Best Japanese Whisky Brands
Find about the best whisky brands in Japan
When traveling to Japan, one of the things many people are most excited about is the food culture. And regarding this, for those who know, alcoholic beverages are one of the attractive points.
Japanese whisky is–although relatively new–a type of whisky that is increasingly becoming popular among whisky enthusiasts worldwide.
So, if you are a whisky enthusiast, or even if you’re just a little interested in getting to know Japanese whisky, then you will want to try out different Japanese whiskies when you visit Japan. However, there is one problem which is that there are well over 30 beverage companies that produce whisky in Japan, each having its own lineup of several brands.
For those who are interested in learning about Japanese whisky, and would like to know which are the more popular ones, this article will hopefully assist you. I will introduce to you five of the best Japanese whisky brands. I hope this helps you in deciding which ones you would like to try out when you come and visit Japan.
*Note: The legal age for drinking alcoholic beverages in Japan is 20, so be sure to drink only if you’re above this age.
*Please note that this article contains affiliate links.
The first company on this list has to be this one. Suntory (サントリー) is a Japanese beverage company famous for so many products such as “Premium Malts Beer”, “Iemon Green Tea”, and “Boss Coffee”. However, Suntory is most well known for its wide variety of high-quality whisky. About 40% of the Japanese whisky share belongs to Suntory as of 2018.
The history of Suntory whisky starts in 1923 when the Yamazaki Distillery was built. This became the first-ever whisky distillery in Japan. Since then, Suntory has expanded its brands and has won many international awards along the way. Nowadays, Suntory has eleven whiskey brands: from single malt whisky to blended whisky and grain whisky.
Suntory has three main distilleries which are the Yamazaki Distillery located in Kyoto, the Hakushu Distillery located in Yamanashi, and the Rita Distillery located in Aichi.
Some of the most popular brands include the top-selling blended whisky in Japan, “Suntory Whiskey Rectangular Bottle”; the winner of many blended whisky awards, “Hibiki”; and probably the most popular Japanese single malt whisky brand, “Yamazaki”.
2. Nikka Whisky (Asahi Group)
The next company that produces whisky on our list is Nikka Whisky (ニッカウヰスキー). Nikka whisky is part of the larger beverage company, Asahi Group. Just like Suntory, Asahi is also one of the largest Japanese beverage companies with highly popular products such as “Asahi beer”, “Calpis (Calpico)”, and “Mitsuya Cider”. When it comes to Whiskey, Nikka whisky is the company name and as of 2018 has a market share of about 25%, making it the second largest in Japan.
The history of Nikka whisky is an interesting one. The founder of Nikka whisky helped create the Yamazaki whisky (Suntory) by being the first factory director. After that experience, he created his own company in 1934. The first Nikka whisky was launched in 1940. As of now, they have two main distilleries which are the Yoichi Distillery located near Otaru, Hokkaido; and the Miyagikyo Distillery located in Miyagi prefecture.
Nikka whisky has 14 brands ranging from single malt to grained and blended whisky. Some of its most popular whisky brands include “Black Nikka” which is one of the top-selling blended whisky in Japan; “Taketsuru” which has won various international awards, and their unique “Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky”.
3. Mars Whisky
Next on our list, we have Mars Whisky (マルスウィスキー). Mars Whisky is the Whisky brand name for the company Hombo-Shuzo located in Kagoshima prefecture. Although they are not as large of a produces compared to the previous two companies on this list, Mars Whisky is a trendy brand among Japanese whisky connoisseurs.
Mars Whisky has been producing whisky since 1949. In the 1960s and 70s, local whisky brands around Japan became something popular. It is said that this popularity started from this whisky brand in particular.
Mars Whisky has two main distilleries which are the Shinshu Distillery located in Nagano and the Tsunuki Distillery located in Kagoshima. Their brand lineup consists of three single-malt whiskies and eight blended whiskies. They also have three brandy brands.
The popular brands include “Cosmo” which is their top single malt brand and their blended brands “Twin Alps” and “Shinshu”.
The next company on our list is another large beverage company. Kirin (キリン) is, along with the previously mentioned Suntory and Asahi, one of the big three beverage companies in japan, with popular products such as “Kirin beer”, “Fire Coffee”, and “Gogo no Kocha”. When it comes to whisky, it started later compared to its main competitors, having a smaller brand lineup. However, their whisky brands have a strong following among Japanese whisky enthusiasts.
Kirin started its whisky production in the 1970s by launching its first brand, “Robert Brown”. The main distillery is the Mt Fuji Distillery located in Shizuoka.
Some of their popular brands include “Robert Brown”, “Fuji”, and “Riku”.
I hope this list was helpful for you. No matter if you are a whisky expert or someone who is just starting the exciting journey of getting to know whisky. If you are over the permitted age for drinking and are interested in Japanese whisky, then there is no excuse for missing out on some of these. Some of the distilleries on this list even offer tours, so that may be another exciting thing to do when visiting these areas.
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