A little more than a decade after the Japanese whiskey market collapsed, it’s finally becoming easier to find the country’s nuanced and amazing spirit in the United States. After sampling a number of them during the Editor’s Choice trip to Hokkaido (page 58), these three stood out as the best ones to try stateside if you’re not headed to Japan anytime soon (but we recommend tasting them in Japan, too).
NIKKA YOICHI SINGLE MALT
Yoichi is the only whiskey made entirely in Nikka’s first distillery, built on Hokkaido in 1934. The facility uses coal for heating during the distilling process, which produces a smoky, slightly peaty, single malt whiskey.
SUNTORY THE YAMAZAKI 18 YEAR
The Yamazaki distillery is Japan’s first, built in 1923 just off the road that connects Osaka and Kyoto. This single malt is perhaps the best 18-year whiskey east of Scotland— rich, layered, oaky, very expensive, and worth every penny.
ICHIRO’S MALT & GRAIN
Made in Japan’s youngest distillery, Chichibu, the Malt & Grain is a blend of Japanese, Scotch, Irish, Canadian, and American whiskeys aged for one to three years, and imbued with notes of fruit and vanilla-sweetness.