Although it’s becoming increasingly popular, the supply of Japanese Whisky is still limited. Suntory’s Hibiki, Hakashu, and the Yamazaki are great places to start if you’re looking to get into the world of Japanese whisky. The best place to find them is most likely online.
Here are some Japanese whiskey appreciation tips.
IT’S WHISKY, NOT WHISKEY
Japanese whisky is modelled after the Scotch tradition. It is here that one of the main differences occurs. Generally, Scottish whiskies are distilled twice before its aged in wood barrels. Irish whiskey, on the other hand, is distilled three times (there are exceptions to the rule in all cases) producing a lighter and smoother spirit.
HUNT FOR SUBTLE AROMAS AND FLAVORS
Japanese whisky tends to distinguish itself from conventional scotch, and other whiskies, with a subtlety of flavour and aroma. It’s the characteristic of lightness and sweetness that stems from its production environment.
With many distilleries located in alpine regions, the distillation process of Japanese whisky takes place at altitude.
Like Western Scotch, wood is a significant part of the profile, but many Japanese distilleries use Mizunara Oak to deepen the sweetness of the spirit.
DRINK YOUR JAPANESE WHISKY IN WHATEVER FORM YOU WANT
How would you like your Japanese whisky?
Want to add ice? Water? Japanese love experimentation, just as the whisky-makers themselves do. Everybody knows the two most famous way to drink whisky, “straight” pure and “on the rocks” with ice. But have you ever heard of highball, “ice ball” or mizuwari?
Highballs (soda-water and ice) complement the character of Japanese whisky, allowing for a more casual drinking experience, and the possibility of food pairing
The ice ball will allow you to drink your whisky cool while thinner as possible. But unless you are an ice sculptor amateur, you will have to go to a bar where the bartender offers to serve whisky ice ball.
Typically Japanese way of drinking whisky, mizuwari literally means “mixed with water.” And it’s served during the meal in a glass filled with ice.
Generally, whisky is consumed “alone” with or without ice, but you can also use it as a base ingredient in cocktails.
JAPANESE WHISKY GOES GREAT WITH FOOD
Traditionally, Japanese Whisky is consumed preferably with meals by the Japanese. In fact, it’s considered as a kind of “social bond” because of its disinhibiting effects that allow Japanese to speak among themselves in a less formal way. In Japan, people drink in groups and always with something to eat. Alcohol is not used to party, but for a moment of sharing.
APPRECIATE WHAT YOU’VE GOT TODAY, BECAUSE IT WILL CHANGE TOMORROW
Japanese whisky-maker often tweaks their whisky-making. If efficiencies or a flavour-change for the better can be found anywhere along the whisky-making value-chain, a Japanese whisky-maker will adapt. They carefully analyse the effectiveness of distillation, fermentation, and maturation regularly. This means that the whisky you fell in love with today may actually evolve into something ideally more exquisite tomorrow.