These Essential Bottles Are Worth Seeking Out
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LIQUOR / Chloe Jeong
Best for Cocktails: Shinju Whisky at Drizly
Matured for two to four years in white oak barrels, Shinju is a Japanese whisky that is geared towards the cocktail world.
Japanese whisky has become incredibly popular over the past few years. Bottles have also become increasingly rare , as distilleries have struggled to meet the demand due to the categorys rapid growth. Brands have stepped in by offering new blends and no-age-statement whiskies, and many of these are great cocktail components. If you are looking for bottles, be sure to do your research as some brands source a blend of whiskies made in other countries, bottle it in Japan and call it Japanese whisky. But theres a reason why its so sought-afterthere are some truly incredible drams to be drunk. Here are the best bottles of Japanese whiskies available, with help from a few experts.
It Claims To Have Been Used In The Original Highball
Turns out, Suntory takes credit for a lot of firsts one of them being the Japanese whisky Highball. This two-ingredient beverage combines whisky and sparkling water, and is served in a Collins glass over ice. According to the brand, Suntory popularized the beverage in the 1950s at its Tory bars all around Japan.
Suntory Owes Its Success To Soldiers
World War II ignited a thirst for whisky in both Japanese and American soldiers. In Japan, sales of whisky rose each year during the war making wartime one of the most profitable years in history for Japanese whisky brands like Suntory and Nikka. The nations demand for whisky continued to grow in postwar years and for decades to come, causing the spirit to become the most consumed alcohol category in Japan at the time. This is due in part to high levels of consumption by occupying American soldiers, who preferred Japanese beer and whisky to sake.
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The History Of Suntory Whiskies
Whisky as we know it today has been a popular and prominent spirit around the world for over five hundred centuries. It was first distilled for worldwide distribution in Scotland in the late 1400s, but the tradition of distilling grain into whisky is rooted so far back into Gaelic history that its almost impossible to remove that history and tradition from the liquor itself.
But Torii, when he developed a passion for Japanese mixology in his late teens and early 20s, was mesmerized by the liquor and wanted more than anything to create it in Japan. He didnt, however, wish to westernize Japanese distillation. Instead, he wanted to infuse the liquor with Japan itself, remaining true to the terroir and spirit of Japanese culture. He wanted to create a truly Japanese whisky, distilled on Japanese soil from Japanese grain, using Japanese sensibilities to develop the nose, palate, and finish into something utterly new.
In 1923, when Torii inherited his family fortune, he immediately invested it in building the first ever Japanese whisky distillery, situated at his ideal location in Yamazaki, Japan.
Suntory has since dominated the international beverage market, taking over distribution and marketing of brand names like Jim Beam, Courvoissier, and Canadian Club Whisky while developing their own lineup into a household name for the worldwide elite.
The Mixing Glass / Costa Mesa
Bartenders who know their trade turned business owners.
- Iwai, Nika, and Ohishi Whisky are just a few of the Japanese whisky offered at the Mixing glass.
Location:3313 Hyland Ave, Costa Mesa, CA 92626Brands: Iwai, Nikka, Ohishi, to name a few.Pricing/availability: if you want to go someplace where they actually know something beyond what aisle the Scotch and whisky is located on, you have to come here. They carry the usual suspects, but they also carry the obscure, like the stuff only people in what I like to call the biz know of .Telephone: 975-9952
Locations:2975 Harbor Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92626Brands: Suntory, Nikka, White Oak, and a number of others.Pricing/availability: who would have thought a Japanese market would have it? Everybody thats who, its Japanese whisky and a Japanese market, but what I was not expecting was such uncompetitive or average pricing. I mean, I thought theyd be like hey, youre a Japanese company, and were a Japanese company, so were going to hook it up. Well, that wasnt happening.Telephone: 751-8433
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Best Overall: Yamazaki 12 Year Old
Suntorys Yamazaki 12 Year Old could be considered the core expression of the brands single malt lineup . It is probably the best known Suntory whisky and was once pretty easy to find . This is a floral and fruity single malt reminiscent of scotch but in a style that is very much its own. All in all, its an excellent starting point for those wishing to explore the category of Japanese whisky.
The Complete Guide To Suntory Japanese Whisky: Important Brands And Bottles Explained
From Hibiki to highball whisky, heres everything you need to know about Suntory, Japans most prolific whisky makers.
Welcome to Brand Breakdown, a series of comprehensive yet easy-to-digest guides to your favorite companies, with insights and information you wont find on the average About page.
Yamazaki. Hakushu. Hibiki. When a Westerner thinks of Japanese whisky, they think of names under the House of Suntory. Which makes sense, of course Shinjiro Toriis company, founded in 1923, is Japans first and most popular whisky maker. But it wasnt always that way.
