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All About Japanese and World Whisky

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For more information, see a related article on Scotch Whisky

Japanese whiskies follow the Scottish tradition, with malt whiskies being double distilled in pot stills and grain whiskies in column stills. Japanese Malt Whisky is produced in pot stills from lightly peated barley malt. Standard Japanese Whisky is a blend of malt whiskey (Japanese or Scotch) and domestically produced grain whiskey. The whisky distilleries of Japan are scattered throughout Honshu and Hokkaido, the two main northern islands of Japan, with the malt whisky distilleries being located for the most part in mountainous regions where there are good water supplies.

The modern Japanese whisky industry can trace its beginnings back to one man, Masataka Taketsura. The son of a sake brewer, Taketsura went to Scotland in 1918 and spent two years studying chemistry at Glasgow University and working at a Scotch whisky distillery in the Highland village of Rothes. He returned to Japan in 1920 with a Scottish bride and a determination to change the Japanese distilling industry.

The Japanese were then, as they are now, major consumers of Scotch whisky. Locally produced spirits, however, were limited to the fiery sorghum or sweet potato-based shochu, and a handful of dubious "whiskies" that were little more than neutral spirits colored with caramel. Taketsura convinced the owners of what became the Suntory Company to begin production of barley malt and grain whiskies based on the Scottish model. These whiskies, some of which are made from imported peat-smoked Scottish malt, became very successful in the Japanese market. Other distilleries soon followed Suntory’s lead, and these grain-based whiskies, based on single malt and blended Scotch whisky models (and later Bourbon whiskey) soon came to dominate the Japanese market.

Modern Japanese distillers (including the Nikka Whisky Distillery, which was founded by Taketsura in 1934) have followed this trend and nowadays produce and market a full range of malt and blended whiskies.

New Zealand Whisky

New Zealand Single Malt Whisky is pot-distilled malt whisky. New Zealand Blended Whisky is a mix of domestic malt and grain whiskies. New Zealand malt and grain whiskies are double distilled in pot stills. New Zealand currently only has one operating whisky distillery in Dunedin on the South Island.

Indian Whisky

India produces a large amount of “whisky” made from various barley and non-barley ingredients. While many of the brands would not be considered “export quality” or even technically whisky, there is a trend leaning toward the production of higher quality brands geared to compete in both domestic and export markets. Because of the high demand for true Scotch whisky in India,  a leading Indian corporation has recently purchased Scotch distilleries abroad to satisfy this remarkable demand. 

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