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

Teeda Japanese Rum
95 points
$36.95
Light gold color. Minerally aromas of sweet plantain, hot copper, panela, tonka bean, and elotes with a slightly chewy, crisp, dry-yet-fruity light-to-medium body and a warming, complex, medium-long toasted mango muffin, mango-infused caramel, pineapple smoothie, and lychee finish. A distinctive, chewy rum with pervasive notes of dried mango; memorable daiquiri riffs incoming.
95 points $36.95
Etsu Handcrafted Gin
94 points
$39.99
Clear color. Aromas and flavors of dried lime, lemongrass, sancho pepper, eucalyptus, bay, and juniper with a supple, crisp, dryish light-to-medium body and a peppery, complex, medium-long finish with overtones of jasmine and leather conditioner finish. A masculine of center gin with pervasive notes of dried herbs.
94 points $39.99
Nikka Yoichi Single Malt Whisky
94 points
$79.99
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 Shochu
93 points
Clear color. Floral aromas of violet, tea rose, pear blossom, mixed melon, and cherry with a satiny, vibrant, dry-yet-fruity light-to-medium body and a warming, complex, long floral waters, pink peppercorn, and fresh sweet potato noodles finish. Swap this Asian spirit for pisco or gin in craft cocktails or just sip the vividly floral tipple on its own to experience an avant garde approach to shochu.
Awards: 2018 Best Shochu
Kirishima Shuzo Kuro Kirishima EX Shochu
92 points
Clear color. Savory, smoky aromas and flavors of baked sweet potato, preserved lime, black snake, alliums, and marinated mushrooms with a satiny, crisp, dry light-to-medium body and a graceful, complex, medium-length finish that exhibits overtones of roasted carrot, pickled ginger, and mint finish. A chewy, savory Shochu that will make a great dinner pairing; lots of nuance to explore.
Gekkeikan Bizan Barley Shochu
92 points
$24.99
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 finish revealing nuances of 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
$39.99
Clear with a platinum blue color. 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 finish that presents notes of 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
Nikka From the Barrel Japanese Blended Whisky
91 points
$69.99
Dark amber color. Aromas of cinnamon pastry, pickled ginger, sourdough, honey, and raisins with a silky, crisp, fruity medium body and a tingling, compelling, medium-length crepes, dulce de leche, butter-poached pear, and toasted spice cake finish. A rich and toasty Japanese blended whisky that offers big character that will stand up in craft cocktails.
91 points $69.99
Kirishima Shuzo Kuro Kirishima Shochu
91 points
$19.99
Best Buy
Clear color. Savory aromas and flavors of marinated mushrooms, soy-glazed seaweed snack, salted pretzels, and bell pepper with a satiny, vibrant, dryish light-to-medium body and a tingling, engaging, medium-long finish that presents accents of fresh bread and caramelized shallots finish. A food-enhancing shochu with lots of umami notes to explore.
91 points $19.99 Best Buy
Grace Cor Cor Red Okinawan White Rum
91 points
$47
Clear color. Smoky aromas of mesquite, smoked tomato, ham-studded baked buns, tamarind chutney, black beans, and clove with a satiny, vibrant, fruity light-to-medium body and a peppery, complex, medium-length shaved coconut, ghee, rice pudding, and candied mango finish. A arak-like rum with piles of smoky, funky notes that will be a secret weapon to add nuance in cocktails; one of the most distinctive rums you’ll try.