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Encyclopedia > Japanese whisky

Whisky production in Japan began around 1870, but the first commercial production was in 1923, when the country's first distilleryYamazaki—opened. Broadly speaking the style of Japanese whisky is more similar to that of Scotch whisky than Bourbon whiskey, and thus the spelling typically follows the Scotch convention (i.e. omitting the letter "e"). Whisky, or whiskey, refers to a broad category of alcoholic beverages that are distilled from fermented grain mash and aged in wooden casks (generally oak). ... 1870 (MDCCCLXX) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Monday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ... 1923 (MCMXXIII) was a common year starting on Monday (link will display the full calendar). ... Distillation is a means of separating liquids through differences in their boiling points. ... Barrels in Yamazaki Distillery. ... An independent bottling of Royal Brackla Single Malt Scotch whisky is whisky made in Scotland. ... Bourbon bottle, 19th century Bourbon is an American form of whiskey made from (pursuant to U.S. trade law) at least 51% corn, or maize, (typically about 70%) with the remainder being wheat and/or rye, and malted barley. ...


There are several companies producing whisky in Japan. Perhaps the two most well known are Suntory and Nikka. Both of these produce blended as well as single malt whiskies. Suntory Limited ) is a Japanese brewing and distilling company. ... Black Nikka is brand of Japanese whiskey. ... A blended whiskey (or whisky) comes from one of many distilleries, but is drawn from whiskeys of differing vintages and/or manufacturers. ... A Hart Brothers bottling of 18 year old Royal Brackla Single Malt Scotch whisky. ...

Contents

History

One of the most influential figures in the history of Japanese whisky was Masataka Taketsuru. He studied the art of distilling in Scotland, and brought this knowledge back to Japan in the early 1920s. He was instrumental in the creation of Japan's first two whisky distilleries. Whilst working for Kotobukiya (later to become part of Suntory) he helped to establish the Yamazaki Distillery. In 1934 he left Kotobukiya to form his own company—Dainipponkaju—which would later change its name to Nikka. In this new venture he established the Yoichi distillery in Hokkaidō. Masataka Taketsuru founded Japans whisky industry. ...


Distilleries

There are currently around ten whisky distilleries in Japan, these include:

  • Yamazaki - owned by Suntory, located between Osaka/Kyoto on the main island of Honshū.
  • Shirasu - also owned by Suntory, located in Yamanashi on the main island of Honshū.
  • Yoichi- owned by Nikka, located on the Northern island of Hokkaidō. Nikka is a part of Asahi Beer.
  • Sendai / Miyagikyo - also Nikka, located to the North of the main island, near the city of Sendai.
  • Karuizawa - owned by Mercian, located near to the town of Karuizawa in Nagano on the main island of Honshū. Mercian is a part of Kirin.
  • Hanyu, located in Chichibu in Saitama prefecture near Tokyo on the main island. Closed in 2004.
  • Fuji / Gotemba, owned by Kirin, located at the foot of Mt Fuji in Shizuoka.
  • Shinshu, owned by Hombo, located in Nagano on the main island of Honshū.

Barrels in Yamazaki Distillery. ... Suntory Limited ) is a Japanese brewing and distilling company. ... Osaka )   is a city in Japan, located at the mouth of the Yodo River on Osaka Bay, in the Kansai region of the main island of HonshÅ«. The city is the capital of Osaka Prefecture. ... Kyoto )   is a city in the central part of the island of HonshÅ«, Japan. ... HonshÅ« (本州 Literally Main State) is the largest island of Japan, called the Mainland; it is south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Strait. ... Suntory Limited ) is a Japanese brewing and distilling company. ... Yamanashi (山梨市 Yamanashishi) is a city located in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. ... HonshÅ« (本州 Literally Main State) is the largest island of Japan, called the Mainland; it is south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Strait. ... One of the buildings of Yoichi Distillery. ...   literally North Sea Circuit, Ainu: Mosir), formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is the second largest island and largest prefecture of Japan. ... This April 2007 does not cite its references or sources. ... Categories: Host cities of the Winter Olympic Games | Cities in Nagano Prefecture | Japan geography stubs ... HonshÅ« (本州 Literally Main State) is the largest island of Japan, called the Mainland; it is south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Strait. ... Kirin may refer to: Kirin, the Japanese and Korean word for the Qilin, a mythical beast in Chinese culture and now the word for giraffe Kirin Brewery Company, Ltd. ... Categories: Cities in Saitama Prefecture | Japan geography stubs ... Saitama Prefecture (埼玉県; Saitama-ken) is located on Honshu island, Japan. ... The term prefecture (from the Latin Praefectura) indicates the office, seat, territorial circonscription of a Prefect. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Kirin may refer to: Kirin, the Japanese and Korean word for the Qilin, a mythical beast in Chinese culture and now the word for giraffe Kirin Brewery Company, Ltd. ... Categories: Host cities of the Winter Olympic Games | Cities in Nagano Prefecture | Japan geography stubs ... HonshÅ« (本州 Literally Main State) is the largest island of Japan, called the Mainland; it is south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Strait. ...

