You’re probably accustomed to American whiskey by now, especially if you’re an American.
But have you ever heard of or tried Japanese whisky?
It won’t be surprising if you’re curious about this whiskey since Japanese whisky is becoming increasingly popular within the global liquor industry.
This is due to its unique flavor profile and status among liquor lovers.
Therefore, if you haven’t tried one, you can use today’s article as a beginner’s guide to understanding this particular whiskey.
So, stay tuned as we uncover and answer various questions, such as what does Japanese whisky taste like? Let’s begin.
What is Japanese Whisky?
Japanese whisky is a category of whiskey with Japanese origins.
In simple terms, it’s whiskey made and produced in Japan by Japanese natives.
But, there are certain factors that make their whiskey quite unique (we’ll get to it in a bit).
A decade ago, Japanese whiskies such as Hibiki and Yamazaki were only recognized by whiskey connoisseurs in America.
However, within the last decade, Japanese whisky has gained massive audience and entered the mainstream.
In Japan, malt whisky is produced using copper pot stills with a double distillation process.
As for Japanese grain whisky, which uses grains alongside barley, the distillation process is carried through a continuous column still.
Typically, countries tend to utilize grains in their spirits that are easily accessible within their local climate or region.
However, Japanese distilleries take a different approach and import peated or malted barley from Scotland to create their whisky.
What Does Japanese Whisky Taste Like?
Japanese whisky is crafted with a similar approach and spelling to Scotch, unlike the Irish and American whiskey versions, including the letter “e”.
Beyond the spelling, Japanese whisky is similar to Scotch in that it’s double distilled with peated and/or malted barley before being left in wooden barrels for aging.
Compared to Scotch, Japanese whisky generally has a smokier, drier, and more peaty flavor than American rye or bourbon.
While Japanese whisky shares similarities with Scotch, it doesn’t have a uniform flavor profile.
Some bottles have earthy and peaty flavors, which can be traced back to their historical ties with Scotch.
However, other bottles are more mild and more subdued.
What characterizes Japanese whisky is its focus on achieving perfection.
Japanese distillers are dedicated to continuously experimenting, refining, and perfecting their whisky-making techniques.
When discussing Japanese whisky, people often mention the robust and peaty single malts that resemble traditional Scotch whisky.
However, their blended whiskies also have a large following among Japanese whisky enthusiasts.
Despite only a few distilleries being producing Japanese whisky, they have achieved a high level of self-sufficiency and expertise in blending, thus, resulting in a diverse and distinct range of whiskies.
Japanese whisky is commonly known for its smoother taste, often attributed to how it is drunk with food in Japan.
This is a common practice and impacts how Japanese whisky differs from other whiskies.
As a result, Japanese whisky is crafted to be more approachable and palate-friendly.
Rather than focusing on a specific flavor profile or style, the emphasis is on achieving a refined taste that a wide range of people can appreciate.
How to Serve Japanese Whisky?
Over the past decade, the rise in global demand for Japanese whisky has contributed a lot to its extension and availability.
This is excellent as Japanese whisky is now available in many places it wasn’t previously found in.
Generally, the easiest Japanese whisky you can find in liquor stores is Toki bottles, Hakushu, Hibiki, and Yamazaki.
While bottles such as Nikka are much harder to source even today, although not impossible.
So, what are some of the best ways you can serve and enjoy this unique whisky? Typically, the first and ideal option would be to drink it raw to savor the original profile of the drink.
And this works out great if you’re a first-timer.
Given how Japanese whisky is usually modeled to be enjoyed with food, specifically a highball, pairing it with a side dish or two is also a great idea.
It’s perhaps one of the best ways to serve Japanese whisky.
In fact, pairing it with food in Japan has become a massive part of their culture, partially contributing to the whisky revival.
You can even opt for some Japanese-inspired dishes to serve alongside your glass of whisky.
And of course, you can also try some cocktail recipes such as Japanese whisky smash, ginger highball, and old fashioned to enhance its flavor profile.
Japanese whisky is one of a kind (like most liquor).
So, if you don’t experiment with this one, it’ll be a big miss, especially among whiskey lovers.
Fortunately, today, Japanese whisky is imported to many foreign countries, and you can find them in most liquor stores.
So, if you’re to spend the greens, you’ll be in for a great experience.
That said, we hope our article has been insightful in providing valuable information regarding this unique whiskey.
If you’re looking to expand your cabinet of drinks, give this one a try.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the different types of Japanese whisky?
Japanese whisky can broadly be divided into three categories – blended whiskies, single malt whiskies and grain whiskies.
Blended whiskies are a blend of various malted and unmalted grains, while single malt whiskies are made from a single type of grain such as barley or wheat.
Grain whisky is made primarily from corn and has a very light flavor profile.
How does Japanese whisky differ from Scotch whisky?
Japanese whisky has several distinguishing aspects that set it apart from Scotch whisky – both in terms of flavor and production.
Firstly, most Japanese whiskies have less peatiness than their Scottish counterparts due to the fact that they use less highly-peated barley during distillation.
Secondly, many also feature notes of fruit and citrus due to the use of local ingredients like yuzu peel and cherry blossom.
Is there any aging involved when producing Japanese whisky?
Yes! All types of Japanese whisky must be aged for at least three years in wooden barrels before release — this is longer than the two year minimum in Scotland.
The type of wood used to age the whisky can also help impart additional flavors such as oak or sherry depending on what barrel was chosen by the producer.
What food pairs best with Japanese whisky?
When pairing food with Japanese whisky, look for flavor profiles that match well with its delicate characteristics – think fresh shellfish dishes or sushi rolls!
Additionally, you can also enjoy your drink neat or on the rocks if you want to savor its unique flavor without overpowering it with other tastes.