Best Japanese Whiskey Brands You Have To Try in 2020!

Premium Japanese whiskey brands are some of the most expensive whiskeys in the world. Here are some of the best Japanese whiskey brands that every whiskey lover should know about and try! 

One of the biggest reasons premium Japanese whiskey is so expensive is because it’s high in demand and the supply is just not there. In the 1980s, the Japanese whiskey market pretty much crashed as shochu, a light, Japanese spirit distilled from rice hit the market and the Japanese beer also grew popular. 

The decrease in demand for Japanese whiskey led to the shut down of several distilleries in Japan. Even Nikka, one of Japan’s most famous whiskey distilleries, halted their whiskey production for several years!

This went on till Suntory’s Yamazaki 12-Year-Old and Hibiki 30-Year-Old won awards at the International Spirits Challenge in the years 2003 and 2004, respectively. The Japanese whiskey market has boomed ever since, regularly winning a global award. 

Now let’s take a look at some of the best Japanese whiskey brands (and also some of the most expensive ones!)

Top Japanese Whiskey Brands

#1 — Yamazaki Japanese Whiskey

Yamazaki is one of the best Japanese Whiskey Brands today. This Japanese whiskey brand is owned by Suntory and was Japan’s first commercial whiskey distillery.

Established in 1923, Yamazaki distillery is located in Shimamoto, Osaka Prefecture of Japan. 

Yamazaki distillery is known to experiment with its stills shapes and sizes even till today. The distillery also regularly experiments with the types of barrels used for maturation. 

Source: house.suntory.com

Yamazaki Distillery offers three primary variants of its best Japanese whiskey – 

  • Yamazaki Single Malt 25-year old Whiskey
  • Yamazaki Single Malt 18-Year-Old whisky
  • Yamazaki Single Malt 12-Year-Old whisky

Other than this Yamazaki also offers other variants like 50-, 35-, 25-, and 10-year-old whiskies.

The distillery also offers some dated vintages like 1993, 1984, and 1980 Yamazaki Whiskey. Other than this, you can also try its Sherry and Puncheon whiskey. 

The Yamazaki 25-year-old Single Malt is the probably the most sought after Japanese whisky and also the most expensive one.

Aged exclusively in Sherry casks, it’s hard to get your hand on one of these bottles as only 12,000 bottles are made every year. 

Awarded the best Japanese Whisky Single Malt in 2013 by the World Whisky Awards, the Yamazaki 25-year-old Single Malt is priced at around JPY 844,585.

The 18-year old Yamazaki Single Malt was awarded the double gold medals at the San Francisco Spirits Competitions 6 years in a row between 2008 and 2013. 

Yamazaki Japanese whisky is rich in texture and has a complex taste. Though the 25-year-old Yamazaki is hard to find, you could start your Yamazaki collection with the 12-year-old Yamazaki whisky – which is still expensive but not as nearly as the 25-year-old. 

  • Estd: 1923
  • Distillery Location: Yamazaki, Shimamoto, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
  • Main Range: Yamazaki Single Malt 25-year old Whiskey, Yamazaki Single Malt 18-Year-Old whiskey, Yamazaki Single Malt 12-Year-Old whiskey
  • Founder: Shinjiro Torii

Related: Order a whiskey highball when you visit a Japanese izakaya. Here’s a list of other things you can order there. Check it out!

#2 — Hakushu Japanese Whiskey

The next best Japanese Whiskey brand on the list is the Hakushu Japanese Whiskey. This distillery is also owned by the Suntory group.

Established in 1973, the distillery was initially located in the slopes of Mount Kaikoma in the Yamanashi Prefecture, Chūbu region of Japan.

However, 1981, the distillery was expanded with the establishment of another site closeby, where all the production of Hakushu whisky now takes place. 

