The tradition of alcohol production in Japan is very old. Sake is said to have been distilled since the third century BC.
Although Japan has only been producing whisky since 1924, it now has a very large whisky industry. The production process is strongly based on the Scottish model. Masataka Taketsuru learned the craft of distilling in Scotland, and under him as master distiller in the first Yamazaki distillery built by Shinjiro Toree, the first Japanese whisky was created with this knowledge.
In the meantime, there are distilleries with a worldwide reputation. Suntory and Nikka are among them. At the latest since the first World Whiskies Awards in 2007, Japanese whisky has been among the world's best and, along with Scotland, Ireland, the USA and India, also among the greats.
Interesting to know:
If Japanese terms, city names or illustrations of famous Japanese places, such as mountains or rivers, are to be depicted on the bottle label, all ingredients must be from the country. The production process, including storage and bottling, must also take place in Japan.
In addition to ex-bourbon and various sherry casks, it is also stored in Mizunara oak casks and occasionally in Sakura (cherry) casks.
Since Scotland is the great model, the Japanese single malt also consists exclusively of barley malt and is distilled in pot stills up to a maximum of 95% alcohol. The subsequent maturation period in the barrel must also be at least three years. It is bottled with a minimum alcohol content of 40%. The single malt comes from only one distillery.
Here Japan offers a speciality! Blending whisky - that is, creating a special blend - is considered a high art. It is the balanced taste of a Japanese blend that appeals to the Japanese. In hierarchy and prestige, the blendmaster is above the distiller. A Japanese blend uses 10 to 40% malt whisky, the rest is grain whisky.
The Japanese love their blend - in summer they enjoy it with lots of cold water, even with food. And in winter, it is sometimes mixed with warm and even hot water to make a kind of grog.
In addition to a small amount of malt, various other grains such as wheat or maize are used. The grains are mainly blended and are only very rarely bottled as single grains.
Japanese whisky and Fukushima
It has been over ten years since the nuclear accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan! If you are interested in the topic, watch the video and read our article from back then.