What Makes Japanese Whisky Unique

In the recent years, Japanese whisky has been growing in popularity all around the world, and many whisky-lovers visit Japan just for the sake of drinking the already famous Japanese whisky in its homeland. With the first Japanese whisky being produced in 1924, the history of the spirit is very short in comparison to the experience of other major whisky making countries. Yet, it is already considered to be one of the best whiskies in the world and the country has managed to establish itself as one of the major producers.

However, you might ask yourself, how did Japanese whisky become so popular in such a short span of time? Many people are oblivious to strengths of Japanese whisky so in this article, we will dive into its world and try to explain some of its unique points and the reasons for its fame.

For starters, it is important to know that Japanese whisky is considered to be closer to Scottish whiskies, primarily because the Japanese originally sampled and modeled their whisky from scotch. This includes the double distillation in pot stills and aging in oak casks. Following the Scottish tradition, Japanese whisky is also spelled ‘whisky’, as opposed to ‘whiskey’. It is said that even many professional whisky experts have trouble distinguishing Japanese whisky from the original scotch, yet when you dive into this new style you learn more and more about the amazing features and characteristics which make Japanese whisky special and unique.

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Key Differences to Scotch

Japanese whisky is strong, and this is a feature which is praised all over the world. Since most major Japanese companies own their own distilleries, it naturally becomes much easier to control and stabilize the quality of the product. Funds are being invested in not merely making the whisky, but also in conducting further research, accumulating necessary knowledge for making equipment such as stills and casks, to further regulate the quality of the products.

As mentioned above, Japanese whisky is modeled after scotch, but it is also noteworthy that there are several key differences between the two, even though the Japanese have managed to “copy” their Scottish counterparts to near perfection.

To begin with, the water in Japan is relatively softer, and has a lower concentration of minerals and ions, compared to the water in Scotland. The next main difference lies in the distilling process: the pot stills used in Japanese distilleries vary in size and form, which allows acquiring a wider range of flavors and tastes. And last but not least, the climate in Japan is drastically different from that in Scotland. Of course, this in its turn affects all of the stages of the whisky production; from growing the grains, to aging the beverage in barrels.

Simply put, Japanese whisky has a gentle and delicate flavor that has undergone its very own evolution and development.

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Trivia

In general, Japan produces blended, blended malt, and single malt whisky and most Japanese whisky is produced by already established and famous manufacturers, such as Suntory and Nikka. Despite this, Japan has a very small number of distillery stations, and the blending and bottling are usually handled by the companies themselves.

Besides, Japanese whiskies are growing in popularity and gaining fame day by day, especially since 2012 when Suntory’s Yamazaki 25 Year won the world’s best-blended malt at the World Whiskies Awards. It is probably also noteworthy that over the past couple of years Suntory has received multiple awards, including multiple golds in International Spirits Challenge, as well as world’s best-blended whisky award in World Whiskies Awards in 2013 and 2016.

The world of whisky is vast and amazing, and Japanese whisky is only just one part of it. By learning the history and unique points of Japanese whisky, surely the way you view and taste it will also undergo a change. If you are being newly introduced to Japanese whisky, you might want to start with Suntory’s Yamazaki 12 Year or Nikka’s Taketsuru 12 Year. Be sure not to miss out on the chance to experience the unique tastes of these varied and textured beverages!