When it comes to alcohol, my go-to is whisky! And nothing beats good Japanese whisky. So here’s a list of best Japanese whisky you should definitely try if you’re a whisky girl like me! Whisky holds a special place among different types of alcohol because of its spirit essence and richness. Every country adds something special to the way they collect ingredients for whisky and allows it to mature.
Similarly, Japan adds a whole new layer to the range of whiskies available across the world. Though, I love Japanese beer too. But if I had to choose it’s always going to whisky.
Japan has some of the best distilleries in the world that are known to produce world-class whiskies. Though it is hard to name the best Japanese whisky (because they’re all so good!), I’ve tried to list down some Japanese whisky brand names that you can add to your collection.
Which is the best Japanese whisky?
We taste-tested about 20+ Japanese whiskies on the basis of their age, malt type, quality of the cask and taste. We found Suntory Whisky Toki to be the best Japanese whisky.
Toki distributes this amazing liquor that is a blend of malt and grain whisky from Suntory’s Yamazaki, Chita, and Hakushu distilleries. According to Suntory, the main components of this whisky are Hakushu white oak cask malt, Yamazaki white oak cask, Chita grain whisky and Spanish oak cask whisky to give it an exquisite essence and an extremely light texture. It’s available on Amazon for sale.
Some of these best Japanese whisky are not just luxurious in flavour but also require a luxurious budget. However, we balance the list with the top-selling Japanese whiskies that are affordable.
- Related: Best Japanese Vodka
- Related: Best Japanese Beer
My team did a Japanese taste testing and voted the best Japanese whisky under different category. Here are the results for best Japanese whisky:
- Yamazaki 12 Year Old (best overall Japanese whisky)
- Mars Shinshu Iwai 45 (best whisky under $50)
- Nikka Coffey Grain (best whisky under $100)
- Suntory Toki (best served as highball)
- Hibiki 17 year old (best age statement Japanese whisky)
- Akashi White Oak (best no-age statement Japanese whisky)
- Hakushu 12 Year Old (best Japanese single malt)
- Shinju Whisky (best Japanese whisky for cocktails)
- Nikka Yoichi (best peated whisky)
- Ohishi 8 year old (best sherry cask)
So check out the list below and decide which one of these best Japanese whisky is for you:
|Distillery||Best Japanese Whisky 2021|
|Suntory||Suntory Whisky Toki|
|Nikka||Yoichi Japanese whiskey|
|Miyagikyo Japanese whiskey|
|Suntory||Hakushu 18-year-old Single Malt|
|Ohishi Whisky||Single Sherry Cask|
|Suntory||Yamazaki Single malt 12-year-old|
|Mars Shinshu||Iwai Tradition|
|Suntory||Hibiki Japanese Whisky 17-year-old|
|Nikka||Nikka Whisky From The Barrel|
|White Oak Distillery||Akashi Single Malt|
|Shinshu||Mars Maltage 28-year-old Blended Malt Japanese Whisky|
|Nikka||Nikka Coffey Malt|
|Nikka||Yoichi Single Malt|
|Chichibu||Chichibu Port Pipe|
Best Japanese Whisky
Suntory Whisky Toki
Best Japanese Whisky Under $50
Suntory Whisky is undoubtedly one of the best Japanese whiskey and easy to get a hold of these days. Toki distributes this amazing liquor that is a blend of malt and grain whisky from Suntory’s Yamazaki, Chita, and Hakushu distilleries.
According to Suntory, the main components of this whisky are Hakushu white oak cask malt, Yamazaki white oak cask, Chita grain whisky and Spanish oak cask whisky to give it an exquisite essence and an extremely light texture.
Not only is this a very popular whiskey in Japan but is also known for its distinctive way of being served in highball glasses. I consider Suntory Whisky one of the best value Japanese whiskey. This may not be one of those most luxurious expensive whiskies but it has a place of its own among highly rated Japanese whiskies.
Nikka – Yoichi & Miyagikyo
Best Japanese Whisky Under 100
Japanese whiskey Nikka is a well-known alcohol brand and has two whisky making plants, the Miyagikyo and Yoichi distilleries. Nikka offers some of the best Japanese whiskey you can find!
Like Suntory, Nikka aims to develop as many flavours as possible that are distinguishable. This is one of the reasons why the Yoichi distillery is located in Hokkaido as the place has a cold climate similar to Scotland which is preferable for making whiskies as it provides intense and peaty products.
On the other hand, Miyagikyo distillery is located in Sendai that has a mild and humid climate preferable for fruitier and lighter products. Fun fact, the Yoichi distillery is the most well-known Japanese distillery across the world, second only to the Yamazaki distillery. It is also known as the personal experiment site of the father of Japanese whisky himself, Masataka Taketsuru.
Nikka Yoichi 20-year old is my personal favourite. You have to try it out!
