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The Best Japanese Whiskies You Need to Know

July 13, 2019

The Best Japanese Whiskies You Need to Know

The Japanese whisky market is exploding. Ever since Suntory’s 2013 Yamazaki Sherry Cask won the best whiskey in the world in 2015, it thrust Japanese whisky makers–who have been around for decades—into the spotlight. But that exposure was a double-edged sword, causing the demand for Japanese whiskies to dwarf the supply.

Due to the scarcity, if you’re shopping for a bottle of Japanese whisky, you’re increasingly faced with two options: the younger, unmatured offerings, typically less expensive though by no means cheap, or you’re looking at pricier bottles. But you also don’t have to go broke when buying Japanese whisky. Below, some of our favorite bottles, across a number of price points.

Hibiki Japanese Harmony Whisky

While it’s a blend, without an age statement, it’s arguably one of the best Japanese blends that can rival most blended Scotches. It’s complex and flavorful, but the taste doesn’t overwhelm you when sipping it neat. If you’re traveling, there’s a Master Blender variant that’s only available at duty free that is astounding. Typically priced around $75-85. Buy Here

  

Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky

No, there’s no coffee in here. Coffey refers to the name of the man who invented a continuous distillation still, an ancient way of distilling a lighter style of whisky, which Nikka still employs. In many ways, this is one of the standard expressions that have helped define the category. It’s really satisfying, something you can drink every day.ch Nikka still employs. In many ways, this is one of the standard expressions that have helped define the category. It’s really satisfying, something you can drink every day. Buy Here

 

You’re most likely to find Toki in stock, regardless of your location. It’s inexpensive, light on the tongue, and great on ice. If you’re looking for a replacement for your after-work drink, Toki in a highball is great. The Toki highball—Toki and club soda, with a spritz of fruit, for the uninitiated—is so massive in Japan, they make machines just to crank out the drinks. This bottle won't break the bank at $50. Buy Here

 

This bottle should be under $100 and packed with a solid spirit. It’s a newer release but from a producer with more history. The liquid is aged in bourbon, sherry, and wine barrels, high up in the mountains, a location so chosen for its temperate humidity and the quality of the water. Buy Here

 

This is Suntory’s whisky that really started it all, especially in the United States. The price of this bottle is steadily creeping up – originally found on shelves for $80, now it’s priced close to $120. Up until a few years ago, no one would drink it. Now, everyone loves it. Buy Here

 

If you're looking for something unique - this is it. Kumesen Shuzo distillery has been operational since 1952, and it’s primary product is Awamori. Back in 1989, though, the distillery started experimenting with aging Awamori in American bourbon barrels. No doubt, at least back then, the barrels came cheaply since bourbon sales was in the middle of a depression. This Kujira 20 Year Old Single Grain is a product of that experiment, and it’s made fully of rice. Aged for twenty years, the rice notes are faint and secondary. Primarily, you’re getting a spirit aged in a hot climate for an extended period of time. Priced around $350 but can be found a little cheaper sometimes. Buy Here