Whiskeys, which the Japanese produced and drank themselves until the 2000s, have become extremely popular, especially in recent years. In many whiskey sources I follow, in the tastings I attend, in my own trainings and even on social media, Japanese whiskeys are constantly on the agenda, from those who know whiskey to those who are new to whiskey… Despite being so popular and curious, very few resources are available about Japanese whiskeys.

In this article, I will first tell you the story of the emergence of Japanese whiskey from my notes compiled from different sources. Afterwards, I will talk about how it became popular around the world, prominent Japanese brands, and Japanese whiskey culture in general.

It was quite difficult for me to both research and write this subject. However, I wrote with great pleasure with the excitement of presenting the first Turkish source on Japanese whiskeys in this context. I hope you enjoy reading it too.

By the end of my article, you will know many details about Japanese whiskeys. I am sharing the titles of the article below for you to follow easily.

  1. The Birth of Japanese Whiskeys
  2. From Japan to the World…
  3. Featured Brands & Distillers
  4. General Characteristics of Japanese Whiskeys
  5. Whiskey Culture in Japan
  6. Why is it so expensive??
  7. Air Take Pill Information

Yes, if you're ready, let's get started…

1. The Birth of Japanese Whiskeys

If I were to tell you the story of Scotch whiskey right now, my job would be pretty tough. Because for this, I would have to talk about dozens of names, dozens of brands and go back hundreds of years. The story of Japanese whiskeys, on the other hand, is quite new when compared to countries such as Scotland or Ireland. However, when we look at the prominent characters, two names appear and the whole story is formed around these two names. These names are; Masataka Taketsuru and Shinjiro Torii.

Shinjiro Torii (Left) & Masataka Taketsuru (Right)

Our story begins with Masataka Taketsuru. He is one of the main characters in the founding of Yamazaki and Yoichi, Japan's first distilleries. And also, many distilleries opened in Japan in the following years are opened in line with Taketsuru's teachings. In short, it wouldn't be wrong to say Taketsuru is the ancestor of Japanese Whiskeys...

Taketsuru was born in Hiroshima in 1894. Since his family has been producing sake, the traditional Japanese drink, for over a century, Taketsuru naturally grows up with a serious interest and curiosity in this subject. He completes his university education in chemistry at Osaka University, where he is particularly interested in subjects such as fermentation and distillation.

After graduating, Taketsuru started working at Settsu Shuzo, a liquor company, in 1916. Here he draws a lot of attention with his ambition and hard work. Kibei Abe, the head of the Settsu factory, decides to send the young Taketsuru to Scotland after he researches western spirits and especially whiskey.

Scotland Journey 

Going to Scotland in 1918, Taketsuru attended training courses in Organic Chemistry at Glasgow University and later worked in various positions at Longmorn and Hazelburn distilleries.

Having enriched his knowledge of whiskey in Scotland, Taketsuru is also lucky in love and meets the love of his life, Rita.

Our topic is whiskey, but I want to give you a little more information about this love story. After their marriage, Taketsuru considers staying and living in Scotland for Rita, but Rita supports her in her dream of returning to Japan to produce Japanese whiskey, knowing how important whiskey is to Taketsuru. If they had stayed in Scotland and never returned to Japan, maybe we wouldn't be talking about Japanese whiskey at all right now...

Taketsuru and Rita

As a result, Taketsuru returns to Japan in 1920 with his wife, Rita. When they return, their family somehow manages to stay together, although Taketsuru's marriage to a foreigner causes some trouble. Anyway, enough of the love stories, let's get back to our topic...

Taketsuru eagerly wants to apply what he learned in Scotland at his company Settsu Shuzo and start his whiskey production plans, but unfortunately, things don't go quite as Taketsuru wants... Because Settsu Shuzo company is going through hard times economically and so it's whiskey production plans. They decide to take the production to an unspecified future date. Taketsuru did not want to wait for this uncertain date and resigned from the firm in 1921.

But while doing this, he feels great embarrassment towards Kibei Abe, who sent him to Scotland and sees him as more than a boss.

