Drinks

Every Japanese Whisky Brand from the Big to the Family-Owned Distilleries and a Bottle Worth over $100k

Featured image by Beam Suntory

If it were not for importers, we would be limited to only Suntory and Nikka (I’m also limited to bottles well under $100 because I love to drink, and I would be broke AF).

That is not a bad thing though since both Suntory and Nikka have stellar products, but importers such as Tokiwa Imports and ImpExBev have given us all an access pass to a wide range of whiskies from throughout Japan. So if you’re trying to find a Japanese whisky, you have come to the right spot.

Photo Description: this map was produced by Tokiwa Imports and it represents all the whisky brands they carry throughout Japan from Marsh Shinshu, Chichibu, to White Oak.

From what I can tell, Tokiwa Imports seems to be one cool company due to all their nicely done creative collateral such as this map to their website. Whoever their creative is, I love how they utilized that watercolor look as a brand element. Image by Tokiwa Imports

The map and list are of Japan’s largest whisky distilleries to a number of smaller distilleries located throughout Japan.

This Is a List of All the Japanese Whisky Brands That Both Your Brain and Liver Should Absorb

Most Japanese whisky brands are often considered very similar to Scotch whisky due to its roots, but all of these brands are distinctively Japanese although there are two brands: Fukano and Ohishi that standout more so by producing unmalted and malted rice grain whiskies.

Chichibu Whisky

Chichibu distillery was founded in 2008 by the grandson of the founder of the Hanyu distillery. They are a small distillery who has produced a number of products that whisky enthusiasts seek out.

Photo Description: an image by Chichibu distillery of a single glass with a glass poured neat.
Japan’s newest whisky distillery. Image by Tokiwa Imports

Product Line

Ichiro’s Malt, The Floor MaltedDistilled from barley floor malted by Akuto and his teams and aged 3-6 years in bourbon barrels.
Ichiro’s Malt and Grain In Ichiro’s words “An all world whisky” the key malt is Ichiro’s Malt, with his selection of Scotch, Irish, Canadian and American Whiskey aged in country 3-5 years and aged on sight in Chichibu an additional 1-3 years. 

Website (importer): Tokiwa Imports


Fukano Whisky

Founded in 1823, a fifth generation family member is running the distillery that produces a combination of malted and un-malted rice to craft their whisky in a pot still.

Product Line

Fukano 2017 releaseReleased in July 2017 with a total of only 4,400 bottles worldwide. The 2017 edition is a non-age statement whisky comprised of malted rice which is age for five years in whisky and wine casks.
Sherry cask Fully matured in Sherry Cask, this whisky all of the characteristics that are expected in a big sherry cask matured whisky from Japan.
6000 Fukano 6000 is the future of whisky with retro flavors. Tasting notes include apples, red raisins, dried plums, raw honey, touch of oak, vanilla and toffee. Brown sugar and oak on the nose.
Single CaskComprised of un-malted and malted rice which is aged in new and charred American oak barrel .

Website (importer): Impexbev.com


Mars Shinshu Whisky

The Honbu family has been distilling for more than a century, and their whisky distillery is Japan’s highest distillery at 798 meters.

Photo Description: Mars Shinshu whisky has a bottle of their Iwai Tradition whisky (a full bottle), a dram poured neat, next to a lamp that has a glass looking round base with a white contemporary looking lamp shade. Even with the bokeh, you can see several bottles of whisky in the background.
Neato. Image by Tokiwa Imports

Product Line

Iwai WhiskyKiichiro Iwai, the namesake for this Mars Whisky, was a silent pioneer of Japan whisky. A majority of corn balanced with a light malt aged in ex-bourbon barrels
Iwai TraditionThis is malt driven spirit is truly a reflection of contemporary Japanese whisky. A blending of sherry, bourbon and wine casks with hints delicate hints of peat make for a harmonious whisky that would make Iwai-san proud.

Website (importer): Tokiwa Imports


Matsui Whisky

Matsui Shuzou was founded in 1910 and is located in the Tottori Prefecture northwest of Kyoto on the shore of the Sea of Japan.

Photo Description: Matsui whisky by the Kurayoshi Distillery which has a dark background, several bottles displayed, and the text "taste Japanese Tottori Whisky. Made from pure spring water."
Image Matsui Whisky.

Product Line

Kurayoshi Japanese Pure Malt (12, 18 years)The aroma of nuts and almonds is followed by a rich malty texture, with hints of vanilla and raisins, accompanied by a faint smoky flavor in perfect balance with the sweetness, bitterness and acidity of this vintage.
Matsui Single Malt WhiskyA single malt whisky distilled in the rich, natural environment of Tottori and aged in sakura (cherry wood) cask and Mizunara cask.
Tottori Blended Japanese WhiskyMellow sweetness and fragrance is the signature of this whisky. A refreshing taste with a faint sweetness and a pleasant fruity lingering aftertaste. To serve on the rocks or as a highball is an excellent choice.

Website (producer): matsuiwhisky.com


Nikka Whisky

The founder, Masataka Taketsuru studied the distilling process of Scotch whisky in Scotland, and he started Nikka in 1934 in Yoichi, Hokkaido, Japan.

