The social drinker
Japanese whisky might seem like a gimmick here in Ireland where whiskey distilleries are springing up everywhere, but any whiskey lover who denies themselves the chance to try a dram or two from Japan’s 100-year-old whisky industry is a fool.
There are only a few places around the country that stock Japanese whisky, and almost certainly the whisky to go for is a 12-year-old single malt from Yamazaki which, last year, became the ever first Japanese whisky to be named the world’s best whisky.
Yamazaki is made by Suntory, one of Japan’s two big distilleries. It may ring bells for those who watched the overrated and dreary film,
Lost in Translation. In the film, Bill Murray plays a washed-up actor who is in Japan to promote the distillery with the words. “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time!”.
It’s as good a slogan as any, and is a reminder that it is difficult to describe the subtle taste differences between spirits. In general, it is fair to say that Japanese whiskies tend to have a mild and smooth taste, and Yamazaki is best described as nutty, smooth, soft, and a tad sweet.
Japanese whiskies take the same spelling as their Scottish counterparts for a reason; they are modelled on Scottish production techniques; distilled twice using pot stills. Many Japanese distilleries also use malted and peated barley from Scotland.
If you can’t get hold of Yamazaki, Suntory’s Hibiki is also excellent, and available here.
The Hibiki 17 Year Old is delicious, or go for the smooth Hibiki Japanese Harmony; it’s more widely available.