11 facts you didn't know about the Japanese whisky

Japanese whisky

The Japanese just seem to know how to refine everything down to the smallest detail, whether its computers, cars, culinary arts or whisky.

Over the recent years, Japanese whisky has been a rising star in the spirits world, and it isn't just having a moment in the sun. Japan's first distillery, the Yamazaki distillery, has been producing lovely whiskies since 1923 and has ushered in the current era of Japanese whiskies—an era where the spirit has taken its rightful place at the top.

Here are 11 essential facts about Japanese whisky to help you understand the increasing popularity, and hopefully get you started on your Japanese whisky journey!

It’s spelled as 'whisky,' and not whiskey.

The Japanese whisky follows the Scotch tradition and is spelled without an "e." They have much in common with Scottish whiskies and tend to be smokier, peatier, and drier and come as single malts or blends.

They use ingredients from Scotland.

In the early 20th century, the Japanese whisky makers closely studied the scotch whisky-making. Subsequently, major distilleries in Japan produced in the same way and used the same ingredients used by the scotch: malted barley for single malts, and wheat, corn, and peated barley for blends mostly imported from Scotland.

The distinctive taste comes from the tiny details in the Japanese distilling process—the water source, the variety of wood the aging barrels are made of and the shape of the distilling stills. Some distillers make theirs out of mizunara, a tree only found in Japan that adds its distinct flavor while some others use imported bourbon barrels.

Japanese whisky

Japanese whisky is not the new booze on the block.

Japan’s first commercial whisky distillery- The Yamazaki, was built near Kyoto in 1923 by Shinjiro Torii. That is over 90 years ago! The first true Japanese whisky was released in 1929, so it's not exactly the new booze on the block.

Japanese whisky is popular in North America and Europe.

Throughout the 20th century, Japanese whiskies were commercially produced, sold and consumed within Japan. However the UK, France, and some other countries have also fallen in love with the Japanese whisky, and as a result, the market is growing fast.

Japanese whisky makers are highly competitive with each other.

Unlike the Scottish whisky companies that frequently exchange barrels with each other to obtain flavors to balance their blends and bourbon distillers, the Japanese whisky makers never sell their barrels. The rivalry of whisky business in Japan runs deep, and it is highly competitive. Since Japanese whisky companies don’t exchange barrels with each other, blenders have their secrets, and they make barrels of many types of whisky; for example, the well-known Suntory brand does this by utilizing a wide range of still sapes, yeast strains, and barrel types at two different distilleries.

Bob Harris exists.

Japanese whisky made a prominent appearance in the film ‘Lost in Translation,' featuring an American movie star named Bob Harris who heads to Japan to shill for Whisky maker Suntory. While Bill Murray has not done any whisky ads in Japan, many other Western stars have, including Keanu Reeves and Sean Connery who appeared in Suntory commercials in the 1990s. But the vintage commercial featuring Sammy Davis Jr. may be the most amazing of them all.

Japanese whisky

The Highball is a significant part of the drinking culture in Japan.

The highball is a special drink, featuring a mixture of Japanese whisky and soda water. It was very popular in the '50s and '60s and has come roaring back in recent years as younger and more casual drinkers want to get the gratification of tasting whisky without the intensity of overpowering flavors interfering with their meals. Consequently, many Japanese whiskies are made to be very subtle when combined with ice and water.

The soda water helps soften up the whisky taste and makes it easier to drink with meals.

Blended whisky is the best acclaimed whisky in Japan.

Although single malts garner most of the attention and are known for their award-winning taste, the vast majority of whiskies made in Japan are blended whiskies. The same is true in the West as well, just to a slightly lesser extent. Quality blends are celebrated in the East although it tends to be prejudiced against blends as being cheaper than single malts,

This could because of Japanese culture’s appreciation and emphasis on balance.

Whisky lovers are in love with Japanese whisky.

Japanese whiskies have been winning the major whisky international awards. Suntory has won a lot of trophies in the top spirits awards: the World Whisky Awards, the International Spirits Challenge, and the International Wine Awards.

Based on international tasting, Nikka's Yoichi whisky was named the "Best of the Best" by Whisky Magazine. Suntory was recently named 'Distiller of the Year' for the third time at the prestigious ISC awards which is a big deal—being the very first time a whisky company has ever won this award three times.

Japanese whisky

The Japanese love their whisky!

Japanese whiskies have become exceedingly popular and readily available anywhere in Japan. There are vending machines in Japan that have portable whisky bottles for on-the-go drinking thrill. These portable whisky bottles come from diverse whisky distilleries, and they’re like sample bottles of whisky that you can try.

Japanese whisky is unfortunately hard to get.

Over the years the Japanese whisky has gained an overwhelming popularity. As a result, the rarity of this luxurious liquor has sky-rocketed as well, making it hard for whisky lovers all over the world to buy a bottle or more. However, Ippin makes it easy for you to access different brands of Japanese whisky, so you can experience the joy, art, culture, and history that every bottle brings.

A Japanese whisky is more than just a fancy bottle with liquid gold inside! Ippin can get you started on your journey to discover the secret behind these brilliant bottles of luscious and silky Japanese whisky.