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ALCOHOLS - Japanese Whiskies

Immerse yourself in the fine art of Japanese whiskey with our exclusive collection. Japanese whiskeys are acclaimed around the world for their quality and refinement. Discover a diverse range of whiskeys, from classic expressions to limited editions and innovative creations. Each bottle tells a unique story of mastery and ingenuity, with complex flavor profiles that will transport you to the heart of Japanese whiskey tradition.

FAQ

Japanese whisky has grown in popularity over the years for a number of reasons, and its rise to prominence in the drinking world is due to several key factors:

Outstanding quality: Japanese whiskies are often praised for their exceptional quality. Japanese distilleries have drawn on traditional Scottish techniques to create whiskies of great finesse, balance and complexity. Japan's particularly pure water plays an exceptional role in the production of whisky and other Japanese spirits. What's more, it's only in Japan that you'll find mizunara wood, also known as Japanese oak, which plays a unique and important role in whisky production in the Land of the Rising Sun. It is renowned for bringing distinctive notes of coconut, vanilla, licorice, spice and woodiness to whiskies aged in mizunara casks. These flavors are often described as complex and exotic. Barrels of this wood are relatively rare and expensive, making mizunara-aged whiskies often more valuable and sought-after by collectors and connoisseurs.

Innovation and adaptability: Japanese whisky makers have managed to innovate while respecting tradition. They have experimented with different cask types, specific aging and blending methods, and unique ingredients to create unique flavors.

Elegant style: Japanese whiskies are often described as elegant and subtle. Their style is less robust than some Scotch whiskies, making them accessible to a wide range of palates.

International awards: many Japanese distilleries have won prestigious prizes in international whisky competitions, drawing attention to the quality of their products.

History and tradition: Japan has a long history of whisky production, going back over a century. Japanese distilleries have inherited the Scotch whisky tradition and created their own whisky heritage, adding a cultural dimension to the appreciation of Japanese whisky.

Commitment to quality: Japanese distilleries are known for their commitment to quality craftsmanship, which has helped establish a solid reputation and trust among consumers.

Overall, Japanese whisky has become an attractive choice for whisky lovers because of its quality, unique style and fascinating history. It has also been adopted into mixology culture, where it is used to create innovative cocktails, further enhancing its popularity in many countries. It's up to you to make up your own mind!

Tasting Japanese whisky is an enriching experience if done with care and attention. There are real similarities with tasting wine, sake, rum or bourbon, for example. Here's how to enjoy Japanese whisky in depth, to appreciate all its nuances and flavours:

Choose the right glass: use a Glencairn-type whisky glass or a tulip-stemmed glass to enjoy whisky. These glasses are designed to concentrate the aromas so you can fully appreciate them.

Observe the color: hold the Japanese whisky glass up to the light to observe its color. The color can give clues as to the type of cask used and the length of aging.

Smell the aromas: gently bring your nose close to the glass and inhale the aromas. Take the time to smell the nuances, noting the scents of fruit, flowers, wood, caramel or peat, depending on the type of whisky.

Keep an open mind: take a first sip to prepare your palate. Before taking a second sip, swirl the whisky in the glass to release more aromas.

Take small sips: drink Japanese whisky in small sips to better savor the flavors. Pass it over your palate and tongue to explore the range of tastes.

Take note of flavors: make mental (or written) notes of the flavors you experience. Try to identify primary and secondary flavors, as well as lingering aromas.

Add water: if you like, add a few drops of water to the whisky. This can sometimes open up new layers of flavor and soften the whisky, revealing subtle nuances.

Discover the finish: the finish is the flavor that remains in the mouth after swallowing the whisky. Note how it evolves, whether with notes of oak, smoke, vanilla or other flavors.

Remember that whisky tasting is subjective, and depends on individual opinion, and there's no right or wrong way to do it. The most important thing is to enjoy the experience and appreciate the different facets of this refined Japanese spirit.

Here are a few things to consider to find the Japanese whisky that matches your preferences:

Know your preferences: before choosing a Japanese whisky, think about the flavors you enjoy. Do you prefer sweet, fruity whiskies, smoky peat notes, floral aromas or spicy flavors? Knowing your taste preferences will help you narrow down your choice.

