from the Japanese Alps, known as Hakushu, is equally as lovely.
On the nose, you’ll get hints of wood, herbaceous Ness, and sweet fruit, all supported by a subtle pettiness. For this whiskey, the water source is a mountain stream deep in woodland close to the distillery. For a peated whiskey, the inclusion of this unidentified secret ingredient makes it surprisingly accessible. You won’t find anything else like it.
Akashi White Oak
People love this blended whisky since it’s so smooth. A specialist in the field of sake uses a variety of barrels to mature this whiskey. “It’s a scotch drinker’s dream come true. It’s rich in American oak, with overtones of smoky peat and a leather finish.
The skill of blending is critical in Japanese whisky. The Hibiki series from Suntory is a great example of this. NAS mixes are available in two flavours; nevertheless, the single malt 17-year-old is superior to any other accessible single malt. For almost two decades, this is a combination of grain and malt whiskies that has a silky-smooth texture and a buttery, fruit-laden taste. You can use this in a high-end cocktail, but it’s truly best enjoyed in its purest form, sipping and savouring.
Many Japanese Single Malt Whisky are smoky, but they don’t come close to the quantity of peat seen in Islay scotch. It’s hard to beat Nikka’s Yoichi Single Malt. On the tongue, you’ll find notes of tropical fruit and caramel to counteract the strong smoke in this non-aged Scotch. You may drink it plain or make a Highball by combining it with soda and ice.
Mars Maltage Cosmo
The whiskey in the Mars Shinshu distillery bottle is a combination of Japanese and Scottish whiskies. Pepe Le Moko’s Catherine Simmerman describes Mars Maltage Cosmo as tasting like a sherry-casked scotch with vanilla and plum undertones.
When sherry barrel-aged whiskey is paired with bourbon barrel-aged whisky, it creates a flavour profile that’s distinct and distinct. Try it in a drink, like an Old Fashioned, with a couple ice cubes.