In our series about countries, we have previously highlighted Dutch whiskey. For this second blog we thought it would be appropriate to tell more about Japanese whiskey. The whiskeys from our distant Eastern neighbors are immensely popular. This is reflected in the increasing sales figures and therefore also the rising prices. But also in terms of prizes the Japanese take home one trophy after the other.
In 2015, the world reacted in shock when Jim Murray’s renowned Whiskey Bible named Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 by Suntory as the best whiskey in the world. This was the first time that this honor went to Japan.
Japan has been making whiskey since the early 1920s. The Yamazaki distillery was then established near Kyoto. Over the course of the 20e eeuw werd Japanse whisky vooral in Japan zelf verkocht. Pas de laatste jaren werd het ook steeds populairder in andere landen.
The Japanese whiskeys initially modeled themselves as much as possible after Scottish whiskeys. The first master distiller of Suntory studied in Scotland and wanted to bring the drink to his own country. They produced in practically the same way. By distilling twice in pot stills. Many Japanese distilleries even used imported grain from Scotland.
Japanese whiskey is spelled like the Scottish whiskey without the "E". This is in contrast to, for example, Irish and American whiskey. This is another sign that people in Japan have begun to stay as close as possible to Scottish whiskey.
In 2003 Japanese whiskey made a nice appearance in Hollywood in the modern classic Lost in Translation with Bill Murray in the lead. His character Bob Harris is a stranded actor who goes to Japan to advertise whiskey from the Japanese distillery Suntory.
In addition to the aforementioned Yamazaki, the Nikka distillery is also very successful. The Yoichi whiskey was the big winner in an international tasting of Whiskey Magazine in 2001. In 2003, a 30-year-old Hibiki from Suntory won the top prize at the International Spirits Challenge.
In short, there is a lot to enjoy when it comes to Japanese whiskeys. Start with a whiskey from Nikka, Yamazaki or Suntory. And maybe you have found another gem that you want to share with us? Or try one of our tastings, where you will also find whiskeys other than those from Scotland or Ireland.