In 1929, Torii hired Masataka Taketsuru to create the worlds first Japanese whisky. They got it wrong. The expression, called Suntory Shirofuda, tasted too much like Scotch too peaty, too powerful. Torii realized the Japanese palate didnt want ultra-smokey peat bombs it wanted finesse. So they made what has since become the most popular whisky Japan: Suntory Kakubin. Its light, punchy and floral, the baseline for all Japanese whiskies to come.
Since then, Suntorys whiskies have grown in volume, quality and prestige. It operates three whisky distilleries across Japan Yamazaki Distillery, Hakushu Distillery, Chita Distillery each with its own purpose and flair. Heres everything you need to know.
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Best Age Statement Blend: Hibiki 17 Year Old
Region: Japan | ABV: 43% | Tasting Notes: Toffee, Cherry, Peach
In Japanese whisky, the art of blending is very important. A testament to this is Suntorys superb Hibiki range. There are two NAS blends available, but the 17-year-old is as good as any single malt out there. This is a blend of grain and malt whiskies that are aged for nearly two decades, with a silky smooth mouthfeel and a buttery, fruit-laden palate. You could use this for a very top-shelf cocktail, but it’s really best sipped and savored neat.
Region: Japan | ABV: 45% | Tasting Notes: Almond, Smoke, Vanilla
While few Japanese whiskies come close to the levels of Islay scotch in terms of peat, there are some decidedly smoky expressions available. Nikkas Yoichi Single Malt is one of the best. This NAS whisky has an ample dose of smoke, but its balanced out by tropical fruit and caramel flavors on the palate. Sip this neat, or mix with soda and ice for an intensely flavored Highball.
Further Expansion At Suntory Whisky
The Japanese whisky boom allowed Suntory to expand even further and today they have vested interests in not only Japanese whisky, but also Scotch and bourbon. They have gone on to produce some of the most astounding whiskies ever created, picking up a huge number of awards along the way.
They are without a doubt one of the biggest drinks companies in the world today a true drinks giant and whisky legend.
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Best World Blend: Mars Maltage Cosmo
Courtesy of Whiskey Exchange
Region: Japan | ABV: 43% | Tasting Notes: Orange, Chocolate, Dried fruit
The bottle from the Mars Shinshu distillery is a blend of whisky distilled in Japan and sourced from Scotland. Catherine Simmerman of Pepe Le Moko in Portland, Oregon is a fan, saying Mars Maltage Cosmo tastes like a sherry casked scotch with hints of vanilla and plum.
Thats likely due to the inclusion of whisky that was aged in sherry butts in the blend, along with liquid aged in ex-bourbon barrels. Try this one over a few ice cubes or in a cocktail like an Old Fashioned.
Costco / Multiple Locations
Attention Costco shoppers they carry Japanese whisky and as expected, the pricing is competitive.
- Goes great with Japanese kakuni or Okinawan rafute.
- Suntory Toki.
- My favorite of Nikka is the Taketsuru.
Locations: Fullerton, Garden Grove, Alton Marketplace, Tustin, The District, Bella Terra, San Juan Capistrano, Fountain Valley, Westminster, Laguna Niguel, Yorba Linda, La Habra.Brands: Suntory, NikkaPricing/availability: I dont even have a CostCo membership, but everybody I know who drinks knows that this is the spot for Japanese whisky. Not only do they carry a decent range, but like always, the pricing is as good as it gets.
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Other Whiskies Of Interest
Information and Whisky Prices
The prices of whisky shown by these search results are indicative and can be subject to change. Before finishing your transaction, do consult the whisky retailers website. VAT or Sales Tax is included within whisky prices, but shipping costs are not included. Your purchase may be subject to import duty.
Best Under $: Nikka Coffey Grain
Region: Japan | ABV: 45% | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Coffee, Caramel
Nikka is another major whisky producer in Japan. Coffey Grain is named after Aeneas Coffey, the inventor of the continuous still, and is made mostly from corn as opposed to the barley used for single malts. This gives the delicious whisky a creamy texture with a sweetness that should appeal to bourbon fans.
Region: Japan | ABV: 45% | Tasting Notes: Baking spice, Pear, Vanilla
“This whisky is from the Nagano prefecture in Japan,” says Michael Brooks, co-owner of Bed-Vyne Wine & Spirits. This blend is made from a mash bill that is mostly corn, with some malted barley and rye as well. It has aromas of vanilla with hints of baking spices, and the palate is lean with pear and quince notes. This is a great summer sipper and excellent for making cocktails because of its 45 percent alcohol level,” he says.
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Best For Highball: Suntory Toki
I really enjoy Suntory Toki Whisky, says Darnell Holguin, co-founder of The Silver Sun Group and beverage partner at New Yorks Las Lap. Toki, which means time in Japanese, has a blend of some of the best that Suntory makes. It has notes of pink grapefruit, almonds and a light vanilla finish. Just mix some with sparkling water and a squeeze of lemon, and youll have yourself a yummy Highball.
