Japanese Whisky – the history

Japanese Whisky

Japanese Whisky

We are passed the time that Scotland, Ireland or even the US dominated the world’s whisky market. In fact, there are an upcoming and eclectic number of countries producing high quality whisky. However, the great revelation has place in the land of the rising sun. Japanese whisky has earned the recognition from some of best whisky specialists and has many fans worldwide. In fact, certain Japanese whisky brands have won the best whisky in world or got to be on top 5 of best whiskies in the world, in the recent years.

Japanese Whisky – the History

The Japanese whisky story starts early in the past century. Shinjiro Torii, pharmaceutical and founder of a company that imported western liquors and spirits, had strong entrepreneurial mindset, and a few years later, created his own brand called “Akdama Port Wine”, based on the famous Port beverage. The brand had enormous success, but Torii was not satisfied. With strong opposition from the company’s executives, decided he would produce Japanese whisky. He built the first whisky distillery, in Yamazaki, near Kyoto, a region known for great quality waters.

akadama port wine
image from The Japan Times

After the distillery has built, Torii made a decision that would revealed very assertive and of great influence for Japanese whisky success. In 1920 hires Masataka Taketsuru for the distillery executive. Taketsuru had been gone for a year traveling and exploring Scotland, visiting distilleries and studding the art of whisky making. He also took advantage of his location and worked in some of those distilleries, passing through the main whisky production regions of Scotland like Speyside, Highlands, and Lowlands among others. Taketsuru accumulated knowledge that would use in a very successful way in Torii’s distillery.

suntory japanese whisky
image from suntory’s website

Taketsuru had a fundamental role in establishing and success of the Yamazaki distillery during the years that he worked in Kotobukiya, the Torii’s company that would become later in the famous Suntory. Later, he would leave the company to found his own business. Inicially named Dainipponkaju, changed its name, few years later, to Nikka. The distillery destined to produce Japanese whisky was located in Hokkaido. All whiskies created by Taketsuru presented features very similar to scotches from Campbeltown and Speyside, although he studied almost all of Scotland’s regions. We assume that those were his personal favourites.

nikka taketsuru japanese whisky
image from Celtic Whiskey Shop

Japanese whisky began to grow over the success of these two men, having increasingly more Japanese people studying and training in Scottish institutions, guaranteeing the high quality standards in producing malt whisky in Japan. The rest of the history is very well and commonly known, being the Japanese whiskies recognized as one of the best whiskies worldwide nowadays.

Have you ever tried any Japanase Whisky? Tell us your favourites in the comments.


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