Determine your budget: Japanese whiskies vary considerably in price, from affordable options to expensive limited editions. Set a budget to guide you towards options that match your financial means.

Explore Japanese distilleries: Japan is home to several renowned distilleries, each with its own distinctive style and characteristics. Search for information on Japanese distilleries such as Yamazaki, Hakushu, Nikka, Chichibu, Toguchi, Akashi, Matsui, Tottori and many others, to discover their product ranges.

Consider the type of whisky: Japanese whiskies are available in different categories, including single malts, blends, single grains and pure malts. Each category has its own particularities in terms of flavors, blends and characteristics. Japanese single malts, for example, highlight the unique character of each distillery.

Participate in tastings: if you get the chance, attend Japanese whisky tastings to discover different flavor profiles and refine your preferences and opinions. iRASSHAi will soon be offering tastings and workshops around whisky and other Japanese spirits.

Suntory and Nikka are two of Japan's most renowned whisky distilleries, each with its own history, distinctive style and product range. Both are internationally renowned brands, known in many countries. Here's an overview of the main differences between the two houses, and some advice on how to choose between them:

Suntory is Japan's oldest whisky distillery, founded in 1923. It is often considered the pioneer of modern Japanese whisky. It owns several iconic distilleries, including Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita, each bringing its own style to Suntory whisky.

Suntory whiskies are generally characterized by elegance, smoothness and subtlety. They are renowned for their balance and complexity, with notes of fruit, flowers and herbs. Suntory's most famous brands include Yamazaki and Hibiki. Yamazaki is Japan's oldest single malt whisky, while Hibiki is a world-renowned blend.

Nikka was founded by Masataka Taketsuru, a Japanese who studied the art of whisky making in Scotland. Nikka whiskies are often praised for their innovation and respect for Scottish traditions. Nikka has two main distilleries, Yoichi and Miyagikyo, each located in different regions of Japan. They bring distinct characteristics to Nikka whiskies.

Nikka whiskies are often more full-bodied and robust than Suntory whiskies, with notes of fruit, smoke and peat. They are also renowned for their diversity. Nikka offers a variety of whiskies, but some of the most famous include Coffey Grain, Yoichi Single Malt and Miyagikyo Single Malt. Taketsuru is a range of blends in tribute to Masataka Taketsuru.

How to choose between Suntory and Nikka:

Explore their ranges: familiarize yourself with the different expressions of each distillery. Taste several Suntory and Nikka whiskies to discover which best suits your preferences.

Consider your taste: if you prefer softer, more subtle whiskies, Suntory could be your choice. If you like your whiskies more robust and complex, Nikka might suit you better.

Ultimately, the choice between Suntory and Nikka will depend on your palate and personal preferences. Exploring these two houses will allow you to discover the fascinating world of Japanese whisky from different angles and make up your own mind.

Japanese whisky is made using similar methods to Scotch whisky, but with meticulous attention to detail and a constant quest for perfection.


The first step is to grind the grain, mainly malted barley, corn or rye, into a fine powder. Malted barley is the most commonly used grain, prized for its rich aroma. The grain powder is mixed with hot water to create a paste called "wort". The water used is crucial, as it can influence the whisky's taste characteristics. It is a key element in the popularity of Japanese whisky, as the water is particularly pure and rich in various trace elements and minerals.


The mash, or grain powder, is then fermented with yeast. This fermentation stage can last several days, during which the yeasts transform the sugars into alcohol, producing a liquid called "wash". The wash is then distilled twice in copper stills. Distillation concentrates the alcohol and separates out impurities. The shape of the stills and the duration of distillation influence the character of the whisky. The distilled whisky is placed in oak, mizunara or other wood casks. The wood of the casks adds flavors and aromas to the whisky over time, and the choice of tree can greatly influence the taste and quality of the whisky. Aging can last from a few years to several decades.


