JAPANESE WHISKEY BRANDS: 21 Best Options in 2023 (Updated)

japanese whiskey brands
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Japanese whisky has grown into its own style, but it still has a lot of Scotch whisky in it. Scotch and other products from distilleries are different from one another because of the equipment used, the processes used, and the weather in the area. Distillers experiment with different yeasts and fermentation times, something that not all Scottish operations do. But as a general rule, Japanese whisky tends to be precise and complex without being too heavy. Here is an article on the best, most famous, cheap, and most expensive Japanese whiskey brands for you.

Japanese Whiskey Brands

Japanese whisky has thus become one of the more famous brands of whiskey in recent years. As distilleries struggle to keep up with demand as a result of the category’s exponential growth, bottles are purportedly becoming more expensive and scarcer. To fill the gap, producers are coming out with novel blends and NAS (no age statement) whiskies, many of which are fantastic mixers. Be cautious and do your research while looking for bottles because some businesses may combine whiskies from several countries, bottle them in Japan, and call them Japanese whisky. There is a reason it has become so popular, though: there are some drams available for consumption that are absolutely amazing.

#1. Yamazaki 12 Year Old

One could contend that Suntory’s Yamazaki 12-Year-Old single malt is the brand’s original manifestation (including the Hakushu range). One of the most famous whiskey brands from Suntory was formerly very easy to find, but a bottle now costs close to $200. With scotch-like overtones and floral and fruity scents, this single malt has a flavor all its own. If you’re interested in learning more about Japanese whiskey, this is a wonderful place to start.

#2. Nikka Coffey, Grain

Nikka is also one of the significant Japanese whiskey brands. Coffey Grain, named for Aeneas Coffey, the inventor of the continuous still, is predominantly derived from maize as opposed to the barley used to make single malts. This also gives the great whisky a creamy mouthfeel and sweetness that should appeal to enthusiasts of bourbon.

#3. Mars Shinshu Iwai 45

From the history of Japanese brands, this whiskey, according to Michael Brooks, a co-owner of Bed-Vyne Wine & Spirits, hails from the Nagano region of Japan. Thus, the majority of the ingredients used in the mash bill to make this blend are corn, malted barley, and rye. It has a lean flavor with hints of quince, pear, vanilla, and baking spices. He also claimed that this drink, which contains 45 percent alcohol, is ideal for consumption in the summer and for blending into cocktails.

#4. Suntory Toki

“I particularly appreciate Suntory Toki Whisky,” says Darnell Holguin, a co-founder of The Silver Sun Group and beverage partner at New York’s Las’ Lap. The name “Toki,” which is a mix of some of Suntory’s greatest whiskies, is a Japanese word that signifies “time.” The flavor has a hint of vanilla, pink grapefruit, and almonds. To make a delightful highball, just mix it with sparkling water and a squeeze of lemon.

#5. Hakushu 12 Year Old

In Scotland and Japan, a single distillery uses malted barley to produce single-malt whiskey. Hakushu is produced in the Japanese Alps, and the whisky they produce is equally gorgeous. It has a woodsy, grassy bouquet with lovely fruit flavors and a little peat component, claims Crystal Chasse, beverage director at McCarren Hotel and Talk Story Rooftop. The water source for this whiskey can be discovered nearby, in the highlands, hidden in a thick forest. The unidentified secret ingredient thus makes this peated whisky surprisingly affordable. It is thus one of the fantastic and unique Japanese whiskey brands.

#6. Akashi White Oak

Brooks asserts that consumers enjoy this blended whisky. This sake-specific whisky is aged in a variety of casks, including shochu, bourbon, and sherry. However, it is classy and gives whisky lovers a little bit of everything they enjoy. He claims it has a leather finish, smoky peat undertones, and the depth of American oak.

Best Japanese Whiskey Brands

Knowing what you’re talking about should go without saying when it comes to our list of the best Japanese whiskies money can buy. We also have the names of the best Japanese whiskey brands on our list, which we sometimes verify with the help of our friends in the business. But we also asked the general public what they thought. Three significant elements form the basis of our ranking’s final score. We consider ratings from The Whisky list and the Australian beverage store Dan Murphy’s in addition to our own evaluations. After compiling the data, the whisky is evaluated for marketability, general flavor profile, and reader reviews.

#1. Yamazaki 

The original distillery, Yamazaki, is still in operation and continues to create some of the best Japanese whiskies you will ever taste. The company also keeps experimenting with the types of stills it employs for maturation as well as the sizes and shapes of its stills. The top vintages of wine produced by the company have to have a complex flavor, a rich texture, and a distinct personality in each sip.

The Yamazaki 25-Year-Old Single Malt, which can also only be produced in 12,000 bottles a year and is only aged in sherry casks, is the alcoholic beverage we favor. Similar to this, the Yamazaki 18-Year-Old Single Malt is well-known but may also be rather pricey. Starting with a sip of the highly respected 12-Year (shown above) will help you minimize your risk; it will still cost you money, but not nearly as much as the $1 million bottle we recently tried.

#2. Suntory Hibiki 

Hibiki, a Suntory blended whiskey brand and also one of the most popular in Japan, is not available to single malt purists who are adamant about their preference. The Hibiki 21-Year and 30-Year are frequently cited as some of the world’s best whiskies. Hibiki Harmony, a dram that is typically sold at your neighborhood bottle shop and whiskey bar, will more than please you if you’re seeking something you can actually buy. It has a floral nose and a smooth body with sherried sweetness and light smoke.

#3. Hakushu

We enjoy the 12-, 18-, and 25-year-old single malts made by Hakushu, another one of our favorite Suntory-affiliated whisky producers. The second distillery in the region currently makes less alcohol than the previous one, which was situated in the Mount Kaikoma forest. If you want smoky Japanese whiskey, choose this brand since each expression is distilled from malted barley that has been dried over a peat fire and is 100% malted. The 25-year will taste the nicest and cost the most, as you already know, but our top recommendation is to look for the Hakushu Heavily Peated.

#4. Yoichi

Are you familiar with Masataka Taketsuru, who made the decision to open his own distillery in 1934? The Yoichi distillery, which used to go by that name, is still where premium Japanese whisky sold under the Nikka brand is made. This business has a distinct advantage over the majority of its competitors since it can experiment with a variety of ingredients and cooking methods to make a wide range of delectable classics.

For people who don’t want to pay off their entire mortgage, straightforward statements like the 15-Year Peated Single Malt or the 20-Year Single Malt continue to be our favorites. You already understood that you would eventually be liable for covering the expense of sampling. The Nikka Whisky Yoichi Single Malt is a great option for individuals on a low budget. With a flavor profile of brown sugar, licorice, and a little peated finish, it normally sells for under $150 AUD.

#5. Miyagikyo

The Nikka Miyagikyo Distillery, formerly of Sendai, sets itself apart through a variety of distinctive tastes. The distillery’s long history allows for the discovery of unique products like our favorite 2017 Rum Wood Finish Single Malt or the Sherry & Sweet, which is bottled at cask strength. We strongly advise choosing something more traditional, such as the 15-year-old single malt whisky that won’t let you down, if you’d rather not browse through the whisky archives of your neighborhood specialty bottle shop. Some also enjoy it because it has a medium-bodied palate and delicate notes of stewed fruits, vanilla, and hazelnut. Yum.

What is The Best Japanese Whiskey in The World?

  • Yamazaki 12 Year Old at Drizly.
  • Nikka Coffey Grain at Drizly.
  • Mars Shinshu Iwai 45 at Drizly.
  • Suntory Toki at Drizly.
  • Hakushu 12 Year Old at Drizly.

What Are The Real Japanese Whiskey?

A number of criteria must be met before the Association will recognize a whisky as “Japanese whisky” or “produced in Japan.” To begin, it needs to be fabricated from grain. Malted grains are an essential ingredient here. Everything from sugar addition to yeast fermentation to distillation must take place in Japan.

Famous Japanese Whiskey Brands

Japanese whiskey is one of the most famous alcoholic brands in the world. Numerous experts claim that it shares Scotch and American whiskey’s global prominence in terms of appeal. If you want to diversify your whiskey collection, choose one of these Japanese whiskeys, which are available in a range of price points and flavor characteristics. Below is the list of the most famous Japanese whiskey brands:

#1. Black Nikka Clear Whiskey

The following alcoholic beverage is Black Nikka Clear Whisky, one of the most famous Japanese choices, especially among whiskey lovers who are more current. Since this whisky is made by blending non-peat malt, it is convenient for folks who are just learning about whisky. You can drink the concoction straight up, on the rocks, or even in a highball. Due to its affordable price, relatively low alcohol content (37%), and other considerations, this whiskey is an excellent entry-level option.

#2. Koshu Manzaki Whiskey The Premium Bottle Whiskey

Whiskey Koshu Manzaki is also one of the famous Japanese blended whiskey brands that are appropriate for beginners. This whisky is thus made in the Yamanashi Prefecture, and freshwater from Mount Fuji is used to give it a rich, clear flavor and a wonderful aroma. If you want to understand more about this whisky, go to this page right away.