Japan's First Distillery: Yamazaki

After a while, Taketsuru's path started with a businessman whom we can point to as another ancestor of Japanese whiskey, one of the two names I mentioned together with Taketsuru at the beginning of the article. Shinjiro Torii intersects with. Shinjiro Torii, who came from a wealthy family, grew up in the following years. suntory Founder of the Kotobukiya firm, which will be known by the name.

Shinjiro started working in a drug store selling spirits such as wine, brandy and whiskey at the age of 13, and just like Taketsuru, he has a keen interest in the spirits world and especially western spirits. In the following years, Shinjiro improves himself in business, chemistry and blending.

When the paths of Masataka Taketsuru and Shinjiro Torii crossed, the two names shared the same dream: to produce the first Japanese whiskey.

The two decided to cooperate in this direction. In this collaboration, Shinjiro is the owner of the company as the investor, while Taketsuru is responsible for the technical parts of whiskey production. As a result of the serious work of the duo, the cooperation bears fruit and 1923 Yamazaki, Japan's first whiskey distillery, is established near Kyoto, Japan.

minor disagreements

The distillery was established, whiskey production started, everything is going according to plan, but that doesn't mean that everything is rosy… Taketsuru and Shinjiro disagree from time to time, both during the establishment of the distillery and in the production of whiskey. For example, in the first step they have a disagreement over the location of the distillery. While Taketsuru thinks that the distillery's location should be in the north due to its similarity to the Scottish climate, Torii looks at the issue more commercially and prefers a more accessible location in terms of logistics.

Despite the setbacks, technical problems and disagreements encountered in the production process, the first whiskey of Japan is produced in Yamazaki distillery. 1929 It is presented to the taste of Japanese whiskey lovers. This whiskey is Suntory Whiskey Shirofuda. It is also known as the White Label because of its label.

The first Japanese whiskey, Suntory Whiskey Shirofuda (White Label), is offered for sale in 1929.

Unfortunately, White Label is not receiving much positive response from the consumer side. The demand for the whiskey, which is not matured enough and is said to not suit the Japanese taste due to its peaty character, and which has too much "Scottish", is much less than expected.

After a few years of this venture, the paths of the two diverge and Taketsuru is about to establish his own distillery and produce exactly the whiskey he had dreamed of. 1934 He is leaving Shinjiro's firm as of now.

Nikka's Birth

Of course, establishing a new distillery and producing whiskey is not that easy. For this, Taketsuru first needs to find an investor who will share its dream of producing Japanese whiskey. As Taketsuru finds investors, it is also very difficult to convince the investors it finds.

As you know, whiskey is not a product that I produced today, sold tomorrow. Whiskey must first mature for at least a few years. In other words, investors will have to wait for a while to see the final product that will emerge and earn income from this product. If we add to this the cost of whiskey production equipment, the difficulties of the technical process and the fact that this business was only one example in Japan at that time, it is not unfair that investors are worried and cautious…

Taketsuru manages to calm and persuade investors' concerns by saying that it will produce cider before whiskey and sell it immediately. Thus, Taketsuru in later years Nikka will be known by the name Dai Nippon Cashew He founded his company in 1934.

Taketsuru is located in the north of Japan as the location of the factory, in the island of Hokkaido, which is similar to Scotland in climate. yoichi finds the region suitable. This area was one of the first places in Taketsuru's mind when the Yazamaki distillery was established, but you know, they couldn't agree with Shinjiro about this…

Although there are many sources stating that the reason why Taketsuru chose the Yoichi region was to produce whiskey like the Scots with the help of environmental factors, we can also talk about the emotional side of the business. There are also sources that say that this area was chosen by Taketsuru because it reminded him of Scotland and the good times he and his wife, Rita, had spent there.

According to some, Taketsuru Yoichi presents the distillery for his wife, who left her homeland of Scotland and came to Japan years ago, so that she can feel herself back in Scotland and be happy…

Cider, Wine, Brandy and Whiskey…

Apple juice production begins at the Yoichi factory as planned. The produced apple juice is positioned as a premium product with high nutritional value. Unfortunately, these apple juices are not in demand enough in the market and this situation does not satisfy the investors at all.

