Foray into Japanese Whisky

Finally — we have begun!

Yesterday at the grocery store, David and I finally decided on which Japanese whisky to try first. We have been a little nervous, as most people are when confronted with the array of products listed under the umbrella term of “Whisky”.

It is daunting enough to face a row of Scotch in the store, but then take that feeling and put it into another language.

Add to that the little nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that Japanese whisky isn’t real whisky, like Scotch. Yet, I know — from distillery workers in Scotland, no less — that despite the disparaging review of Suntory in Lost in Translation, distilleries in this country have won several awards for taste and quality.

As it turns out, some distilleries exactly copy the craft of making Scotch — right down to ordering all their barley from Scotland. The only thing that makes their whisky different is that pesky little law stating that in order for whisky to be called “Scotch,” it must, in fact, be made in Scotland.

Lest you think I am dismissing the subtle differences of different types of whisky — or not so subtle in the case of Laphoraig — Japanese whisky is not Scotch whisky. It differs in flavour, as an Islay differs from a Speyside.

We managed, though, on our fist pick to find a great whisky.

  • Distillery: Nikka
  • Expression: Yoichi
  • Age: No age given
  • Price: 1400 yen ($17-18)

Verdict: I don’t go in much for all that “hints of citrus with a caramel finish” kind of talk — it’s all subjective anyway. What I will say is that I tasted a light smokiness and a little sweetness, but not very much. And it didn’t remind me of fruit when I drank it.

I would buy this again.

For more information on Yoichi whisky, see Nonjatta, a Japanese whisky blog or the Nikka distillery website

To enter the world of Japanese whisky, I found the Japanese Whisky Primer to be a good introduction.