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
218133
Kirishima Shuzo
Akane Kirishima
Brilliant clear color. Attractive, fruity aromas and flavors of kirschwasser, dried apricot, and spiced honeydew with a satiny, bright, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a seamless, layered, long powdered sugar, pistachio oil, lilac and orange blossom water, and pink pepper and radish finish. A delicious and remarkably fruity shochu that drinks a bit like a fine eau-de-vie.
93 points $11 Best Buy
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
218131
Kirishima Shuzo
Kuro Kirishima
Clear color. Roasted, complex, spicy aromas and flavors of vanilla caramel bonbon, dark toasted nut bread, toasted whole grain, and dill pickled tomato with a silky, soft, dry light body and a seamless, interesting, medium-long almond oil, chestnut honey on fennel, light caramel pudding, and peppery spices finish. An elegant and nuanced shochu with fine flavor and balance; try mixing like a rye whisky.
92 points $9 Best Buy
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
218079
Tori Kai
Shochu
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
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
218130
Kirishima Shuzo
Shiro Kirishima
Clear color. Grainy, roasted, umami aromas and flavors of salty dark roasted nuts, soy rice cakes, and roasted barley soup in a clay pot with a satiny, vibrant, dry-yet-fruity light-to-medium body and a tingling, nuanced, medium-long chestnut skin, vanilla milk, plantain, and radish finish. A very interesting and savory shochu with tons of roasted umami aromas and flavors; this will be fun to mix with like a whisky.
91 points $9 Best Buy
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
218129
Watanabe Sake Brewing Co.
Kuramoto No Kakushishochu
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
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
218232
iichiko
Frasco
Bright clear color. Yeasty aromas of overripe tropical fruits, yeasty banana bread dough, roasted nuts, and strawberry milk with a silky, bright, dry-yet-fruity light-to-medium body and a warming, interesting, medium-long vanilla rice pudding and milk, honeyed cucumber and sweet potato, and hint of pepper finish. A powerful and layered shochu.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
208025
Satsuma Shuzo
Honkaku Shochu "Makurazaki"
Clear color. Interesting aromas of white balsamic vinegar, roasted chestnuts, and marinated mushrooms with a silky, soft, dry light body and a tingling, interesting, easy bamboo and faint spice finish. An interesting savory shochu with a nice streak of umami.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
208026
Satsuma Shuzo
Honkaku Shochu "Sakura Shiranami"
Clear color. Lively aromas and flavors of pickled okra, smoked paprika, roasted nuts, and sausage with a silky, soft, dryish light body and a tingling, refreshing, breezy finish with notes of cream, minerals, forest herbs, and mint paste. A stylish and layered shochu.
89 points $18 Best Buy
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
218234
iichiko
Silhouette
Bright clear color. Aromas and flavors of fermenting Asian pear, ground nuts, and hint of fennel with a silky, bright, dryish light-to-medium body and an effortless, appealing, medium-length melon in rice milk and rice candy wrapper finish. A flavorful well made shochu.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
212095
Kirishima Shuzo
"Ho" Green Label Honkaku Shochu
Medium slivery straw color. Rich, oaky, spicy aromas of brown spices, cedar bark, roasted nuts, and peppercorns with a silky, racy, dry medium-to-full body and a warming, subtle, long caramel milk, oak, peppery radishes, and ginseng mint gum finish. A nice oak aged, Canadian whisky-like shochu, that will be fun to mix with.
88 points $8 Best Buy
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab