Japan is an underrated, if not overlooked region in terms of its whiskey. While many United States- and Europe-based distilleries stand as the biggest household names in the whiskey industry (Jack Daniels, Johnnie Walker), Japan’s distilleries have been making a recent run for dominance.
Here are a five of Japan’s finest whiskeys.
Hakushu 18 Year Old
For those who like their whiskey fruity or malty, look no further than Hakushu’s 18 Year Old whiskey. The whiskey laces pear, mango, and mint to give it a sweet, edgy taste — providing a nice departure from common Japanese whiskey flavor conventions.
Hibiki Japanese Harmony
Hibiki Harmony’s name is essentially self-explanatory. The whiskey’s flavor, a rounded sweetness with a light hint of smoke, results from the harmonious blending of “at least 10 different malt and grain whiskeys from all three Suntory distilleries.” This mix of tastes makes the whiskey an appropriate choice for a variety of environments and occasions.
With a growing list of distilleries and a variety of mostly cost-friendly products, Tokiwa has recently been making a name for itself in the Japanese whiskey scene. The company’s two Iwai labels provide splurge-free alternatives to other expensive whiskey brands — all without sacrificing its attention to flavor. The whiskies are said to be “elegant, smooth, and very complex.”
Hibiki 21 Year Old
Hibiki’s 21 Year Old offering comes as a stark departure from Tokiwa Iwai in terms of price, as it is likely one of the most expensive Japanese whiskeys you will come across. However, the product’s large price tag is justified; it was named the World’s Best Blended Whiskey at the 2014 World Whiskey Awards. The whiskey’s unique flavor is created with variety of obscure ingredients, including sandalwood and honeycomb.
Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask
If you love international travel as much as you do whiskey, Yamazaki’s Single Malt Sherry Cask may be the whiskey of your dreams. The celebrated brand is mostly exclusive to Japan, and it is commonly overpriced if found anywhere else. Therefore, it is fairly hard to find. However, if you are lucky enough to locate a bottle, be sure not to waste the chance to experience its powerful flavor — created through aging in sherry barrels.