The Japanese just appear to have a natural talent for perfecting even the smallest of details, whether it be in technology, cars, or the culinary arts. Who would, however, have guessed that a superb whisky would be one of them? Whisky distillation, a long-standing distilling tradition traditionally associated with the British Isles and America, was moved to Japan and has since flourished there and on the global market. Here are five things you should know about Japanese whisky, which is becoming more and more popular.
Whisky, Not Whiskey
Prior to being matured in wood barrels, Japanese whisky is doubly distilled using malted and/or peated barley, following the scotch tradition. They come in single malts or blends and are often drier, smokier, and peatier than the sweeter American bourbons and ryes.
Contains Scotch Ingredients
The majority of the country's largest distilleries actually import most of their raw materials from Scotland, using malted and occasionally even peated barley from the British Isles. The intricate details of the Japanese distilling process, including the water source (the "mythical" water used by Yamazaki Distillery comes from mountains close to Tokyo), the design of the distilling stills, and the type of wood used to make the aging barrels, are what give each Japanese spirit its distinct flavor. While some distillers manufacture their own barrels out of mizunara, a tree that can only be found in Japan and provides its own unique flavor, others use imported bourbon barrels.
Refinement, Not Consistency
Even specialists would struggle to distinguish between Japanese whisky and scotch when placed side by side in a quality blind tasting test. Scotch is made to taste the same as it has for generations because Scottish distillers prioritize consistency and add extra smokiness. On the other hand, Japanese distillers strive to improve steadily, favoring whiskies with a more delicate flavor. Japanese whiskies display a lot of elegance, optimal restraint, and plenty of technical attention to detail.
Japanese whiskies are beginning to challenge the West's dominance on the big stage. At the World Whisky Awards in 2012, the Yamazaki 25 Year was named the best single malt in the world. The world's best blended malt was also the Taketsuru 17 Year. It has actually turned into a little bit of a coup. The Japanese are triumphant when it comes to whiskies.
Hard to Get
Despite growing in popularity, there is still a shortage of Japanese whiskies in the U.S. Although there are several distilleries in Japan, only Suntory and Nikka whiskies seem to be easily accessible here. If you are interested in learning more about Japanese whiskies and exploring their unique flavors, Liquorstars is a good place to start. We offer a wide selection of premium spirits from Japan and all over the globe. Online alcohol shopping is likely the best resource for finding Japanese whiskies. Check out catalog and have your spirits delivered right to your doorstep. We also have gift wrapping services and greeting cards for a nominal fee if you would like to present your friends and family with a quality gift.