On top of that, Taketsuru wants to produce cider and apple brandy with the ingredients at hand. Of course, this means an additional budget that must be received from the investors… Taketsuru starts wine and brandy production by quickly procuring the necessary equipment such as retort with the approval of the investors. The cider produced is highly appreciated by consumers, and this Nikka product soon becomes one of the most popular drinks in Japan.

Along with cider and brandy, Taketsuru is also secretly starting the production of whiskey from investors. Whiskey production is carried out in retorts purchased for brandy production. The main materials are local barley and peat from the bottom of the Yoichi river.

Investors learned about Taketsuru's “whiskey project” during a trip to the Yoichi factory in 1939. Of course, investors are a little angry at Taketsuru for the whiskey production that started without notice, but this anger remains to a certain extent as the wine and brandy sales are going so well and the investors are liking the whiskey produced.

1940 In 2016, Taketsuru's whiskey, which he had dreamed of for years, Nikka Whiskey takes its place on the shelves with its name and provides a very serious success. Thus, a very important step has been taken for Japanese whiskey and we can say that Taketsuru is reaching its destination.

2. From Japan to the World

The "Japanese Whiskey Revolution" begins with the Nikka and Suntory brands established by Taketsuru and Shinjiro. We can say that these two brands are the first brands that come to mind when Japanese whiskey is mentioned. In the following years, different distilleries are established based on the teachings of these two names, and the Japanese whiskey market is growing.

We're talking about growth here, but actually this growth is mostly in Japan because the world doesn't know about Japanese whiskey yet. As I mentioned at the beginning of my article, the Japanese mostly produce and drink themselves…

Aware of this, Japanese manufacturers are doing serious advertising to change the situation and promote their products to the world. In these advertisements, they include many world-famous names.

Now the ads…

Undoubtedly, the first to come to mind is the actor Sean Connery, who portrayed Suntory's James Bond character for the first time on the big screen. The fact that Connery, who was born in Scotland/Edinburgh, was the advertising face of a Japanese whiskey brand, was very popular at that time and garnered the reaction of the Scots.

Sean Connery & Suntory ads from this link .

Let me state that the Suntory and Sean Connery dating started before these commercials. In the 1967 Bond movie "You Only Live Twice", we see a bottle of Suntory on our hero's table. Successful product placement.

Another name that comes to mind with Sean Connery is Bill Murray. Murray plays an actor who comes to Tokyo to star in a commercial for Suntory in the 2003 film Lost in Translation, directed by Sofia Coppola. Murray trying to get into the character without understanding what the director is saying and turning back to the camera again and again. “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time” It's a pretty iconic scene.

Over the years, names such as Francis Ford Coppola, Orson Welles, Sammy Davis Jr., George Clooney, Keanu Reeves and Mickey Rourke have also appeared in Japanese whiskey advertisements. Famous names featured in advertisements play a major role in increasing the popularity of Japanese whiskey.

The Japanese who are not satisfied with the awards

Advertising efforts undoubtedly played an important role in the recognition of Japanese whiskeys, but it would be unfair to the Japanese to attribute all success to this. Because more importantly than the advertisements, producing high quality whiskeys that will attract the attention of whiskey consumers whose palates and perceptions are accustomed to Scottish whiskey, and competing head-to-head with the Scots… The Japanese also do this very successfully.

Japanese whiskeys take first place in many competitions in different categories, overtaking all other countries, especially the Scots. In the Whiskey Bible written by Jim Murray, which is considered the holy book of whiskey in 2015, we can say that the Japanese whiskey Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 was chosen as the whiskey of the year, bringing the popularity of Japanese whiskeys to the peak.

Important Purchases

Another important step in the rise of Japanese whiskey was the significant acquisitions made by Japanese companies. Incorporating the big brands in the beverage world, the Japanese not only made a name for themselves, but also strengthened their position in many markets and expanded their product portfolios.

Undoubtedly, the biggest of these acquisitions was Suntory's acquisition of the American giant Jim Beam and many affiliated brands in 2014 for $16 billion. We can give examples of these acquisitions as Kirin Company's Four Roses and Nikka's Ben Nevis (1989).

3. Featured Brands & Distilleries

There are currently about 20 distilleries in Japan. It is very difficult to give an exact number because every day a new one is added to these distilleries. However, there are also many Sake, Shōchū and Gin producers that have been licensed to produce whiskey and have not yet started production. E.g; Masahiro, Hioki, Kumazawa and Hikari are the producers who just got the license earlier this year.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my article, since there are very few sources about Japanese whiskeys, we do not know exactly if these manufacturers started to produce whiskey.

  • suntory
    • Yamazaki
    • Hakushu
    • chita
  • Nikka
    • Miyagikyo
    • yoichi
  • Other
    • Fuji Gotemba
    • Chichibu
    • Hombo Tsunaki
    • Miyashita Shuzo
    • White Oak
    • kaikyo
    • Yonezawa
    • shizuoka
    • Mars Shinshu
    • Nukada
    • Koriyama
    • Akkeshi
    • Asaka
    • Hioki

Undoubtedly, the prominent ones among these distilleries are Hakushu, Yamazaki and Chita owned by Suntory and Yoichi and Miyagikyo distillery owned by Nikka.


Suntory is a very large company that has investments not only in whiskey but also in different categories such as beer, rum, gin, tequila and wine. Let me point out that Suntory also includes brands such as Maker's Mark and Jim Beam in the USA, Canadian Club in Canada, Connemara and Kilbeggan in Ireland, and Ardmore, Auchentoshan, Bowmore and Laphroaig in Scotland.

Suntory is a brand that is appreciated both in international competitions and on the consumer side with its malt whiskeys produced in Hakushu and Yamazaki distillery. We can say that the malt whiskeys produced in these two distilleries are generally fruity, floral and rich in character. But let me also point out that there are expressions beyond this character, in whiskeys with very intense sooty or plenty of sherries. We are already used to seeing whiskeys with very different characters under the same roof in Japan, I will explain why in the next topic.

Hibiki, which is very popular in our country, is created by blending the malts produced by Suntory in these Hakushu and Yamazaki distilleries with the grain whiskeys produced in the Chita distillery. There is also a blend of whiskey. Arguably the most striking feature of Hibiki is its magnificent bottle! More precisely, it would be more accurate to call it a work of art, not a bottle...

Hibiki bottles are in the form of a wonderful 24-sided carafe that symbolizes the time of day and the 24 seasons in the traditional Japanese calendar. Even the label on the bottle is made of traditional Japanese paper.

In general, we can say that Hibiki expressions are the presentation of rich fruity flavors with a great balance. We can compare Hibiki to Premium blends of Scots.

Suntory Master Blender Shinji Fukuyo He is considered one of the most important whiskey people of our time. To better understand the art of blending You may take a look at my article .


Nikka, founded by Masataka Taketsuru in 1934, is one of the first brands that comes to mind when Japanese whiskey is mentioned, along with Suntory. Nikka has two distilleries where whiskey is produced. These are Yoichi and Miyagikyo. Nikka also has many facilities where it produces alcoholic beverages such as beer, brandy, wine, shōchū.

In the previous parts of my article, while telling the story of Masataka, we talked about how the Yoicihi distillery was established. Let's talk very briefly about the second distillery of the brand, Miyagikyo. With the desire to make Nikka whiskeys more complex, Masataka wants to establish a distillery where it can produce whiskeys with different characteristics from the whiskeys it produces in Yoichi. There is a magnificent valley surrounded by mountains, where 2 rivers meet, near Masataka, Sendai, which is looking for a place for it. It is a good coincidence that the name of one of the rivers passing through the valley is Nikkawa… After this discovery made in 1967, Miyagikyo started production in 1969.

Whiskey production in Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries differs with small details. The most important of these is that the retorts in Miyagikyo are wider and different in shape than Yoichi. While Miyagikyo uses less temperature for distillation to take place compared to Yoichi, distillation is also done more slowly. These differences in the distillation stage also have a significant impact on the character of the whiskey produced.

Retort differences – Miyagikyo (Left) – Yoichi (Right)

While malt whiskeys produced in Yoichi stand out with their full, strong, slightly sooty character, Miyagikyo malts are generally softer and have a floral character. Accordingly, we can compare Yoichi malts to the malts of Scotland's Islay and Campbeltown regions, and Miyagikoyo to Speyside, Lowland malts.

There are also blended whiskeys that Nikka produces under the name Nikka, which is blended with malt and grain whiskeys. Even these whiskeys Nikka The Blended and Nikka From the Barrel Whiskeys that I can say at the entry level to Japanese whiskey and that I consume with great pleasure. Similarly, many malt blends (Blended Malt) are also expressed (Nikka Pure Malt Black-Red-White and Taketsuru Pure Malt series) where the brand uses only malt whiskeys that are bottled as “Pure Malt”.

Other Brands:

Let's briefly talk about other Japanese manufacturers that have come to the fore with their whiskeys produced in recent years, along with Suntory and Nikka.

Chichibu: One of Japan's newest distilleries. One of the current rock stars of Japanese whiskey, who previously worked at Suntory in 2007. Ichiro Akuto Founded by Chichibu, although it is a small distillery, it is a distillery that has made a name for itself with the awards it has won in recent years.


Mars Shinshu (Mars Iwai): The Shinshu distillery, which was established in 1985 but ceased production between 1992 and 2011, is located 800m above sea level in a town called Miyada. Kiichiro Iwai, who established the brand's facility in Yamanashi, was the director of Settsu Shuzo, which sent Masataka Taketsuru to Scotland at that time. Kiichiro Iwai, who has a great interest in whiskey, has benefited greatly from Taketsuru's Scotland notes in whiskey production. The most striking feature of the distillery is that the temperature varies greatly between seasons (35° in summer, -10° in winter) and of course affects ripening accordingly.

Fuji Gotemba (Kirin): The distillery, founded in 1972 by Canada-based Seagram and the Japanese liquor company Kirin, is one of the world's largest distilleries with an area of 155,000 square meters. In the distillery located in the city of Gotemba, near Mount Fuji, Japan's highest mountain, filtered water sources filtered from the volcanic rocks of this mountain are used in the production of whiskey. The distillery's design of the stills is said to have been inspired by the stills at the distillery, where Strahisla, the main malt of Chivas Regal blends, is produced.

White Oak (Akashi): White Oak is the first distillery to obtain a license for whiskey production in Japan, but interestingly, whiskey production began many years later. The White Oak distillery, which specializes in the production of more sake than whiskey, made its first whiskey bottling in 2007.

Akkeshi: It is located in Hokkaido, the northern region of Japan, where the distillery Yoichi is located, which was established in 2016. In the distillery, which takes Scotland's Islay region as a reference for whiskey production, intense peat and sea-effect whiskeys are produced. Equipment in the distillery was supplied from Scotland (Forsyths).

4. General Characteristics of Japanese Whiskeys

In this section, I will talk about the general character of Japanese whiskeys and the specific points that make Japanese different from (or similar to) other countries.

General Character?

This place is so important! It is very difficult to talk about a general character for Japanese whiskeys, because whiskeys with very different characters are produced under the roof of the same distillery. In other words, very sooty malts can be produced in the same distillery, as well as very soft floral whiskies. The most important reason for this is that there is no whiskey exchange between manufacturers in Japan.

To explain a little more; Suntory whiskeys can only contain whiskeys produced in distillery affiliated to the Suntory brand, certainly not a whiskey from Nikka or a distillery affiliated with a different brand. This situation pushes brands to produce whiskeys with very different characters in their own distillery. In this way, they can provide richness and depth in their blends.

If you ask how is the situation in Scotland, Scottish brands often include whiskeys of different brands in their blends.