Click here to check out the Single Malt Yoichi on Amazon Japan
Click here to check out the Single Malt Miyagokyo on Amazon Japan
Related: Kickstart your mornings with a refreshing cup of Japanese drip coffee. Check it out here!
Best Japanese Whisky 2021
As we mentioned earlier, Suntory’s Hakushu distillery not just produces some of the best Japanese whisky, it is also a stunning place to visit as it is set deep in the Southern Japanese Alps surrounded by forests.
If you are in Japan and want to buy some quality whisky, this place is just a few hours away from Tokyo and you can kill two birds with one stone.
The 18-Year-Old single malt is one of the finest whiskies produced by Hakushu. It is a fine melody of fresh fruit and malt with a little hint of dried cherry and smoke. This is one of the best Japanese whiskey and is worthy of your collection whether or not you are a whisky connoisseur.
I definitely like Hakushu 18 better than the Suntory Yamazaki scotch. But that’s my personal favourite. You should try both and see which one is your preferred taste.
Believe me, this is a bottle you wouldn’t want to share provided you can get your hands on it. The prices can vary between $500 to $900 depending on where and who you are buying it from.
Other variations of this whisky are the Hakushu 12 year and 25-year versions but 18 has always had a spot above these two. Call it the perfect age!
Ohishi Single Sherry Cask
Although the idea of whisky made of rice might turn some people off, there are several Japanese distilleries that know how to make rice whisky and more importantly, how to make it right.
Claims have been made by naysayers that this results simply over-proof shochu, but Japanese rice whisky is an enticing and complex spirit, especially if given proper attention and allowed to mature properly.
The Ohishi distillery is based on the Kuma River and uses two varieties of rice, namely gohyakumanishi and mocha, to produce its whiskies. The spirit is then allowed to age in sherry casks for an undisclosed length of time. This allows the whisky to acquire a rich fruity essence that is very much like the other products mentioned in this article.
Yamazaki Single Malt 12-year Old
Japanese Whisky Best In The World
Japanese whiskey Yamazaki 12 is Suntory’s most recognizable whisky and is quite popular in America as well. In fact, it’s considered the best Japanese whiskey by many.
It is challenging to acquire this whisky as it is hard to find places that sell it at an affordable price.
However, the sheer quality of this product makes it worth trying. This is another whisky with a strong fruity essence along with hints of dry spices. It goes easy on the oak to generate a lingering flavour.
This whisky is aged for 12 years in a variety of casks, in order to balance the different flavours perfectly so that they complement each other. The final product is an absolutely stunning symphony that creates a unique experience.
Even if you can’t get your hands on a bottle of this quintessential Japanese whisky Yamazaki, you must sample this whisky at least once.
Best Japanese Whiskey For Bourbon Drinkers
Iwai Tradition is a production of Mars Shinshu. This distillery claims to be Japan’s highest-altitude distillery, located a little over 2,600 feet above sea level.
Apart from the location, Mars Shinshu is also known for its experience in producing whisky as they have been active since the 1940s. Though the brand is not very popular in the west, Iwai Tradition is a well-known whisky in Japan and deserves to be in the list of best Japanese whisky.
This whisky comprises bourbon and sherry and is put in wine casks to produce a balance of spice, vanilla, and a note of peat. Maybe not the most complex of blends but this whiskey deserves attention because this whisky is that it is not that hard to find and is quite affordable. On searching, you could find a bottle for prices as good as $60.
Hibiki Japanese Whisky 17
With the complicated blend of flavours offered in Japanese whisky, blending is regarded as one of the most important procedures. It takes craftsmanship to get the right blend, especially if the distillery produces a range of whisky flavours. Great attention is paid to the proportions to get the right flavour.
Hibiki is another Suntory whisky that was first launched in the market in 1989 and now has five different expressions. The no-age-statement blended whiskey Japanese Harmony whisky is probably the easiest to get your hands on but the scotch Hibiki 17 is more special than any of the others. One of the reasons is that it is more affordable than the versions that have been aged for 21 years or 30 years.
It has a different texture than usual whiskies as it is rich, creamy with hints of caramel and peach. It is worth trying just for the uniqueness of it and may change your mind about this category of liquor even if you aren’t a whisky person.
Hibiki 12 year old (50cl) blended whisky is also a good choice! Definitely one of the best Japanese whisky!
Japanese Whiskey Nikka Whisky From The Barrel
Like Suntory, Nikka also has its own version of no-age-statement blend. This whisky is unexpectedly good with its blend of oak, apple and cherry along with a hint of savoury spice on the palate.
This combination of ingredients is dumped into barrels for a few months in order to allow it to blend well to create a bouquet of flavours. The end result is more than 100 malt and grain whiskies that are aged in a variety of casks.
Though this whisky may not be one of the most exquisite but is definitely one of the best whisky in Japan.
Akashi Single Malt Japanese Whisky
Akashi Single Malt is a blend of many various cask types, including bourbon, brandy, sherry, wine as well as shochu. The production of this whisky takes place at the White Oak distillery, located close to the ocean.
