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Best Asian Whiskey – Everything You Need To Know

Over the last decade, from windswept Scottish distilleries to Asia’s bustling neon-lit cities, the flow of fine Whisky to the region has been unremittingly growing as Asians formulate a taste for their so-called water of life. Asians have been increasingly drawn to the tipple, not only because of the steady drip of drinks to relish with its strong, smoky aroma and high alcoholic content, but accounting for around 20% of the 3 billion pounds. James Espey, an industry veteran and founder of The Keepers of the Quaich, stated, “It’s huge and vital. Asia is the future.”

From ancient, renowned Whisky brands have appeared in the market, with Japanese Whisky being flag bearers for this continent’s distilleries. However, outside of Japan, not many Asian countries are producing Whisky. Distilleries and developing makers in unexpected countries like Bhutan and Indonesia are starting to pop up here and there, but only some have been produced for export. Beyond the famous brands of Hibiki and Yamazaki, distilleries from India’s Amrut and Taiwan’s Kavalan have captured the vision and significant palates of serious Whisky drinkers worldwide. Asian whiskies are delicate, refined, and full-on power that matches Scotland’s Islay style. It is undoubtedly a diverse bunch. 

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What Does Asian Whisky Taste Like?

Every Whisky style and each brand within the style will have distinct flavor traits. In general, Asian Whisky has a woody, grainy, oaky taste with vanilla, fruits, caramel, and spice notes. In addition, some whiskies have a harsh alcohol burn, while others are pretty smooth.

Best Asian Whisky

Amrut Peated Blackadder Raw Cask

Amrut Peated Blackadder Raw Cask

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Amrut, a Sanskrit word translated as “drink of the gods,” “nectar of the gods,” or “nectar of life,” is an Indian brand of single malt whiskey manufactured by Amrut Distilleries. Blackadder is exceptionally proud to have Amrut Indian Malt Whisky as part of its portfolio. Established in Bangalore in 1948, this multi-award-winning Distillery keeps going from strength to strength. These series have received multiple awards for their single-cask whiskies over the past year.

Aroma/flavor: Exotic, almost indescribably so. Underripe bananas, incense, mukhwas. Smoky, meaty note of summer sausage. Some earthly-fruity scents of stewed prunes, a nip of cocoa powder, and the jungle’s enveloping humid, leafy greenness.

Background information: Amrut became famous after Whisky connoisseur Jim Murray gave it an 82 out of 100 in 2005 and 2010. In 2010 Jim named Amrut Fusion single malt the world’s third best. 

Type: Peated Single Malt

Distillery: Malted barley from Amrut

Region: India

Age: NAS

ABV: 62.1.1%

Price: From $127 (750 ml)

Cask type: Ex-Bourbon

Rating: 4.7

Tasting notes:

Nose: Heavy with peat and phenols. Sweet toffee and strong barley and alcohol feel. A little bit of smoke with earthly notes.

Taste: Sweet and earthly peat dominates. Hints of licorice, salt, and vanilla rise after balancing the dram with water. 

Finish: Long and powerful, the best part. Sweet peat and barley with warming spices.

Awards: Amrut’s Peated Blackadder Raw Cask (63% ABV) batch BA18/2013 won Best Peated Whisky 2013 in The Malt Maniacs Awards.

Amrut Single Malt Cask Strength

Amrut Single Malt Cask Strength

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Amrut is a classic house type with exquisite bourbon notes blended with the richest of barley statements, not wholly unlike caramelized biscuits dunked in coffee and a bit of spicy attitude. This spirit is the cask-strength version of Amrut Single Malt with a high ABV blended with Indian maturing conditions. The aging of Whisky happens faster in India, and Amrut is typically bottled very young. This exclusive bottling of Amrut Cask Strength Single Malt offers the connoisseur the chance to sample this Treasure of India.

Aroma/flavor: Salted pistachios, hay, herbal pine, banana chips, malt, orchard fruit, melon rind, wax, and vanilla. 

Background information: The Whisky is distilled from selected Indian barley grown at the Himalayan feet, tended by the native waters, and cultivated by old and traditional agricultural practices. It is carefully mashed and filtered in small batches to preserve the unique smell. In addition, it is matured in oak barrels in a unique tropical condition at 3,000 feet above sea level in India’s garden city, Bangalore.   

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Distilled in pot stills (Amrut Distillery)

Region: India

Age: NAS

ABV: 61.8%

Price: From $86.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Oak

Rating: 3.68

Tasting notes: Bottled at close to 124 proof, Amrut is a force to be reckoned with. The nose is quite a bourbon heavy with dark chocolate and orange zest present and accounted for. A mighty wallop of dried apricot and dark berry fruits takes you towards a stack of raw wood.