Photo Description: The Nikka whisky image is a golden color with three prominent bottles which consist of their Taketsuru 17, 21, and NAS (non age statement). In the foreground, a glass with a large ice cube and whisky poured in it. The text says "pure malt" with kana directly above it.
I love Taketsuru. Image by Nikka/Asahi Breweries

Product Line

Coffey Grain/MaltCoffey Grain and Coffey Malt are Nikka’s signature grain whiskies which show the beauty of their Coffey Stills.
From the BarrelA blended whisky created to deliver full flavors and richness of whisky “from barrels” which only blenders can sniff and taste.
Miyagikyo Single MaltSingle Malt shows the characteristics of Nikka’s second distillery built in 1969 which is located in the mountains of Sendai to contrast with his first distillery.
The Nikka 12 Years OldA blended whisky introduced in 2014, Nikka Whisky’s 80th anniversary.
Super NikkaA blended whisky born in 1962 which was created to represent the deep love for the founder of Nikka has for his wife Rita.
Taketsuru Pure MaltTaketsuru Pure Malt is a range of blended malt whiskies named in honor of Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of Nikka and father of Japanese whisky.
Yoichi Single MaltCoffey Grain and Coffey Malt are Nikka’s signature grain whiskies which show the beauty of their Coffey Stills.

Website (producer/distributor): Nikka.com


Ohishi Whisky

Ohishi Whisky is distilled entirely from rice and aged in either brandy or sherry casks (big raisins, figs, and oak spice cover the nose and palate).

Photo Description: Ohishi Whisky is the other rice whisky. They have four bottles placed on some steps, with Lego stormtroopers. The image was shot by WhiskyAnorach.
“This is the whisky you have been looking for.” Image by WhiskyAnorach.

Product Line

Ohishi Brandy Cask Whisky Is a marriage of just a few casks of whisky that have been matured in ex-brandy barrels. The brandy casks give an elegance of soft oak, vanilla, pineapple and a touch of oxidation and rancio that compliments the silkiness of the rice in a very complex manner.
Ohishi Single Sherry Cask Whisky Distilled from rice and is matured fully in fresh Sherry Casks. Each cask is hand selected by the master distiller Oishi-san and represents the beauty of light and dark juxtaposition that is the soft silky texture of rice whisky synchronized with the massive sherry influence of the cask.

Website (importer): Impexbev.com


Suntory Whisky

“For relaxing times, make it Suntory times.” The Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson movie “Lost in Translation” put Suntory and Japanese whisky on the map for many Americans.

Photo Description: Suntory whisky has a very light image with an image of their Hibiki whisky bottle, a glass with a large ice cube in it, and some white leafed flowers adorning the shot.
Relax, and Hibiki on. Image by Beam Suntory

Product Line

Chita The first single grain whisky from the House of Suntory Whisky
Hakashu Single Malt Whisky Hakushu is the fresh and gently smoky single malt whisky with herbal notes.
HibikiSuntory Whisky Hibiki is a harmonious blend, blessed with the riches of Japanese nature and craftsmanship.
TokiA blended Japanese whisky that is both groundbreaking and timeless. Palate: Grapefruit, green grapes, peppermint, thyme
YamazakiYamazaki Whisky is Suntory’s flagship single malt whisky, from Japan’s first and oldest malt distillery, multi-layered with fruit and Mizunara aromas.

Website (producer/distributor): Whisky.Suntory.com


White Oak Whisky

White Oak is small distillery located in the city of Akashi in the Hyogo prefecture. The company started as a sake producer in 1888, but started to produce whisky in 1919.

Photo Description: Single malt whisky by Akashi. Two bottles are shown on the rocks and neat.
Blended the way you would want it. Image by Tokiwa Imports

Product Line

Akashi Single MaltA unique blend, of sherry, brandy, bourbon, wine, American oak and even ex-shochu barrels allows for uniquely Japanese Single Malt. 
Akashi WhiskyThis is whisky blended in the scotch tradition, with Japanese precision, the malt is lightly peated, and vatting is mostly ex-bourbon, balanced by White Oak’s unique variety of barrels.

Website (importer): Tokiwa Imports


The Infamous Japanese Distillery

Karuizawa is a distillery that opened in 1955 in Miyota, Japan. Unfortunately, sometime in 2000-2001, they shut down, and now the bottles and whisky have become highly prized.

Photo Description: this is the most famous or infamous of all the Japanese whiskeys featured. It is from teh Karuizawa distillery which is no longer around and they shut down in 2000-2001. The images is of the bottle and the natural wood finish boxes taht it came in. Printed on the box is their logo, along with the text "Karuizawa single cask malt whisky." Along with "1960" and the cask number.
Some amazing company and this bottle is all I need. Image by WhiskyAuctioneer.com

Karuizawa, the Archer fetched a record-setting price at auction in the six-figure range ($126K for the Karuizawa 1960 single cask).


Oh, and one more

The Kirin Fuji Gotemba Distillery (you do the research, and let me know. I’m sitting this one out).

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[…] Also, if you’re a beer drinker, you’re probably also a Japanese whisky drinker, and these are the Japanese whisky distilleries/brands. […]

[…] does not seem like it was that long ago that Japanese whiskies were somewhat moderately priced, but those days are long gone which means that Yamazaki 12 I gave […]

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