Just Want To Find A Bar With Japanese Whisky At I Got You
When the internet came about, this is the website and service that we all needed, I mean for us drinkers. The site TapHunters allows you to search for a bar that serves a Yamazaki 12 to a Nikka Coffey grain. Pure sorcery, if it works effectively! Well, the skeptic I am, here are the results for Suntory Whisky Toki based on my 92663 zip code .
- The Eldo, Long Beach, 16.17mi
- The Whisper House, Claremont, 34.85mi
- Heroes Restaurant Brewery, Downtown Riverside, 40.78mi
- Mission Ave Bar and Grill, 42.45mi
- Basin 141, Glendale, 43.72mi
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A Marriage Of Intricate Japanese Single Malts
While you may not have heard of Toki Whisky itself before, youve almost definitely heard of its parent brand, Suntory.
This elegant Japanese whisky house is responsible for plenty of favorite bottles in the industry, like Yamazaki Whisky, Suntorys flagship single malt whisky, and Hakushu, the brands green, fresh, and slightly herbal single malt whisky.
But the brand wasnt content with just these offerings. And, while Suntory excels when it comes to single malts, it also knows whats what in the world of blended whisky. What followed was a wholly successful journey into new territories.
Mix two popular whiskies together and youll find yourself at the birth of Toki. Specifically, Toki is a blend of both Suntorys Hakushu and Yamazaki whiskies from Chita distilleries, combining Hakushus American white oak cask malt whisky and Chitas heavy-type grain whisky.
The result? Something unlike anything else in the world of whisky. Something lighter, something perfectly balanced, and something endlessly enjoyable.
This is also one of the best examples as to where Tokis name stemmed from fusing together some of the worlds most impressive and well-loved Japanese whiskies with something new and creative. Its the old and the new, with timeor Tokiblending them perfectly together.
Much like everything else the Japanese have created, Toki is a celebration of innovation and reinvention while respecting tradition and authenticity.
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|10 x 7 x 27 cm 1 Kilograms|
|Item model number|
|Beam Suntory, Springburn Bond, Carlisle St, Glasgow, G21 1EQ|
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The Best Cocktails To Make With Toki Whisky
Toki Whisky is a flavourful whisky, which means it pairs best with subtle flavors that dont draw the attention away from its base spirit. While Toki might mostly be poured into its staple Japanese Highball, it also works wonders with other subtleor sometimes vibrantcocktail recipes. The trick is to mix carefully and slowly, using measured flavors that dont shout too loudly.
It Wasnt Always Known As Suntory
In the 1940s, before Suntory was a household name in the United States, it was an inexpensive Japanese brand known as Torii Shoten, then Kotobukiya. The brand officially changed its name in 1963 to Suntory, a manipulation of the Japanese words san, meaning three likely after Toriis three sons and Torii for the brands founder.
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The Yamazaki 12 Year Old Is The Winner
We independently research, test, review, and recommend the bestproductslearn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
LIQUOR / Chloe Jeong
Best Rice Whisky:Kikori at Drizly
This rice whisky is aged in American oak, French Limousin oak, and sherry casks for a minimum of three years.
Best 18 Year Old:Yamazaki 18 at Drizly
Its aged for 18 years in a combination of American, Spanish and MIzunara oak, giving the whisky a wide range of flavor notes.
Japanese whisky has become incredibly popular over the past few years. Bottles have become increasingly rare, and expensive, as distilleries have claimed to struggle to meet the demand due to the categorys rapid growth. Brands have stepped in to fill the void by offering new blends and NAS whiskies, and many of these are great cocktail components. If you are hunting down bottles, be sure to do your research as some brands source a blend of whiskies made in other countries, bottle it in Japan, and call it Japanese whisky. But theres a reason why its become so popularthere are some truly incredible drams to be drunk. If youre looking to explore the category, the Yamazaki 12 Year Old is a good place to start, which is why its our top choice.
Here are the best bottles we’ve found out there, with some help from a few experts.
Alternatives To Suntory Whisky
This whisky isnt the easiest to find in person, but it is reliably in stock from online retailers. This Japanese whisky takes inspiration from American whiskey, using corn as the primary grain mash. For a combination of Japanese and American sensibilities, consider Mars Iwai.
Akashi Blended Whisky: $38- Akashi is a good introduction into the world of Japanese whisky. If you cant find Whisky Toki, see if you can find Akashi, because they have a similar commitment to the Japanese terroir and palate.
Nikka Whiskey From the Barrel: $80- This Japanese whisky utilizes Japanese mash and heavy oak aging processes to marry the styles of Scotch and Japanese whisky for a unique experience.
Miyagikyo Loch Fyne Whisky: $100- This single peat-malt whisky is one of the only of its kind in the world, making it well worth the top-shelf price tag. If youre interested in unique flavor profiles in whisky, this is for you.
Yomato Takeda Whisky: $350- This high-end limited edition pays homage to the Japanese publics flavor profile: less smokey and more delicate than the Western counterparts. This results in a smoother whiskey with more distinguishable notes in the mash.
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