Reputation

For some time it was believed by many that whisky made in the Scotch style, but not produced in Scotland, could not possibly measure up to the standards of the traditional Scotch distilleries. Until fairly recently, the market for Japanese whiskies was almost entirely domestic. Motto (Latin) No one provokes me with impunity Cha togar mfhearg gun dioladh (Scottish Gaelic)1 Wha daur meddle wi me?(Scots)1 Anthem (Multiple unofficial anthems) Scotlands location in Europe Capital Edinburgh Largest city Glasgow Official languages English, Gaelic, Scots Government Constitutional monarchy  -  Queen Queen Elizabeth II...


However, in recent years, a number of blind tastings have been organised by Whisky Magazine, which have included Japanese single malts in the lineup, along with malts from distilleries considered to be among the best in Scotland. On more than one occasaion, the results have had Japanese single malts (particularly those of Yoichi and Yamazaki) scoring higher than their Scotch counterparts.


As a result it is now widely accepted amongst malt connoisseurs that Japanese whisky has come of age.


Style

The production of Japanese whisky began as a conscious effort to recreate the style of Scotch whisky. Pioneers like Taketsuru carefully studied the process of making Scotch whisky, and went to great lengths in an attempt to recreate that process in Japan. The location of Yoichi in Hokkaidō was chosen particularly for its terrain and climate, which were in many ways reminiscent of Scotland (although financial constraints resulted in the first distillery actually being built in the more convenient location of Yamazaki on the main island).


Necessities due to the sort of resources readily accessible, however, led to distinct differences between Scotch and Japanese whiskies. The grains which compose the mash, for example, generally are maize, millet, sometimes rice, and some few others—wheat and rye are almost never used in Japanese whisky. Additionally, the initial mash fermentation process in Japan typically uses an agent similar to the koji used in sake fermentation. These two major differences lend Japanese whisky its distinction from other whiskies produced throughout the world. “Corn” redirects here. ... Pearl millet in the field The millets are a group of small-seeded species of cereal crops, widely grown around the world for food and fodder. ... Species Oryza glaberrima Oryza sativa Brown basmati rice Terrace of paddy fields in Yunnan Province, southern China. ... Species T. aestivum T. boeoticum T. compactum T. dicoccoides T. dicoccon T. durum T. monococcum T. spelta T. sphaerococcum T. timopheevii References:   ITIS 42236 2002-09-22 For the indie rock group see: Wheat (band). ... Binomial name Secale cereale M.Bieb. ... Aspergillus oryzae (Japanese: kōji 麹) is a fungus used in Japanese cuisine. ... Sake barrels at Itsukushima Shrine. ...


One facet of the style of Japanese whisky comes from the way in which blended whisky is produced, and the differing nature of the industry in Japan. Despite the recent rise of interest in single malt whiskies, the vast proportion of whisky sold in the world is still blended. The requirements of blended whiskies are one of the main driving forces behind the diversity of malts produced by Scotland's distilleries. Typically each distillery will focus on a particular style, and blenders will choose from this wide array of elements offered by all the different distilleries to make their product. Whilst sometimes a particular brand of blended whisky may be owned by a company that also owns one or more distilleries, it is also quite common for trading to take place between the various companies. The components of a blend may involve malt whisky from a number of distilleries, and each of these could conceivably be owned by a different company.


In Japan however a different model is generally adopted. Typically the whisky companies own both the distilleries and the brands of blended whiskies. These companies are often reluctant to trade with their competitors. So a blended whisky in Japan will generally only contain malt whisky from the distilleries owned by that same company (sometimes supplemented with malts imported from Scottish distilleries).


This clearly means that blenders in Japan have in the past had a significantly reduced palette from which to create their products. It has been suggested that this may have been a limiting factor in the success of Japanese blends, particularly outside of Japan.


As a reaction to this, individual distilleries in Japan have become increasingly more diverse over recent years. It is quite common for a single Japanese distillery to produce a wide range of styles, from the smokey and peaty style of Islay, through the heavily sherried, to the lighter and more delicate floral notes of Speyside. Landsat image of Islay Islay (pronounced ; Scottish Gaelic: , or ee-luh), a Scottish island, known as The Queen of the Hebrides, is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides. ... Speyside can refer to: The famous whisky producing region properly known as Strathspey The type of whisky produced in Strathspey, Speyside Single Malts The town of Speyside in Trinidad and Tobago This is a disambiguation page, a list of pages that otherwise might share the same title. ...


The diversity and innovation to be found in Japanese distilleries may be one of the contributing factors to their recent high profile and acclaim in the global arena.


References

  • Harold J. Grossman and Harriet Lembeck, Grossman's Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits (6th edition). Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1977, pp. 343-4. ISBN 0-684-15033-6

External links

  • Nikka company's official English website
  • Japanese whisky information site by Takeshi Mogi
  • Japanese single malt whisky site

 
 

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