#3. Mars Mortage Echiu Malt Selection Whiskey

The Mars Mortage Echiu Malt Selection Whiskey is thus, the second-most famous Japanese blended whisky on our list. In Nagano Prefecture, the company Hombo Shuzo produces whiskey. The central alps of Nagano surround the brewery, making it the perfect location for the distillation of whisky. This specific blended whisky’s flavor is rich and complex since different types of malt were combined to create it. Its elegant black label makes it simple to identify connoisseurs of Japanese whisky.

#4. Suntory Yamazaki Single Malt Whiskey

I’ll start by introducing you to a couple of Japan’s best single malt whisky producers. The first is Suntory Yamazaki Single Malt Whiskey. Japan may produce the single malt whisky with the greatest global recognition. Due to its smooth, sweet flavor and delicate, fruity scent, this whisky stands out. It sets itself apart by having a striking crimson tone that also gives it a unique vibe. Despite being pricey, the product is worthwhile. It is a considerate present for a whiskey fan making it one of the famous Japanese brands.

#5. Asahi Yoichi Single Malt Whiskey

Japanese single-malt whiskey is the other most famous single-malt whiskey brands on this list. In the far northern region of Hokkaido, the renowned beverage company Asahi produces this whisky. Given that it is substantially less expensive than the previous whisky, it is perfect for people who often enjoy whisky. Here are a few characteristics that the region that makes Scotch whisky has in common with other places. Its flavor can be characterized by its sweetness and fruity scent.

Why Are Japanese Whiskey Brands Famous?

The unusual drams that arise from Japanese whiskey manufacturing have won the hearts of whisky drinkers around the globe.

Expensive Japanese Whiskey Brands

The expensive costs of premium bottles over the past few years are thus directly tied to the rise in interest in Japanese whiskey brands. However, to see how seriously the Japanese take their drinking, one just needs to consider the fast-growing whiskey market. Are you also curious to know which Japanese brands of whiskey are the most expensive? Continue reading to learn more about the top most expensive Japanese whiskey brands in the world.

#1. Ichiro’s Malt Card Series Set (Kings & Clubs)

Very few full bottles are also produced by the Hanyu Distillery. There is no exemption with the Ichiro’s Malt playing card line. The set contains five playing cards, from the King of Clubs to the Ace of Diamonds. Of course, the aces are the cards that are most prized in the collection. All of these vintage bottles of whiskey are exceedingly rare and will satisfy any palate. This has occurred as a result of the set’s extraordinary collectability and rarity. Therefore, this bourbon meets the standards for investment grade for the most expensive Japanese whiskey brands in the world.

#2. Suntory Hibiki (Tokuda Yasokichi III)

The bottle as well as the magnificent piece of art inside it is amazing, which makes it one of the most expensive Japanese whiskey bands in the market. Collectors keep a watch out for Suntory Hibiki (Tokuda Yasokichi III) bottles, so anyone looking to buy one better be patient. The ordering process takes some time. After the sale is completed, the bottles are sent in a striking wooden case. It only contains the greatest whiskey, so you won’t be let down. Whisky lovers will find this limited edition, which Tokuda Yasokichi III created especially for Suntory’s Hibiki, to be incredibly opulent and lucky. Thus, the bottle was created by Tokuda for the Yosai “Hekiyo” edition.

#3. Karuizawa Geisha Set

Whiskey from Karuizawa is the greatest thing ever. All that is offered is a selection of their whiskeys in different flavors. Even though it could be tempting to buy this right now and start savoring the beautiful flavors of the whiskey, waiting might be preferable. Keep it that way, for the time being, collectors say, as its value will rise. Even though it could be challenging to resist eating it if left alone, this still seems to be a sound, worthwhile buy.

#4. Karuizawa Ghost Series 7 Bottles

Think about spending $111,500 for seven exorbitantly expensive bottles of Japanese whisky and not receiving a shipment. In order to purchase this Karuizawa 7-bottle series, you must pay the exact amount and allow up to 10 days for delivery. In 1955, the Karuizawa Distillery was established next to Mount Asama. Even the air where this whiskey is produced has a distinctive flavor. Given the expensive collectible value of Japanese whiskey brands, this is a difficult task. Get this and try it out as soon as you can.

#5. Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky

Yamazaki Single Malt Whiskey is one of the most expensive Japanese whiskey brands ever, with a per-bottle cost of $843,661. All prior sales records were shattered because of the ridiculous price of this bottle. According to Complex, this bottle was bought at a Bonham auction. Most people would not have considered adding a bottle like this to their collection.