The distillery states that the location complements their blending process and adds a bit of salinity and brine to the whisky. This feature is enough to entice whisky lovers into trying this brand.
However, there are other compelling ingredients such as toffee and stone fruit that are part of the ingredients as they come with the different barrels the whisky is aged in. All these ingredients come together to give this whisky a solid malty undertone.
Mars Maltage 28 Year Old – Shinshu Distillery
Top Japanese Whiskey
The Mars Maltage 28 year old is one of the best bottles from the Shinshu distillery. It’s head to head in competition with Nikka Japanese whiskey. In fact, the Mars Maltage 28-year-old Japanese whiskey was selected as the best Japanese blended Malt whiskey at the World Whiskies Awards in the year 2013. It has an alcohol strength of 46%.
Nikka Coffey Malt
Any casual drinker might think this is some coffee-infused whisky. But the name of this whisky actually comes from ‘Aeneas Coffey’ – the man who patented a super-efficient column still in 1830. Made from 100 % malted barley, Nikka Coffey Malt is distilled in a Coffey column still that gives it a bourbon-like characteristic. Rich in vanilla and caramel flavors, it is aged in ex-bourbon casks which gives it a nice oily mouth-feel. Definitely one of the best Japanese whisky.
Yoichi Single Malt
Yoichi single malt whisky, distilled by Nikka, is another one of the best Japanese whisky you should try in Japan. The whiskey is light and floral. It goes through a coal-fired distillation process that gives it a subtle dose of smoke. With ripe peach and honeydew notes, the whisky also has a bit of a saline taste.
Chichibu Port Pipe
Chichibu is a small distillery just outside of Tokyo but whisky there is one of the best Japanese whisky you could ask for. One of the best whisky made by Chichibu is the Port Pipe whisky. It’s a single malt whisky with no age statement that is aged in ex-port barrels. This gives it a nice, candy-like taste without making it too sweet.
Tips to Know Before Buying Whisky
- Whisky prices change overtime depending on the age of the whisky.
- Single malts tend to be pricier than other whiskies.
- YO signifies “year old” which tells you how many years this whisky was aged in a barrel. In blended whisky, it might refer to an average age of different whiskies included.
- NAS means “No age statement” where the information of the whiskies age and other information isn’t disclosed.
Best Whisky From Japan: FAQ
What is the best Japanese Whiskey?
Yamazaki Single Malt 12-year Old is considered the best Japanese whiskey by many. It has hints from dry spices along with a strong fruity essence. Aged for 12 years in different casks, the different flavors is perfectly balanced to complement each other.
What is best Suntory Whisky?
Suntory whisky Toki is arguably the best Suntory whisky. It has a sweet and spicy finish and you’ll also notice hints of vanilla oak, ginger, and white pepper.
Is It Cheaper To Buy Japanese Whiskey In Japan?
For certain bottles of whiskey, it might be cheaper to buy it in Japan. But for most others, it’s almost the same price. Plus the prices change from retailer to retailer and can be higher or lower depending on its availability.
But, a decent bottle of Japanese whiskey, it should cost you around $125 – Akashi White Oak Single Malt, Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky, Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Blended WhiskyHibiki Japanese Harmony, Nikka Whisky From The Barrel – are some of the more affordable Japanese whiskey out there!
Is Japanese whiskey the best in the world?
Most Japanese whiskies are the best in the world. Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 from Suntory won the best Japanese whisky title.
Why is Japanese Whisky so good?
Japanese whisky is so good because of the unique elements present in the production of these whiskies. 50% of the Japanese whisky’s characteristics are decided by nature itself.
How to drink Japanese whisky?
You can drink Japanese whisky with a dash of water or on the rocks (with ice). Don’t forget to use the Japanese whisky in making cocktails like scotch sour, rusty nail etc.
What makes Japanese whisky different?
Japanese whisky is usually smooth in texture and the distillation process is carefully crafted and carried out. The grains are mostly imported and the stocks are never exchanged. The disterlleries choose casks very precisely which is the reason for their amazing blend while there are others that choose barrels that hold Japanese liquor.
So that was my list of favourite and best Japanese whisky and distilleries that are world-renowned. Though some of these may be hard to find, the search for them will be totally worth the time.
So keep looking till you find a bottle that you can call your favorite. Cheers!
- Here some best Japanese snacks that can go with your favorite whisky or beer!
- Here are healthy snacking options from Japan – rice crackers!
- Yummy potato chips from Japan you have to try!
Takashi Nomoni is a proud Japanese and loves everything about Japan – be it food, culture, or movies! She’s a passionate about writing and her love for writing and Japanese products makes her the best fit at Best Japanese Products. Takashi is a total workaholic so you’ll always find her with her laptop researching or testing the next best Japanese product. When she’s not working, you’ll find Takashi exploring local cafes and restaurants (where she can work out of!)