The master blender is responsible for blending different casks to create a consistent whisky expression in terms of taste and aroma. Blending can be complex, involving casks of different ages and types. The whisky is filtered and diluted to the desired alcohol content before bottling. It may be bottled as single malt (from a single distillery) or blended whisky (a blend of several whiskies).
Japanese whisky is often tasted with great attention to detail. The Japanese place great importance on the art of tasting, seeking to appreciate the subtleties of flavors and aromas.

What often distinguishes Japanese whisky is the commitment to perfection and attention to detail at every stage of the production process. Japanese distilleries are renowned for their meticulous craftsmanship and relentless pursuit of quality. The result is a range of Japanese whiskies that rival the world's best in terms of complexity, smoothness and finesse.

Aging Japanese whisky is a complex process that can vary from distillery to distillery. However, there are certain characteristics common to the aging of Japanese whisky:

Choice of casks: As with Scotch whisky, the choice of casks is essential to the ageing of Japanese whisky. Japanese distilleries use a variety of casks, including American oak and Japanese oak, such as mizunara. Mizunara casks are particularly prized for their ability to add unique aromas to whisky.

Ageing time : The duration of aging varies according to the type of whisky the distillery wishes to produce. Some Japanese whiskies are aged for several years, while others can be aged for longer, sometimes over 20 years. The age of the whisky, as with wine, plays an important role.

Japanese climate: The Japanese climate has an impact on whisky aging. Seasonal temperature variations in Japan allow whisky to move in and out of cask wood more quickly, which can accelerate the maturation process and impact how the whisky ages.

Mizunara casks: Mizunara casks are often used in Japanese whisky, giving the whisky distinct aromas of sandalwood, coconut and spices. However, mizunara casks are difficult to work with due to their porous nature, making aging more delicate.

Whisky blending: Many Japanese distilleries have a tradition of blending different types of whisky to create a balanced, complex end product. This can include blending whiskies aged in different casks to achieve the desired flavor profile.

Excellence in craftsmanship: Japanese distilleries are renowned for their attention to detail and meticulous craftsmanship in the aging process. Master blenders and master distillers play an essential role in creating the flavor profile of Japanese whisky.

Innovation: Some Japanese distilleries are also experimenting with unique aging methods, such as aging in wine casks or using casks of different origins to add layers of flavor to the whisky.

Ultimately, Japanese whisky aging is a complex marriage of factors, from the casks used to the length of maturation, to the influence of the Japanese climate. The result is a wide range of Japanese whiskies, of all ages, with unique flavor profiles, from smooth, light expressions to complex whiskies rich in character.

Japan is renowned for its quality whiskies, and several regions of the country are known for their whisky production. Here are just a few of Japan's whisky-producing regions:

Hokkaido: Japan's northern island of Hokkaido is home to several whisky distilleries. The region's cool climate and pure water make it an ideal place for whisky production.

Honshu: Japan's main island, Honshu, is home to numerous whisky distilleries, including in the prefectures of Yamazaki and Hakushu, which are famous for their single malts.

Kyushu: This island in southwestern Japan is also home to several whisky distilleries. Kagoshima prefecture is particularly well known for its whisky production.

Okinawa: Okinawa, an island in southern Japan, also produces its own whisky. Okinawa distilleries are renowned for their use of desalinated seawater for whisky production.

Kanagawa: Kanagawa prefecture, bordering Tokyo, is the birthplace of many Japanese whisky distilleries. Yokohama is a notable location in this region.

Each region can offer unique characteristics to its whiskies due to its specific climatic conditions, water and terroir. This contributes to the diversity of Japanese whiskies and their international renown.

Whisky distilleries in Japan are organized in a similar way to those found in other whisky-producing countries such as Scotland, but they often have peculiarities specific to Japanese culture and philosophy. Here's an overview of the typical organization of whisky distilleries in Japan:

Location: Japanese whisky distilleries are generally located in areas that offer ideal conditions for production, such as pure water sources, suitable climates and abundant natural resources.

Distilling equipment: Japanese distilleries often use traditional copper stills for distillation, although some may also use more modern equipment. The size and type of still influence the character of the whisky produced.

Ingredients : The key ingredients in Japanese whisky production are water, malt from barley or other grains, yeast and the wood used for aging. Japanese distilleries focus on the quality of their ingredients to create renowned whiskies.

