Whisky is big business in Japan with Scotch whisky being especially popular, yet with their own history of brewing and sake production, it’s only logical that the Japanese are now making whisky too. What began as a conscious imitation of Scotch, now has a style all of its own, and since commercial production began in the early 20th century, the quality has been steadily improving.
Today, most of the malt whisky produced in Japan is for blending but Japanese distillers generally don’t trade casks in the manner that Scottish distillers do. Consequently, it’s up to each distillery to produce a diversity of styles that will form the base components of ‘house blends’ that offer unique and complex flavour profiles. Some Japanese blends will even include a percentage of Scotch whisky, rather than whisky from rival local distillers. This jealous reluctance to exchange is considered one of the major obstacles holding the industry back from the prominence it deserves: In a number of blind tastings recently 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 occasion, the results have had Japanese single malts scoring higher than their Scotch counterparts.