Japanese whisky production stretches back to the early 19th century.
Today, visitors to Japan experience that culture for themselves in bars and restaurants around the country
How to drink whiskey in Japan
Look for Subtlety
Japanese whiskey tends to distinguish itself from conventional scotch, and other whiskeys, with a subtlety of flavor and aroma. Relevant factors here include the high-altitude and climate of Japan’s distilleries and unique methodologies like bamboo filtration employed during production.
While sweetness and fruit are typical characteristics, there are other flavor notes which make Japanese whiskey distinct. Wood is a significant part of the profile, but many Japanese distilleries use indigenous Mizunara Oak (instead of European or American Oak) to deepen the sweetness.
Savor the Texture
The distillation process of Japanese whiskey takes place at altitude, specifically at around 700 to 800 meters (2300 to 2600 feet) above sea level. High altitude whiskey production involves a lower-boiling point, which in turn results in a thinner-textured, smoother, silkier spirit.
Expect Water and Ice
One of the most fashionable ways to drink whiskey in Japan is with soda-water and ice: the ‘highball’ style. Highballs complement the character of Japanese whiskey, allowing for a more casual drinking experience, and the possibility of food pairing.
Understand Your Choice
Japan is home to a relatively small number of distilleries. Fortunately, the broad range of whiskeys that each produces makes up for this lack of brand diversity. This type of in-house production culture encourages experimentation and a spectrum of choice – from the popular to the more exclusive. If your first impression of a whiskey isn’t positive, don’t write off that particular distillery completely. Instead, explore the spectrum of labels and bottlings it offers to find something that suits your palate.
Drink with Food
It’s common to drink Japanese whisky with food, so expect to see it ordered at dinner and lunch. You can pair Japanese whisky with:
Staples like ramen
Japanese desserts like Kohi Zeri (coffee jelly), and the sugary, fruity ‘Anmitsu’ also complement the sweeter notes of Japanese whiskey.
Experiment and Enjoy
The joy of Japanese whiskey lies in exploration and discovery. Whiskey lovers should feel free to enjoy their favorite single malt, or blend, on the rocks, neat, or in a variety of innovative new cocktails.
Whiskey, no matter what anyone says, is drunk as each person likes it best. If you like the taste mixed with a soda, why not drink it that way? Or in a cocktail with whiskey in it. But purists indeed understand that whiskey should only be tasted in two ways: alone or with a splash of fresh water that “opens” the flavors.
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