Like the Scots…

At the beginning of the article, I explained at length how the history of Japanese whiskey began with Masataka Taketsu's journey to Scotland. Taketsuru's motivation was to produce the first Japanese whiskey, but also to "make whiskey like the Scots". From this point of view, I can summarize the whiskey production in Japan by saying “like the Scots”.

When we look at the production stages such as malting, fermentation, distillation and maturation, although there are of course minor differences in some details, we do not encounter a very different image from the production made in a distillery in Japan or Scotland.

During his work in Scotland, Taketsuru wrote down the details of whiskey production in Scotland in his "famous" notebook, providing a tremendous resource for both himself and subsequent producers.

Climate & Location:

The region where the distillery is located and the climatic conditions of that region are of great importance in whiskey production. Especially the temperature and humidity that the barrels are exposed to during the maturation process directly affect the maturation of the whiskey. Located at the intersection of the monsoon zone and the temperate zone, Japan generally has 4 seasons. We can say that the summers are generally hot and humid, and the winters are cold, but the weather conditions can vary significantly in different parts of the island.

For example, on the island of Hokkaido where Yoichi is located, winters are quite harsh, while in the Pacific region it is milder. In Kyoto, where Yamazaki is close, summers are very hot, while in Sendai, where Miyagikyo is located, summers are milder and rainier.

Climatic conditions direct the producers even before the distillery is established. As you know, one of the most important factors that Masataka paid attention to when looking for a place for the Yoichi distillery was the climate of the region. However, the closeness of the distillery to the water sources and the naturalness of this water source is a very important issue in Japan as well as in Scotland.

For detailed information on maturation You may take a look at my article .

Japanese Oak: Mizunura

When talking about Japanese whiskeys, it's impossible not to mention Mizunara. Mizunara (Quercus Mongolica) is a special type of oak that grows in Japan. Barrels made from Mizunara oak are known for imparting aromas to whiskey such as intense spice, honey, flowers, cloves, nutmeg and sandalwood.

Mizunara is a very difficult oak species to grow, so it is not used very often because it is not easy to find. So we can't say that all Japanese whiskeys are matured in Mizunara oak, usage is quite limited. Another reason why this oak is used less is that it has a higher permeability compared to American and European oaks. Therefore, it is used for short-term finishing purposes rather than maturing for many years. In short, it is a type of oak that is difficult to use but also adds delicious flavors to whiskey when used.

Credits: Greg Mazur

There are distilleries that prefer Mizunara barrels not only in Japan but also in Scotland. Chief among these are Bowmore and Strahisla.


Peat use is not as common in Japan as it is in Scotland, but there are whiskeys produced using peat in distilleries such as Yoichi, Yamazaki, Hakushu, Chichibu and Akkeshi. Let me emphasize again that many distillates in Japan produce whiskeys with very different characters, from the most peaty to the most fruity.

If you are currently wondering “What is peat?” If the question popped up in your mind, you You may take a look at my article let me take it.

Bamboo Filtration (Bamboo Charcoal)

Bamboo Charcoal was a term that I came across frequently while doing my research. Bamboo Charcoal, which I can summarize as the process of filtering whiskey from the coals obtained from the burning of bamboo trees, can be compared to the Charcoal mellowing (Lincoln Process) process of Jack Daniel's brand.

Although Bamboo Charcoal is shown among the details that make Japanese whiskeys different in many articles, I must state that it is not a preferred method today.

Kaizen Philosophy:

A title that must be mentioned when talking about Japanese whiskeys: Kaizen philosophy. Kaizen, which has been a part of Japanese culture for thousands of years, is a philosophy aimed at continuous development and improvement. It literally means "change" (Kai) and "good" (Zen).

This philosophy is mixed in many subjects touched by human hands in Japan. We can talk about Kaizen philosophy in many different fields, from chef to ceramicist, from tea maker to baker, from weaver to painter. The Japanese have also adopted the Kaizen philosophy in their whiskey production. This means constantly seeking and improving the better at each stage of the whiskey production process, rather than applying the same methods over and over.

