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Top 10 Japanese Whisky Brands

glass of Japanese whiskey and carafe

If you’re a whiskey enthusiast, you’ve probably heard of Japanese whisky. These spirits have been gaining popularity in recent years, and for good reason. Japanese whiskies are known for their smoothness, complexity, and unique flavor profiles. They’re made using traditional Scottish methods, but with a Japanese twist. The result is a whiskey that’s both familiar and distinct.

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Whether you’re a seasoned whiskey drinker or just starting to explore the world of spirits, Japanese whiskies are definitely worth trying. They’re perfect for sipping neat or mixing into your favorite cocktails. And with so many different brands and expressions to choose from, there’s something for everyone. So, if you’re looking to expand your whiskey collection or just want to try something new, give Japanese whisky a try. You won’t be disappointed!

Yamazaki

Yamazaki
Source: whisky.suntory.com

Yamazaki is a single malt varietal full of tasty fruits, oakiness, and smoke. It’s one of the best Japanese whiskies from popular brand, Suntory. The nose presents fruity essences of plum, apple, and citrus, entwined with delicate floral undertones. On the palate, you’ll get honey laced with vanilla and Mizunara oak’s distinct spiciness, as well as hints of smoke in this Japanese whisky. The great thing about this whisky is that it’s clean and refreshing and will appeal to whiskey connoisseurs and novices alike. Savor the flavors by drinking it neat or diluted with a few drops of water.


Toki Suntory Whisky

toki whiskey
Source: house.suntory.com

Suntory is known for its premium Japanese whiskies, and all of its bottled varieties adhere to this standard of excellence. The flagship product is Yamazaki, but all of the whiskies at Suntory have that same clean palate and fruity undertone that makes Yamazaki so delicious. Suntory’s Toki Whisky offers a delicate bouquet of green apple, citrus, and a touch of honey, seamlessly interwoven with subtle herbal notes on the nose. Toki’s flavor presents fruitiness intertwined with gentle spices and a trace of white oak, and it tastes great neat or in a classic Japanese whisky highball.

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Nikka

Nikka
Source: www.nikka.com

Nikka is a sweet, tasty Japanese whisky that’s maltier than most of the other ones on our list. So if you love the rich, robust flavors of premium coffee and don’t mind a bit of a viscous mouthfeel at the end of your sip, reach for a bottle of Nikka. The aroma envelops with fruity whispers of apple, pear, and a touch of toffee, layered upon a foundation of malt and subtle peat. Sipping reveals rich vanilla, hints of spice, and a delicate smoke that weaves through the palate. The finish is warm and inviting. While it’s not as clean as others, it is robust, unique, and memorable.


Mars Whisky

Mars Whisky
Source: www.highroadspirits.com

Mars Whisky is sweeter than Yamazaki or Suntory whiskies and substantially less dry. Instead, Mars Whisky takes cues from many American whiskeys, so you’ll get plenty of sweetness in your sip. Sipping reveals a symphony of delicate sweetness, intertwined with subtle spices and a touch of peat that pays homage to its rugged origins. The most forward flavors are corn and rye, and it’s remarkable all on its own or stirred into an Old Fashioned.


Hibiki

Hibiki
Source: whisky.suntory.com

Hibiki is a lot fruitier than most of the whiskies on our list, and although the flavors are bold, it’s not as in-your-face as a coffee-forward whiskey like Nikka. Instead, you’ll get plenty of tropical fruits like lychee in each sip, some florals, plenty of honey, and a hint of white chocolate. It’s a complex and lovely blend. Sipping reveals a blend of silky honey sweetness, layered with vanilla and Mizunara oak’s exotic spiciness. The finish is a lingering encore of dark chocolate and subtle spice. Savor it neat or in a highball to best enjoy the flavors of this Japanese whisky.

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Akashi

akashi whisky
Source: www.highroadspirits.com

If you’re looking for a more boutique blend, look no further than Akashi. This small-batch whiskey has a reasonably standard flavor profile, but the mixing of malts and grains are what makes it sing. The aroma is reminiscent of briny sea air, mingling with notes of orchard fruits and a touch of vanilla. Sipping reveals a maritime influence – a delicate interplay of sea salt and fruit sweetness, balanced by a subtle touch of oak. Plus, for such a rare item, it’s got a reasonably lovely price tag.


Yoichi

Yoichi
Source: www.nikka.com

Following in the footsteps of whiskies like Yamazaki, Yoichi is a super peaty and refined Japanese whisky. You’ll get a lot of smoke in both the aroma and the first sip of the drink, plus a nice amber body and a velvety mouthfeel. The aroma offers a symphony of peat smoke, interwoven with notes of dried fruit and a hint of spice. Sipping reveals rich malt sweetness, layered with bold peatiness and a touch of dark chocolate with a smoky finish. It’s bold, beautiful, and best enjoyed on the rocks or neat in a shot glass.


Miyagikyo

Miyagikyo
Source: www.nikka.com/

Miyagikyo Japanese whisky has much in common with Nikka, except it’s slightly fruitier and a bit lighter. Although there are plenty of fruity flavors throughout every sip of Miyagikyo, this blended whisky manages to stay nuanced and tasty simultaneously. The aroma gently mingles orchard fruits, plum, and a delicate floral essence. The first sip reveals honeyed malt intertwined with soft spices and a hint of sherry influence. It’s a good starter whisky for people who are exploring Japanese whiskies.


Chichibu

Chichibu
Source: dekanta.com

A malty, tasty, and bold whiskey, Chichibu is an excellent example of how the best Japanese whisky can hit all the traditional Japanese taste notes while still appealing to a western audience. With echoes of Suntory’s blends and a bit of Mars Whisky thrown in there, this whiskey is nothing, if not cosmopolitan. The aroma dances with fruity notes – cherry, pear, and a touch of citrus – intermingled with hints of vanilla. The flavor brings rich caramel sweetness, along with delicate spices and a whisper of peat.

See also  Crown Royal and Cranberry

Hakushu

Hakushu
Source: whisky.suntory.com

Hakushu is another offering from premium Japanese whisky house Suntory. It’s herbaceous and malty, with delicate grassy notes that reflect the deeper tones in Yamazaki without all of the peatiness. The aroma carries hints of fresh herbs, green apple, and a touch of floral elegance. The flavor keeps that soft fruitiness intertwined with gentle spices and a whisper of smoke that evokes misty forests. It’s an excellent whisky to enjoy on a bright summer’s day or stirred into an inventive cocktail.

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Paul Kushner

Written by Paul Kushner

Founder and CEO of MyBartender. Graduated from Penn State University. He always had a deep interest in the restaurant and bar industry. His restaurant experience began in 1997 at the age of 14 as a bus boy. By the time he turned 17 he was serving tables, and by 19 he was bartending/bar managing 6-7 nights a week.

In 2012, after a decade and a half of learning all facets of the industry, Paul opened his first restaurant/bar. In 2015, a second location followed, the latter being featured on The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

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