Distillation process: The distillation process generally follows the traditional stages of fermentation, distillation and aging in oak casks. Japanese distilleries pay great attention to precision and patience throughout this process.

Ageing : Japanese whisky is aged mainly in oak casks, and many distilleries use bourbon casks imported from the USA. The Japanese climate can vary considerably depending on the region, influencing the rate of evaporation (known as the "angels' share") and the whisky's characteristics.

Labeling: Japanese distilleries are strict when it comes to labeling and classifying their whiskies. Some distilleries produce different expressions of whisky, from blends to single malts, and label them accordingly.

Tours and Experiences: Many Japanese distilleries offer guided tours and tasting experiences for visitors. This allows whisky lovers to discover the production process and taste a variety of whiskies.

Commitment to Quality: Commitment to quality is at the heart of the Japanese philosophy of whisky production. Japanese distilleries aim for perfection and precision at every stage, which has helped them win worldwide recognition for the quality of their products.

Each Japanese distillery has its own methods and traditions, and this is reflected in the unique character of each whisky. Ultimately, the organization of Japanese distilleries is guided by a deep respect for tradition, a commitment to excellence and a drive for innovation.

Identifying a whisky by looking at its bottle can be a relatively simple task if you know the key elements to look for. Like a good bottle of rum or sake, here's what you need to look for to identify a whisky from its bottle:

Label: The bottle label is often the first indication of the whisky it contains. Look for the name of the distillery, the name of the whisky (e.g. single malt, blend, etc.), the volume of alcohol (expressed as percentage alcohol by volume or ABV), and the provenance (country, region, distillery).

Whisky name: The name of the whisky is often prominently displayed on the label. It may be the name of the distillery (e.g. "Yamazaki" for a Japanese distillery) followed by the type of whisky (e.g. "Single Malt"). Read the name carefully to identify the whisky.

Age: If the whisky has been aged for a specific period, the age will usually be indicated on the label. For example, "12 years" indicates that the whisky has been aged in casks for 12 years.

Net Contents: The label should also indicate the quantity of whisky contained in the bottle, usually expressed in millilitres (ml) or liters (l).

Distillery Mark and Logo: Look for the distillery's distinctive logo or mark, which may be printed on the label. This can help you identify the whisky's provenance.

Bottle information: Some whiskies have additional information printed directly on the bottle itself, such as the distillery name in relief or unique patterns.

Collector's packaging and label: Some special or collector's editions may have separate packaging or labels, making them easily recognizable.

Batch or Serial Number: In the case of certain limited editions, a batch or serial number may be printed on the label or box to identify a specific bottle.

Distillate information: Some labels may provide information on the distillates used, the type of casks used for ageing, or other details of the whisky's production.

Tasting Notes: Labels may also include information on the tasting characteristics of the whisky, such as flavor and aroma notes.

Bear in mind that the precise identification of a whisky may depend on the clarity of the information provided on the label. If you have any doubts about identifying a bottle of whisky, you can also consult a spirits expert or search online for further details on the product in question.

The main difference between blended Japanese whisky and single malt Japanese whisky lies in the composition and origin of the distillates used to produce them:

Blended Japanese whisky:

Blended Japanese whisky is made up of distillates from different distilleries.

These distillates may be single malts (from a single distillery) or grains (from several distilleries).

The master blender mixes these different distillates to obtain a specific, uniform flavor profile.

Japanese blended whiskies are often appreciated for their balance and smoothness, as the blender can adjust the characteristics of different distillates to create a harmonious experience.

Single Malt Japanese Whisky:

Single malt Japanese whisky is produced from a single type of distillate, usually barley malt, from a single distillery.

Unlike blended whiskies, single malts are less blended, which means that the character of the original distillery is often more pronounced in the final product.

Japanese single malts are renowned for their distinctive flavors and aromas, often influenced by distillation techniques, local spring water and distillery-specific barrel aging.

In short, the main difference is that Japanese blended whiskies are a blend of different distillates from different distilleries, while Japanese single malts come from a single distillery and use a single type of distillate. Each of these whisky styles offers a unique tasting experience, and personal preferences often dictate the choice between the two.

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