About Japanese Spirits

About Japanese Spirits
Japan has become a major player in the single malt category; as some examples are considered among the finest in the world.

Quality malt whiskey in Japan was first produced in the 1920s; today there are several distilleries that craft products based on single malt Scotch. There are numerous styles from very light to those with a heavy peaty quality. The best examples are aged from 12 to 18 years in wood barrels.

The other main spirit in Japan is shochu, a beverage made from any number of ingredients, such as barley, rice, buckwheat or even carrots. Having a clear appearance, a shochu displays a wide range of aromas such as fig, fruit cake, paprika and even marinated mushrooms. Shochu has an alcoholic percentage ranging form 25% to 45% and is served neat, on the rocks or sometimes mixed with fruit juice.

Top Picks for Japan

Nikka Coffey Grain Whiskey
95 points
Dusty gold color. Creamy, fruity aromas and flavors of coconut cream pie, dried tropical fruits, pink peppercorns, and pencil shavings with a silky, vibrant, fruity light-to-medium body and a complex, medium-long creme Anglaise, delicate spice, sarsaparilla, and white cigar ash finish. A creamy, inviting whisky that is sure to please.
95 points $69.99
Nikka Yoichi Single Malt Whisky
94 points
Clear gold color. Aromas of green pear and coriander, cherry blossom, Jamon Iberico and melon skewer, and sea spray with a velvety, vibrant, dry-yet-fruity light-to-medium body and a peppery, very complex, long toasted peanuts with coconut sugar, Carr’s wheat crackers, chrysanthemum tea, honeyed-smoked turkey, creme de cassis, ginger, sweet potato pie, and lemon balm and white pepper finish. A lovely and refined Japanese whiskey that displays its enormous character with poised restraint.
94 points $79.99
Kirishima Shuzo Akane Kirishima
93 points
Best Buy
Brilliant clear color. Fruity, floral, attractive aromas and flavors of violet candies, rosewood, fresh panettone with lady grey tea, fruit stripe gum and fruit loops, and pear blossoms with a satiny, vibrant, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a polished, nuanced, long tropical fruit salad, papaya-lychee milkshake, and asian coconut water finish. An ultra-floral botanical garden of a shochu with endless cocktail possibilities; mix as pisco or gin.
Awards: 2017 Best Shochu
93 points $21.99 Best Buy
Nikka Coffey Malt Whiskey
93 points
Bright golden amber color. Fruity, creamy aromas and flavors of banana cream pie with whipped cream, coconut macaroon, spicy fruit compote, and amber perfume with a satiny, vibrant, fruity medium-to-full body and a tingling, elegant, long creme brulee, nougat, spiced nuts, and sassafras finish. A sensationally vibrant and elegant whisky.
Gekkeikan Bizan Barley Shochu
92 points
Brilliant clear color. Earthy aromas and flavors of wax and parchment paper, moss, plum water, and yeasty dough with a silky, soft, dry-yet-fruity light-to-medium body and a tingling, appealing, medium-length powdered sugar, rice licorice candy, and date finish. A clean, food-friendly and lengthy shochu that is a delight to sip; white wine drinkers will love this elegant shochu.
92 points $24.99
Tori Kai Shochu
92 points
Clear with a platinum blue cast. Exotic, tropical aromas and flavors of Asian pear, overripe pineapple, banana-papaya custard, and white chocolate mint with a satiny, bright, dryish light-to-medium body and a tingling, elegant, medium-long starfruit and radish, rice pudding, and hint of fennel finish. An exotically flavorful shochu with lots of Daiginjo sake-like qualities.
92 points $39.99
Kirishima Shuzo Kuro Kirishima
91 points
Best Buy
Brilliant clear color. Savory aromas and flavors of chestnuts and mushroom on the forest floor, frosted shredded wheat cereal, roasted shallot, and dill and pickling spices with a round, bright, dry-yet-fruity light body and a tingling, complex, long horchata, radish, damson plum, and taro root pudding finish. A superb shochu with delicate waves of complex sweet and savory flavors.
91 points $19.99 Best Buy
Gekkeikan Sweet Potato Shochu
91 points
Brilliant clear color. Green, savory aromas and flavors of garlic and chive, roasted chestnut, and pickled cucumber with a satiny, bright, dryish medium body and an even, captivating, medium-long rosehip, dried yellow plum, and gelatin candy finish. A great savory shochu with a delightful range of flavors that will be fun to experiment with in cocktails.
91 points $24.99
Nikka Miyagikyo Single Malt Whisky
91 points
Light gold color. Earthy aromas of autumn leaves, yuzu zest, ripe apple, starfruit skin, peach skin and persimmon, and campfire with a round, vibrant, dry-yet-fruity light-to-medium body and a warming, prodigious, very long dried ginger, pu erh tea, luxury pipe tobacco, enoki mushroom and lemongrass, and orange peel and star anise finish. An elegant, nuanced journey of the senses.
91 points $79.99
Watanabe Sake Brewing Co. Kuramoto No Kakushishochu
91 points
Best Buy
Clear color. Tropical, toasty aromas and flavors of Asian pear, roasted pineapple and rice, toasty nut brittle, and hint of beeswax and clay with a silky, soft, dryish light-to-medium body and a seamless, amusing, medium-length anise seed, powdered milk, and limestone finish. An elegant, fruity, and toasty shochu that has a pleasing combination of sake and white whisky tones.
91 points $15 Best Buy