India is the world’s largest whisky market. With growing demand, customers are now delving into not just Scotch whisky, but are willing to explore other whisky experiences from around the world. The same reason can be attributed to the fact that not just Scotland but others are also upping their ante and producing classy and quality whiskies. This phenomenon has led to Japanese whisky being a huge attraction in the recent past. Not just that, but post Jim Murray’s naming Japan’s Suntory’s Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013, the world’s best single malt among over 1000 whisky samples, the popularity has soared high.
Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory, built Japan’s first whisky distillery in the valley of Yamazaki in 1923. The first Japanese whisky to come out of this distillery – “Suntory Shirofuda” failed to please Japanese customers. However, that didn’t stop Torii. At present, Suntory exports to more than 35 countries. Known for its single malts, especially the 12-year-old (YO) and the 18YO, the whiskies are usually enjoyed on the rocks as an after-dinner drink or paired with sushi and sashimi as a tall drink with a splash of water and ice.
Torii’s lead, was followed by Masataka Taketsuru who also learnt the art of malts from Scotland and founded Nikka Whisky. Nikka boasts of blended malts such as the signature ‘from the barrel’ which is blended and then re-casked, and bottled directly.
Today, Japan is among one of the leading producers and consumer of whisky. The combination of natural terrain and the weather makes Japan a perfect locale for such beautiful whisky creations with the most exclusive flavours. Japanese whiskies are best had neat or with water. In India, Japanese whiskies have been welcomed with open arms. Radico Khaitan, a major Indian liquor producer, brought Japanese whiskies in India in 2011. Hibiki 17 years is a floral malt with hints of honey and fruits, with a long spicy finish reminiscent of Lowland whiskies. Hakushu 12 years exhumes flavours from mild to-medium smokiness and Yamazaki 18 years is a renowned whisky with hints of raisin, apricot, cloves and peaches, and a woody spicy finish, similar to whiskies from the Highlands.
Japanese whiskies are dynamic in respect of them being able to be soft and mellow to taste, as well as robust and intense on the palate covering a gamut of flavours compared to the Scottish ones that have a classic taste. It is believed that Japanese whiskies are one of the most balanced spirits across the globe, making for a good collector’s item.
Try some of these Japanese whisky cocktails:
Coffey Malt “Sonic”- In a highball glass with ice, combine one and a half ounces of Nikka Coffey Malt with two ounces of tonic water and two ounces of club soda. Give a quick stir and garnish with an expressed lemon wedge.
Coffey Malt & Bubbles– In a flute or a coupe, pour one ounce of Nikka Coffey Malt, a quarter-ounce of honey syrup (equal parts honey and hot water, stirred until honey dissolves), one dash of Peychaud’s bitters, and one dash of Angostura. Give a quick stir and top with three ounces of sparkling wine. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Hakushu Highball- Fill a highball glass with large ice cubes. Pour the Hakushu over the ice. Gently stir the whisky with a bar spoon 13 and a half times. Pour the club soda over the back of the bar spoon and into the highball glass. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Black Ship- Add 45 ml Hibiki 12-Year-Old Whisky, 30 ml Pomegranate juice, 7.5 ml Port and 1 tsp Lemon juice to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.
Yamazaki Autumn Delight– Add Yamazaki 12-Year-Old and cider to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Dust with ground cinnamon and garnish with 2 apple slices and a cinnamon stick.
Zen Merry Manhattan- Add 150 ml Zen Green Tea Liqueur, 30 ml Yamazaki 12-Year-Old Whisky, 30 ml Cinzano sweet vermouth, 2 dashes Bitters to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir briskly for 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled 120 ml cocktail glass. Garnish with a sugar covered cherry.