I understood the importance of Kaizen in Japanese whiskey even more recently in one of my favorite whiskey writers, Dave Broom's book “The Way of Whiskey: A Journey Around Japanaese Whiskey”. If you are interested in the more cultural part of the work beyond the technical details of Japanese whiskey, I suggest you take a look at this book.

Regulations: Not all Japanese whiskeys are Japanese…

*(See my 2021 Update note at the bottom of this section)

A confusing title isn't it? Let me explain.

We have said that although the foundations of Japanese whiskey were laid in the 1930s, its real rise and recognition by the world was in the 2000s. In other words, we are talking about a very young whiskey country when compared to countries such as Scotland, Ireland and America. It is not known whether it is the effect of being young or the inability to take immediate action against the sudden demand, but there are serious regulatory gaps in whiskey in Japan.

For us to call a Scotch whiskey Scotch, it must be produced in Scotland, the same rule applies to American whiskeys. This seemingly simple rule does not apply to Japanese whiskeys. In other words, a whiskey produced in another country can be bottled in Japan and sold as "Japanese Whiskey".

A "Japanese Whiskey" consisting of a blend of Scottish malts and Canadian grain whiskeys.

Similar deficits are found in the minimum aging time and quality of the alcohol used in production. There are whiskeys on the market that are aged for a few months and bottled or have alcohol added to them. It is even known that aged Shōchū is sold as whiskey in the American market.

A “Japanese Single Malt” (nomunication.jp) too young to call it whiskey, which is questionably distilled in traditional Pot stills

The fact that this type of whiskey has increased with the increasing interest in Japanese whiskeys, especially in recent years, is a situation that worries not only consumers but also producers. There are some steps taken in recent years to correct this trend. The most important one Japanese Whiskey Research Center (JWRC) establishment. The most important aim of JWRC, which aims to spread the Japanese whiskey culture, is to eliminate the fog that has formed around Japanese whiskey by bringing certain criteria to the industry. We will see in the coming years whether the work of the organization, which spends a lot of time on this issue, will yield results.

*2021 Update: In the statement made by the Japan Spirits & Liqueurs Makers Association in the first months of 2021, new items have been added to the long-awaited and extremely late Japanese Whiskey regulations. According to these articles, for a whiskey to be called Japanese whiskey, it must have gone through the entire process from fermentation to bottling in Japan. Thus, the "non-Japanese Japanese whiskeys" that I had agreed upon in this section were blocked. Distillers must comply with the new rules by 31 March 2024 at the latest.

5. Whiskey Culture in Japan

In Japanese whiskey culture "balance" We see the concept emerging. Unlike many other countries, Blended whiskeys are more popular than Single Malts in Japan. As it is important in the Japanese philosophy of life, the presentation of different flavors as a harmony in "balance" is highly valued in whiskey.

Another prominent concept in Japan is "presentation". The Japanese we know with their tea rituals approach whiskey in a similar way. In our country “Is there any ice in the whiskey?” While the discussions continue in all seriousness, we see that whiskey is served in elegant glasses and with special handmade ice in many bars in Japan.

Photo Credit: punchdrink.com

Along with ice, the Japanese also like to add different soft drinks to their whiskey. The first of these is “water”. Prepared with 1 scoop of whiskey, 2 scoops of water and plenty of ice. Mizuwari (literal meaning: mix with water) is preferred both alone and with meals on the tables. If the same mixture is made with soda, not water, it is called “Sodawari”, and if it is made by adding hot water, it is called “Oyuwari”.

Speaking of whiskey culture in Japan Highball CocktailCan't not talk about. Consisting of a mixture of whiskey and soda, this cocktail is served in thin and tall “Highball” glasses. One of the most popular cocktails in the country.

Photo Credit: Gabi Porter

6. Why Are Japanese Whiskeys So Expensive?

We talked about almost all the subjects about Japanese whiskey, but I'm sure you have some of you who say, "Everything is good, but why are these Japanese whiskeys so expensive and why we can't find them anywhere...". Let's talk about that briefly.

I explained how Japanese whiskeys became more and more popular in the 2000s. During this popularization process, of course, many whiskey lovers wanted to try Japanese whiskeys and showed great interest in these whiskeys. Since this interest is a demand that no Japanese manufacturer has foreseen, very few Japanese whiskeys have suddenly appeared on the market.