Source: house.suntory.com

Hakushu Distillery offers 4 bottlings in its main range:

  • Hakushu Single Malt 25 years 43%
  • Hakushu Single Malt 18 years 43%
  • Hakushu Single Malt 12 years 43%
  • Hakushu Single Malt “Distiller’s Reserve” (New 2014 addition to the core range), 43%

The distillery also launched two limited series

  • 2014: Sherry Cask 48%
  • 2013: Heavily Peated 48%

The distillery is best known for its main range featuring, 12,18, and 25-year-old Hakushu Single Malts.

The 25-year-old Hakushu Single Malt is the best Japanese whiskey by Hakushu and also the most expensive one of the lot costing around JPY 503,421.

Distilled from 100% malted barley, each of Hakushu’s offerings have been dried over a peat fire which gives it its distinct tones, aromas, and flavors. The distillery also added a new addition in its core range in 2014 – Hakushu Single Malt “Distiller’s Reserve”. 

The limited series bottles 2013 Heavily peated and 2014 Sherry Cask are particularly hard to find – but so worth it!

If you especially love the delicious smoky tones in your whiskey, you should definitely track down the 2013 Heavily Peated Hakushu Whisky bottle. 

  • Estd: 1973
  • Distillery Location: Toribara locality,  Hokuto, Yamanashi Prefecture, Chūbu region, Japan
  • Main Range: Hakushu Single Malt 25 years 43%, Hakushu Single Malt 18 years 43%, Hakushu Single Malt 12 years 43%, Hakushu Single Malt “Distiller’s Reserve” 43%
  • Founder: Keizo Saji

#3 — Yoichi Japanese Whiskey

Yoichi distillery is another one of the best Japanese whiskey brands. Owned by Nikka Whiskey Distilling, the Yoichi distillery was established in 1934 and founded by Masataka Taketsuru.

The distillery is located at Yoichi, Yoichi District, Shiribeshi Subprefecture, Hokkaido of Japan. 

Yoichi distillery is the oldest distillery owned by Nikka. The distinctive features of Yoichi whiskey can be majorly attributed to its location.

Source: nikka.com

Masataka Taketsuru, taking inspiration from Scotland, chose a location with a cold climate and ideal humidity with freshwater and crisp, clean air.

Since the distillery is situated by the sea, it lends a briny hint to Yoichi whisky during the maturation. 

Yoichi distillery offers a wide range of delicious classics and often experiments with ingredients and techniques. Yoichi’s classic statements like the 15-year old Peated SIngle Malt and the 20-year-old Single malt are expensive, costing JPY 84,374 and JPY 262,716 respectively, but not so difficult to get your hands on.

If you happen to plan a trip to Japan, you can reserve a guided tour of the Yoichi distillery for free and watch the entire process of the making from start to finish. 

The visitors are also allowed one type of whisky tasting for free. ‘The whiskey club’ at the museum offers a wide variety of tastings. You can pay for two whiskey tastings.

  • Estd: 1934
  • Distillery Location: Yoichi, Yoichi District, Shiribeshi Subprefecture, Hokkaido, Japan
  • Founder: Masataka Taketsuru 

#4 — Hibiki Japanese Whiskey

Hibiki whiskey is another one of the most popular and best Japanese Whiskey Brands. It is a premium blended whiskey owned by Beam Suntory.

Established in 1989, Hibiki’s initial offerings were of the age statements 17 and 21 years old. In 1997, a 30-year-old expression was introduced followed with a 12-year-old expression in 2009. 

Later in 2015, Japanese Harmony with no age statement was launched.

Source: house.suntory.com

Japanese Harmony was made using the same malt and grain whiskeys as the first Hibiki blend which had at least 10 malt and grain whiskeys from three distilleries that were aged in 5 different cask types.

Some of the elements here were aged up to about 20 years!

Blends that were available as of 2010 were produced with a blend of at least 30 whiskies (if not more), some of which were aged more 30 years and aged in old umeshi casks. A bamboo charcoal filtering step was used that gave it a very gentle and sweet flavor to the blended whiskey. 