The outstanding red berry flavors in this Yamazaki Distillery single malt derive from the whiskey’s aging in Sherry and Bordeaux wine barrels. In Mizunara casks, another type of malt has matured, bringing out the delicate, fragrant nuances of oak. Lastly, be sure to order these expensive Japanese whiskey brands to have a taste of their goodness.

Cheap Japanese Whiskey Brands

Although most people wouldn’t connect whiskey with Japan, there are a few Japanese distilleries that have gained popularity abroad. If you consider yourself a whisky aficionado or if you want to try some of the best whiskies in the world, you must try some whisky from Japan. Any whisky fan must sample these cheap Japanese whiskey brands:

#1. Nikka Coffee Malt

The Nikka Coffey Malt comes from Taketsuru’s Nikka Whisky. This whisky is fully made from malted barley and was distilled in a Coffey, or column, still rather than a pot still. Typically, grain whisky is distilled in coffee-like stills, which may yield proofs of up to 95% alcohol by volume. Compared to whiskies created in pot stills, they are frequently purer. The 45% ABV Nikka Coffey Malt goes nicely with pastries due to its sweet flavor. The Nikka Coffey Malt should not be missed if you enjoy sweet whisky with powerful fruit flavors. It is zesty and vivacious.

#2. Chita Single Grain

The owners of the legendary Yamazaki Distillery produced Suntory’s first single-grain whisky. This classy and silky whisky is produced by the Chita Distillery, which was established in 1972. This whisky, which has evolved over the past 40 years, has a hint of mint flavor and a honey flavor, making it perfect for summertime use.

#3. Nikka Date

If you like the flavors of citrus and almonds, the Nikka Date is a great substitute. This whisky, which has a 43% ABV and is competitively priced, is made by the Miyagikyo Distillery. Try this whisky for subtle flavors of warm sherry and peat. Nikka’s brand of Japanese whiskey is ranked among the cheap brands you can have.

#4. Suntory Kakubin

Suntory Kakubin is the ideal Japanese whiskey for combining. Combine it with soda water, ginger ale, and lime juice to produce a delightful highball. Lemon juice can be used to make whiskey lemonade. The scents of cinnamon, pepper, citrus peels, honeycomb, and peppercorns may be found in this delectable whisky. If you enjoy blending drinks, this is one of the cheap Japanese brands of whiskey is ideal for you.

#5. Yamazaki 12

Yamazaki 12 Years Old, a sweet whiskey that was first made available for purchase in 1984, was one of the first single malt whiskies to see substantial marketing success. This zingy whisky has potent scents of tropical fruits and flavors of winter spices like ginger and cinnamon. The best single malt whisky in Japan is this. The Yamazaki 12 Years Old has received numerous awards, including the Double Gold Medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

#6. Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve

Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve is a blendable single malt whiskey with notes of vanilla, peppermint, and citrus fruit. This lightly peated single malt is produced by Suntory’s Hakushu Distillery, which is located in a Japanese forest and lends the alcohol its grassy flavor. Hakushu’s brand of Japanese whiskey is ranked among the cheap brands you need to enjoy. This delicious whisky is competitively priced and is bottled at 43% ABV.

Is Japanese Whiskey Like Bourbon or Scotch?

Whiskey from Japan is matured in wooden barrels after being double-distilled from malted and/or peated barley in the style of scotch whisky. They often come as single malts or blends and are drier, smokier, and peatier than the sweeter American bourbons and ryes.

How Do People Enjoy Japanese Whiskey?

The subtle nuances of flavor are what really set apart Japanese whiskies. Differences in water quality and barrel wood might be detected in the final product. Some Japanese distilleries use exotic wood that can’t be obtained anywhere else, giving their spirits a unique flavor that can’t be replicated in the United States.

Is Japanese Whisky Good For You?

Some people enjoy relaxing with a glass of the Japanese whisky stashed away in the warehouse; if this is the case, let’s promote moderate consumption so that everyone can enjoy the benefits. A rich polyphenol content provides a plentiful source of antioxidants.

Is Whiskey The Healthiest Alcohol?

Whisky has the most beneficial effect on the body of any alcoholic beverage and is also the healthiest option. The lack of fat and low sugar/carbohydrate content is a major selling point. There has minimal impact on blood sugar levels, making it a safer bet for diabetics.

Is Japanese Whiskey Just Scotch?

When compared to Scotch, Japanese whisky is somewhat different. It is typical practice in Japan to use barley in the production of whisky, which is then distilled in a continuous still.

References 

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