Whiskey is a type of drink that needs to be aged for a certain period of time, so when your product decreases in an unpredictable way, you cannot produce a new one right away. In the aforementioned case, due to the fact that the aged stock reserves of Japanese manufacturers have decreased or run out very seriously, manufacturers have started to offer very few products to the market, and even removed some products from the shelves altogether. In this process, we saw that the production of many Japanese whiskeys with the year mark stopped and they were replaced by bottles without the year mark.

The sale of Hakushu 12 was suspended for a while in 2018.

The prices of Japanese whiskeys have increased significantly due to the increasing interest of whiskey aficionados, decreasing stocks, bottles that are discontinued and collectibles, and of course, brands wanting to use a little bit of this wind. I hope this stock issue will be resolved soon and we will start seeing more Japanese whiskeys on the market. Thus, we reach these whiskeys at a slightly more reasonable level and drink them with pleasure.

Speaking of rising prices and collectible bottles “Whiskey Investing” I suggest you take a look at the article series.

7. Air Release Pill Information:

  • Remember these two names: Masatakata Taketsuru and Shinjiro Torii.
  • Don't forget these two brands: suntory and Nikka.
  • first distillery Yamazaki It was founded in 1923.
  • In Japan, companies do not share whiskey with each other.
  • Not all Japanese whiskeys are truly "Japanese" whiskeys.
  • Blended whiskeys are more popular in Japan.
  • highball: It is the favorite cocktail of the Japanese. It's made from whiskey and soda.
  • Kanpai: It is used for toasting in Japan. The meaning of the word is "to finish the glass".
  • Mizunara: A special type of oak that grows in Japan.
  • Barrels made from Mizunara oak are known for imparting aromas to whiskey such as intense spice, honey, flowers, cloves, nutmeg and sandalwood.


Next time you drink a Japanese whiskey, don't forget to raise your glass to the heroes of this article, Masataka Taketsuru, his wife Rita and Shinjiro Torii, and remember them respectfully by saying Kanpai!



Charles Maclean, World Whiskey (2016)

Dave Broom, The Way of Whiskey: A Journey Around Japanese Whiskey (2017)

Gary Clark, Japanese Whiskey Handbook (2018)





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My Japanese whiskey tasting notes…

Listen to this article with narration “Japanese Whiskeys Podcast”

6 Responses

  1. Erdogan

    Hello Mr. Peace.

    I read your detailed article on Japanese whiskeys and I really liked it. You have written a tidy but very informative article with a lot of research and effort.
    I think you have largely corrected the lack of knowledge on this subject.
    Thank you so much.

    I have been following your website since its inception. (Even though I'm not a subscriber!) Even though you are a young friend, it is a great success that you have established a high quality site and kept it up to date.
    Images are very good. The expressions are very neat.
    I guess this is not easy to achieve and I congratulate you. I see that many sites that were built before yours are either no longer updating or are getting very slow.

    Keep up the good work.



    • & Whiskey

      Greetings, Erdogan, thank you very much for your nice comments. As you said, I really put a lot of effort into it, but I do it with so much pleasure. Thanks to kind people like you, my motivation never diminishes. love.

  2. Poyraz Bakery

    Mr. Peace,
    After reading your article with pleasure, I wanted to leave a comment.
    Thank you very much for delivering this quality content in a good and usable format. So I hope you continue and see you at an event one day.


  3. Helen

    Mr. Peace,
    I enjoyed your informative and detailed article very much. My boyfriend loves Japanese culture and whiskey, and he follows you with pleasure. I want to gift him a Japanese whiskey, but I am having a hard time finding a place to supply it. Is there a place you can recommend in Istanbul? thank you.

    • whiskey

      Thank you very much Helin for your nice comments. Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to find Japanese whiskeys, as you say. The prices you come across when you find it are also stinging… I would like to regret that I cannot recommend a point of sale here, in order to avoid advertising. Thank you for your understanding.


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