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It wasn’t long ago that you could find a bottle of 12-year-old Japanese whisky at your local liquor store for around $50. Unfortunately, those days are in the rearview mirror. The category has exploded in popularity over the past decade, resulting in disappearing age statements and skyrocketing prices for many beloved bottles.
The distilleries making the whisky say they were caught off guard by demand outpacing supply and are working hard to catch up. But, talking about the rarity and covet-ability of Japanese whisky is conveniently a great marketing tool. The good news: New brands have entered the marketplace. They’re working their way up to provide thirsty consumers with alternatives to elusive expressions from classic brands like Suntory and Nikka. If you’re hoping to pour yourself a glass of Japanese whisky, here’s everything you need to know.
What Is Japanese Whisky?
Japanese whisky (they spell it without the “e”) is a distilled spirit made from a mash of grains, water and yeast. While it’s most closely modeled after Scotch, there are some key differences. Blending is front and center in Japanese whisky, with the job of master blender often given the same weight as that of master distiller here in the U.S. Distilleries, like Yamazaki, employ different types of stills to make their whisky and mature it in a wide variety of casks. This means they can produce many different styles, which can then be blended to achieve a particular flavor profile.