If you love whisky, especially Scotch, then you have good reason to be interested in Japanese Whisky. Japanese whisky has a unique history and its own set of traditions, but it remains very similar to scotch with a few notable differences. Japanese Whisky is the best asian whisky around.
Although whisky has been produced in small quantities in Japan dating back to the 19th century, the Japanese whisky industry began shortly after World War I, when the chemist Masataka Taketsuru was sent to Europe to learn about the processes and secrets behind Scotch whisky. He took classes in Glasgow, learned the language, and worked for several years at a variety of Scottish distilleries. He came back to Japan with a veritable novel of information, which was used as a manual for Japanese whisky making. Japanese whisky making remains very similar to the Scottish process, with a unique terroir due to its place of origin.
Japanese whiskies are spelled ‘whisky’ due to their similarity to the Scottish distilling process. They are known for having the same basic elements as Scottish whiskies. As with most other regions, both blends and single malts are produced. Honshu is the main whisky-making region in the nation, although there are notable manufacturers throughout the nation. Hokkaido is another popular region due to the area’s similarity to the geography and weather of Scotland.
Suntory is perhaps the best known of the Japanese whisky; they are certainly the largest maker in the nation. Their chief rivals are Yoichi and Miyagikyo, both of which are world-renowned distilleries owned by Nikka. There are also several smaller artisan distilleries that are producing interesting products and generally keeping the big guys on their toes. A sampling of Japanese whisky would include Suntory and Nikka whiskies along with a few smaller makers.
Japan has been accepted in the mainstream whisky world as a top region since at least 2001, when a Yoichi 10 year won the highest awards at a Whisky Magazine tasting. Japanese whiskies have continued to win awards since then, including some of the most prestigious awards in the whisky world. It is now very normal for a competition to have Japanese makers among their prize-winning distilleries. Japanese whiskies are even known to outscore similar Scotch whiskies on a regular basis, a true feat considering that they are made in the Scottish tradition.
If you do not have a Japanese whisky in your collection, then you are missing out on the future of the drink. Scotland has centuries of tradition, but Japan has the willingness and the abilities to experiment with new techniques, all leading to a progressively better product. The flavors are Scottish, but there is a completely different character. A lot of effort is put into maintaining just the right depth and balance, so the Japanese whiskies are usually winners in these areas. Try a Japanese whisky at your next tasting; if you approach it with an open mind, you will certainly not be disappointed.