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. 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.
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.
So check out the list below and decide which one of these best Japanese whisky is for you:
Best Japanese Whiskey 2020
- Best Japanese Whiskey 2020
- #1 — Suntory Whisky Toki – Best Japanese Whisky Under $50
- #2 — Nikka – Yoichi & Miyagikyo – Best Japanese Whisky Under 100
- #3 — Hakushu 18 – Best Japanese Whisky 2020
- #4 — Ohishi Single Sherry Cask
- #5 — Yamazaki Single Malt 12-year Old – Japanese Whisky Best In The World
- #6 — Iwai Tradition – Best Japanese Whiskey For Bourbon Drinkers
- #7 — Hibiki Japanese Whisky 17
- #8 — Japanese Whiskey Nikka Whisky From The Barrel
- #9 — Akashi Single Malt
- Is It Cheaper To Buy Japanese Whiskey In Japan
#1 — 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.
The price of this whisky will come close to $50 including taxes.
#2 — Nikka – Yoichi & Miyagikyo – Best Japanese Whisky Under 100
Japanese whiskey Nikka is a well-known alcohol brand and has two whisky making plants, the Miyagikyo and Yoichi distilleries. Nikka offers some of the best Japanese whiskey you can find!
Like Suntory, Nikka aims to develop as many flavours as possible that are distinguishable. This is one of the reasons why the Yoichi distillery is located in Hokkaido as the place has a cold climate similar to Scotland which is preferable for making whiskies as it provides intense and peaty products.
On the other hand, Miyagikyo distillery is located in Sendai that has a mild and humid climate preferable for fruitier and lighter products. Fun fact, the Yoichi distillery is the most well-known Japanese distillery across the world, second only to the Yamazaki distillery. It is also known as the personal experiment site of the father of Japanese whisky himself, Masataka Taketsuru.
Nikka Yoichi 20-year old is my personal favourite. You have to try it out!
The three most popular Nikka whiskies are Yoichi Single Malt ($ 49.99), Nikka Coffey Grain ($66.99) and Nikka Blended Whisky (89.99).
#3 — Hakushu 18 – Best Japanese Whisky 2020
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!
#4 — 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.
#5 — 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.
#6 — Iwai Tradition – 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.
#7 — 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!
#8 — 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.
#9 — Akashi Single Malt
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.
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 for 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!
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 favourite. Cheers!