Ende 2014 wurde die Nachricht verkündet: Der beste Whisky der Welt kommt aus Japan. Der Brite Jim Murray setzte den ‘Yamazaki Sherry Cask’ der Marke Beam Suntory auf Platz eins. Seitdem ist japanischer Whiskey beliebter denn je, weiss Theresa Kovermann von Ketchum Pleon Frankfurt.

Ein Beitrag aus unserem internationalen Foodmagazin “Inspired by Food No.2 – Ketchum’s Tasting Notes”:

Japanese Whiskey








At the end of 2014, the news was announced: the best whisky  in the world comes from Japan. The Briton Jim Murray placed the Yamazaki Sherry Cask from the company Beam Suntory in first place. Since then, Japanese whisky has become more popular than ever, acknowledges Theresa Kovermann,  Ketchum Pleon Frankfurt.

Compared with Scottish single malts or American bourbon whiskys, the market share of Japanese whisky on the European market is still small. The reason for this is that a large proportion of Japanese whisky production remains in Japan and only a small amount is exported. Yet Japanese whisky in Europe is becoming increasingly popular. Last year, sales almost doubled in this relatively small category. Especially in the premium bars of big cities, the demand and ultimately the disposal of these ‘exotics’ continuously increased.

If one talks of Japanese whisky, many think of ‘learned from the Scots’. This is half the truth: The Japanese came to Scotland and learned from the locals about the production of whisky. Thereby, they were able to take the techniques learned back to Japan and produce their own whisky. However, as so often happens when the Japanese have their hands in the game, they brought the whole manufacturing process to perfection. The success story of Japanese whisky begins with the creation and the development of the first Japanese distillery Suntory Yamazaki Distillery in 1923 by Shinjiro Torii. The oldest distillery of Japan is located north of Osaka on the outskirts of the former capital Kyoto. Justification for the choice of the site was the closeness of high-quality water and the particularly mild climate. Following the Scottish tradition, the Yamazaki whisky has been produced by the classical pot still process. Best water resources, former bourbon and Spanish sherry casks and barrels made of
Japanese water oak (also called Mizunara) complete the whisky from the land of the rising sun.

Another great pioneer of Japanese whisky was Masataka Taketsuru, who travelled to Scotland in 1918 to learn how to produce whisky. Back in Japan, he became the first manager at Suntory and founded, together with Torii, the Yamazaki distillery. However, in 1934, he established his own firm, which brought its first whisky onto the market in 1940 under the name Nikka. Suntory and Nikka are still the two largest whisky producers in Japan. In total, there are eight Japanese distilleries belonging to five owners – Scotland in comparison has around 100 distilleries. The most famous Japanese whisky brands are Yamazaki and Nikka. Both are also extremely popular among European whisky drinkers.

Yet Japanese whisky does not enjoy the same attention as its Scottish or American counterparts. However, they have in recent years won numerous awards, most recently with the industry news par excellence: “Disgrace for Scotland: best whisky in the world comes from Japan”. The Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 has been voted by ‘Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2015’ as “Best Whisky in the World”, which resulted in immense media coverage. The product was not only sold out worldwide in a very short time, it also helped the Japanese whisky gain greater attention.

But why this hype and what trends inspired this development? Basically, consumers are increasingly asking for higher-quality spirits and therefore access to premium brands. Japan is synonymous with high quality. Not only in cars and electronics, but also in the food industry: Kobe beef, Wagyu meat, sushi, etc. represent quality and luxury within the food sector. It is therefore only logical that whisky, which has been produced by traditional Scottish methods and perfected by Japanese craftsmanship, aroused the attention of connoisseurs. In addition, the group of whisky connoisseurs who are always in search of new experiences is growing. In recent years, they have engaged intensively with Scottish and Irish malt whisky and are now curious about new tastes and flavours.

And the Japanese are catching up fast and now know how to attract attention within their clientele. This summer, Suntory announced it was going to shoot whisky samples into space, to find out how they mature in weightlessness. Though the company is not the first, because the Scots were here a bit faster, one can expect that the Japanese will try to notch this up – maybe they also bring it below the ground. However, after a year in the Japanese laboratory of the International Space Station, the samples
will be brought back to Earth and we can look forward to the next Japanese coup!