From luxury cars to haute couture and fine whiskies; Japanese products are coveted around the world. The legendary Japanese craftsmanship draws inspiration from nature and heritage. Nature and its distinct manifestations through the four beautiful seasons – spring, summer, autumn and winter – is central to art, culture and aesthetics in the land of the rising sun.
Japanese whiskies have been toast of the whisky world for nearly two decades & classified as fine examples of Luxury in Whisky.
I first tasted the uber Luxe Yamazaki 25 YO at a Blind Whisky Tasting in London, in 2016. As a Judge on the World Whisky Awards panel, it was one of the 48 whiskies, I tasted that cold February day. The deep & intense whisky was sublime, distinctive, assertive with rich aroma & a long finish. I was keen to know the name of the Whisky, since it just stood way above all other whiskies we had tasted that day. Later that evening, at the World Whisky Awards ceremony, The Yamazaki 25 YO, was Declared The Best Single Malt in the World. One more accolade for the hugely successful Japanese Whisky Industry !
The story of Japanese whisky goes back just about a 100 Years. Suntory, headquartered in Tokyo, pioneered Japanese whisky & are renowned for their Art of Blending. The founding father of Japanese whisky, Shinjiro Torii, dreamt of creating an authentic Japanese whisky, by choosing a terrain & climate completely different to that of Scotland, thereby cultivating unique conditions for maturation. Japanese Whiskies have been conquering the palate of global drinkers, since early 2000`s.
Over the last few years, Japanese Whiskies have grown at a higher pace than Scotch, Bourbon & Irish whiskies. Even though some of the most sought-after whiskies have stopped production, the pace of growth in Value & Volume is quite significant.
Suntory with its brands, like Hibiki, Yamazaki &Hakshu and Nikka with Miyagikyo, Yoichi & Nikka, are feeling the shortage of whisky. These brands were leading the explosion of the Japanese Whisky industry & have a huge following globally but may not be on offer due to a lack of the ageing stock needed to create them.
This has led to price increases as well as introduction of Non-Aged Statement Whiskies. Once the core brands may not easily available, Whisky enthusiasts, will move beyond to discover new variants.
In 2003, Ichiro Akuto, launched Chichibu, which is finding a much following with serious whisky drinkers. Kirin, Japan launched Kirin Fuji Gotemba and won several awards. In India, Kirin Fuji Sanroku was introduced in 2016 & was appreciated by customers & consumers. The Akashi White Oak distillery, based in Eigashima, also launched some new expressions. In 2018, I tasted Kamiki Whisky as well.
Japanese Whiskies mostly uses Ex-Bourbon Casks to mature its whiskies. Though increasingly, it has used Spanish Oak and Japanese Wood as well. Keeping in view that Cedarwood does not bend as easily, it is normally used for cask ends. Mr. Shinji Fukuyo, Executive Officer and Chief Blender of Suntory Spirits Limited Suntory is also considering Wine & Brandy casks. Different styles of wood add interesting Flavours, more complexity & above all-new styles of whisky are being created. With a more discerning palate, customers are also used to experimenting with different flavors.
The latest launch in India, Toki, the blended whisky from the House of Suntory, is an impeccable blend of that traditional craftsmanship and heritage of timeless luxury. The word Toki means time in Japanese – a richly layered concept of the blend of respect for tradition and reinvention through innovative creative energy.
Toki – a vivid blend of whiskies from Suntory’s Hakushu, Yamazaki, and Chita distilleries; featuring the quintessential characteristics of exquisite balance, harmony and oneness – belongs to this galaxy. Backed by a heritage that spans over a century, Suntory is the most respected name in Japanese whisky.
Toki reflects the vision of its makers to craft quintessentially delicate Japanese spirits that are revered among whisky lovers worldwide.Suntory Whisky Toki™ offers its silky flavour, vivid character, and bold inventiveness.
The symbolism drawn from the heart of nature extends to Toki Whisky – the unique pairing of Hakushu American white oak cask malt whisky with Chita heavygrain whisky that overturns the traditional hierarchy between malt and grain. These seemingly dissimilar but deeply accordant whiskies, together with select Yamazaki malts for additional depth and complexity, give Suntory Whisky Toki its silky taste, vivid character, and bold inventiveness. The whisky offers a fine balance, of taste, a rich palate & good finish – in harmony with nature. Each of the distinctive whiskies including Hakushu American white oak cask malt whisky combine with Chita heavy-type grain whisky & together with select Yamazaki malts for additional depth and complexity
The smoothness of Toki gives it versatility to be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, as a highball or mixed as a cocktail. The Tokihighball is a carefully crafted cocktail with the best attention to details creating harmony between Toki’s vivid blend, a top-quality ice and a highly carbonated water. It’s a perfectly balanced and refreshing drink, enhancing the delicate sweetness and aromatic notes. As a highball, Toki delivers the most authentic yet modern Japanese whisky experience.It re-interprets the classic whisky soda praised in the 1950s.
Toki Master distiller Shinji Fukuyo believes in constantly creating new experiments in the distillery and challenging himself to create new products. “One of my mentors said ‘you should think of whisky all the time’ to get the finest results. I follow that,” he says. “It lies in understanding the entire making process — from the quality of the water, the right grain, fermentation, casks and distillation. Personally, I start with the nose of the whisky and then work backwards to create the flavour profile. My travels across the world, and what I see, hear and taste, help me explore a variety of profiles. Blending spirits is about creating a harmonious flavour, by weaving culture and tradition along with one’s own form of self-expression. It is an art in itself.”
Hanyu&Karuizawa are some of the most expensive, rare and collectible whiskies in the entire world, from Japan’s silent distilleries. Post closure of the Distillery, their prices have soared.
Japanese Whisky industry is scripting its future. Whilst on one side, Suntory & Nikka are bringing out new expressions, on the other side, smaller & new distilleries are bringing out new brands. Soon Japan will be the Scotland of the East, with a large whisky landscape across different brands, styles & tastes.
Enjoy Responsibly !