The Hibiki Japanese Whiskey brand offers three expressions (as of 2017): 

  • Hibiki Japanese Harmony (no age statement) 
  • Hibiki 17-year old 
  • Hibiki 12 -year old

Hibiki also used to offer blends with age statements of 12 and 30 years. However, these two blends are no longer listed on the company website. 

If you’re a single-malt kinda guy, I must say that you’re missing out on this blended whiskey brand of Suntory. It is one of the premium whiskeys that has also won several awards. 

Hibiki 21-year old blended whiskey and 30-year-old blended whiskey are two of the most delicious whiskey bottles you can find. 

Hibiki ‘Japanese Harmony’ blended whiskey is probably the most affordable of the lot priced at around JPY 10,159, it’s definitely worth the buy for its floral nose, smooth body of sherried sweetness and light smoke!

  • Estd: 1989
  • Founder: Shinjiro Torii

#5 — Miyagikyo Japanese Whiskey

Located near Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Tōhoku region of Japan, Miyagikyo distillery is owned by Nikka Whiskey Distilling. Established in 1969, this is one of the best Japanese whiskey brands that differentiates itself by offering several unique expressions. 

Miyagikyo was formerly known as Sendai distillery and was the second distillery to be owned by Nikka Whiskey after its Yoichi distillery located in Hokkaido.

Source: nikka.com

If you’re up for something different with a distinct taste, you should try Miyagikyo’s 2017 Rum Wood Finish Single Malt. Another one of its unique expressions is the Sherry & Sweet which bottled at cask strength. 

Or if you’d like to stick to the traditional flavors, you should get your hand on the Miyagikyo 15-year-old Single Malt priced at around JPY 89,030.

  • Estd: 1969
  • Distillery Location: Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Tōhoku region, Japan
  • Main Range: Miyagikyo’s 2017 Rum Wood Finish Single Malt, Sherry & Sweet, Miyagikyo 15-year-old Single Malt
  • Founder: Masataka Taketsuru

#6 — Nikka Japanese Whiskey

Nikka Whiskey Distilling is one of the Japanese Whiskey distilling giants. Standing on par with Suntory, Nikka offers a range of blends that are released under the company’s own name.

One of the best Japanese whiskey brands, Nikka Whiskey From The Barrel is the most acclaimed whiskey by Nikka. 

Source: nikka.com

Produced at Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries, it is chosen from over 100 different batches of malt and grain whiskey. You’ll notice sherry, umam, orange zest, cinnamon notes and a touch of smoke. 

Owned by Asahi Group Holdings since 1954 and headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, it was first launched with the establishment of Yoichi distilleries in 1934.

Nikka offers a wide variety of Japanese whiskey. You can find bottles ranging from JPY 900 Black Nikka that you can easily find at convenience stores to Nikka Single Cask that costs JPY 15,750. 

  • Estd: 1934
  • Founder: Masataka Taketsuru

#7 — Kirin Japanese Whiskey

If you’re a Japanese beer lover then you’ve definitely heard of Kirin. But did you know that this beverage giant also has its own distillery. One of the best Japanese whiskey brands, this distillery was established in 1972 and founded by Kirin Seagram Ltd. 

Source: fujisanroku.jp

Located at the southeastern end of Mt Fuji, Kirin Distillery aka Fuji Gotemba Distillery offers blends in small batches.

Other than this, the distillery also produces 17-year old single malt. But Kirin distillery’s most popular blend is the Kirin Fuji Sanroku 50 proof. 

This blend was recently discontinued due to the whiskey shortage. So good luck, getting your hands on it. 

  • Estd: 1972
  • Distillery Location: Shibanuta, Gotemba, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
  • Main Range: Kirin 17-year old single malt
  • Founder: Kirin Seagram Ltd.

#8 — Akashi Japanese Whiskey

Akashi, one of the best Japanese whiskey brands, is a brand under the White Oak Distillery. Established in 1984, the distillery is located in Akashi city, Hyōgo Prefecture of Japan.

White Oak distillery released its first single malt in late 2007 under the label Akashi. 

Akashi White Oak 5 Sherry Cask Single Malt, priced at JPY 23,704, is one of the best expressions of Akashi and hard to find. 

This whiskey has a complex flavor balancing the sweet notes of cherry and brown sugar with brine and spice. 

  • Estd: 1984
  • Distillery Location: Akashi city, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan
  • Main Range: Akashi White Oak 5 Sherry Cask Single Malt
  • Founder: Eigashima Shuzo

So those were some of the best Japanese whiskey brands you should look out for as whiskey lover. Now, let’s take a look at a few whiskey accessories you might like!

Best Japanese Whiskey Accessories Every Whiskey Lover Should Have!

Check out these whiskey accessories toa dd to your collection and enjoy your whiskey luxuriously.

#1 — YAMAZAKI Collectible Whiskey Glass

Yamazaki is one of the best Japanese whiskey brands and the one of the most sought after one as well. While an aged Yamazaki whiskey bottle might be too hard to find (and too expensive), you can begin your Yamazaki collection with this rare Yamazaki Single Malt Collectible Whiskey Glass collectible to enjoy your delicious whiskey or even place it on your showcase. 

Costing about $5.00, this is one of the best Japanese whiskey accessories for your collection!

#2 — Premium Japanese Style Double Cocktail Jigger

If you’re a Japanese whiskey person, you gotta have this premium Japanese style double Jigger. Made of stainless steel, it has clean lines and a brushed finish. For accurate measuring, the calibration markers are seen in the entire circumference of the Jigger. 

It balances well between your fingers with a good heft. Even when filled in full capacity, the cup still has enough space left so not a drop if that delicious whiskey goes to waste as you pour it into your glass. 

The large cup holds up to 2oz while the small cup holds 1oz. It’s dishwasher friendly which makes it super easy for you to keep it clean. 

#3 — Small Japanese Jujube Wooden Whiskey Cups

Drink your whiskey the traditional Japanese style with these Jujube wooden cups. The cup reserves the natural texture of wood and is also great gifting options for whiskey lovers. Durable and compact, these wooden cups have a simple, elegant design and will look great placed amongst the vintage whiskey accessories. 

The best thing about these Japanese wooden cups is that they can be used to serve multiple beverages like tea, coffee, milk, juice, and even beer. 

#4 — Vintage Mt Fuji Whiskey Glass With Gorgeous Wooden Gift Box

Here’s another gifting option for Japanese whiskey lovers. Handmade transparent whiskey glass, these glasses are shaped like Mt Fuji. Made of High borosilicate lead-free glass, the glass is clear and easy to clean. 

It holds about 9.5oz (280ml) and has an attractive and elegant design. The glass, however, can be used to serve other beverages as well. 

#5 — Diamond Whiskey Glasses

The design of these whiskey glasses are inspired by diamonds. The glass rests at an angle that allows your drink to aerate and it is being poured and swirled. The glass is designed with a 50° angle tilt which makes it anti-rocking and spill proof. 

These diamond whiskey glasses will be a stylish addition to your whiskey accessories collection or glassware. It is dishwasher safe, freezer safe. This crystal clear glass is made of high quality materials and is lead free. 

#6 — Japanese Whiskey Crystal Clear Ice Ball Maker 

Get the proper on-the-rocks experience with Japanese style ice balls made from this Crystal clean ice ball maker. All you have to do is fill up the mold and let it freeze it overnight. There are two ice cube trays in each pack. 

And each ice tray will give you two 2.35 in perfectly round ice cubes. The ice ball maker is made from durable and flexible silicone that is BPA free and chemical free. 

Also Read:

  1. Visiting a Japanese bar for whiskey? Here’s a suggestion – don’t tip! Click here to find out why!
Best Japanese Whiskey Brands

Here are the best Japanese whiskey brands any whiskey lover would enjoy!

Product SKU: 000987UYH788

Product Brand: Yamazaki

Product Currency: USD

Product Price: 158.00

Price Valid Until: 2021

Product In Stock: Available

Editor's Rating:
5
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