Flavor profile:

Awards:  Amrut Single Malt Cask Strength won the gold medal (93.5 points) in the International Review of Spirits Competition (2013).

Nikka From The Barrel Whisky

Nikka From The Barrel Whisky

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Nikka From The Barrel is made to deliver Whisky’s full richness and flavors “from barrels,” which only blenders can sniff and taste. This iconic bottle is designed to reflect “a small block of whisky,” – embodying the strong taste of the Whisky within. Nikka’s blended spirit goes into used barrels for another few months for “marriage” before it is bottled to deliver richness in full flavors.

Aroma/flavor: Packed with caramel, vanilla cream, sweet honey, and fruits, including berries, plums, dates, and oranges.

Background information: Nikka From The Barrel is drawn from a blend of more than a hundred batches of malt and grain Whisky manufactured at the brand’s Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries. This will be made available in the U.S. as of June 2018 in 750ml-sized bottles.

Type: Blended

Distillery: Yoichi Distillery (Feels like Scottish Distillery- fruity flavors and uses direct fire to heat) or Miyagikyo Distillery (similar to Scottish Lowland style flavor and different styles of grain whiskies)

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 51.4%

Price: From $89.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Ex-Bourbon barrels and Puncheons; Ex-Sherry Butts, Refilled, Recharred, and Remade Hogsheads 

Rating: 4.11

Smell: Floral, fruity, and a little spiced. Notes of citrus/orange peel, vanilla extract, apricot, caramel, and wood.

Flavor: Complex and smooth. Caramel candy, toffee, vanilla, dark chocolate, nutmeg. 

Finish: Long, warm, and creamy. Loads of oak and a little smoke. Red chili on the back of the throat. Notes of vanilla are present.

Flavor profile:

Awards: Best Japanese Blended Whisky No Age Statement (World Whiskies Awards, 2016)

Asaka Single Malt

Asaka Single Malt

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Bottled exclusively from a single bourbon cask where the Whisky has rested for three years, this Whisky is Asaka Distillery’s representative single malt. Free from coloring and chill-filtration, this limited edition offers a glance at the Master Blender’s signature that will be proudly defined in future bottlings of the House.

Aroma/flavor: Light-bodied, sweet and sour peach, plum, vanilla, tart crust

Background information: Asaka is the only Whisky producing distillery in the Tohoku region. It was founded in 2015 by Sasanokawa Shuzo, a company founded in 1765 that specialized in producing alcoholic beverages.

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Asaka Distillery

Region: Japan

Age: 3 years

ABV: 61%

Price: From $24,764.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Single Bourbon Cask

Rating: 3.54

Tasting notes:  Pears, peaches, and apples with a lovely custard backbone

Some confectionary qualities are also there, like powdered sugar on fried dough. The palate is very juicy with some bright citrus zest as well.

Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon

Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon

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Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon is a complex, multi-dimensional single malt Whisky matured in fresh American ex-Bourbon casks. Kavalan Distillery has had the unique privilege of forming the paradigm of what Taiwanese Whisky is. Their distillation method is specifically tuned to deliver a spirit that harnesses the advantages of aging in a tropical climate.

Aroma/flavor: Sweet and fruity. Bananas, pineapples, apricots, nectarines, and a whiff of citrus and grapefruit with a fair amount of vanilla.

Background information: Solist takes its roots from “Soloist” in German. It indicates the Whisky from a single Oloroso sherry cask.

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Distilled in pot stills

Region: Taiwan

Age: NAS

ABV: 59.9%

Price: From $189.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Ex-Bourbon

Rating: 4.07

Tasting notes: Lovely and forceful on the nose, this Whisky is chock full of Ceylon cinnamon, vanilla, and creamy tropical fruit. The palate is deeply layered, with exotic and familiar flavors: candied pineapple, licorice root, mango lassi, wintergreen, and sweet toffee cookie. 

Flavor profile:

Karuizawa Ruby Geisha 34-Year-Old Single Malt

An incredible series from Elixir Distillers, this 34-year-old Whisky was released alongside a 38-year-old version in Autumn 2021, making up the penultimate release in the Karuizawa Geisha series. Karuizawa Distillery was founded in 1955 in Miyota on the southern slopes of Mount Asama. It started production the following year, making single malt for the Ocean blends from Daikoku Budoshu. Karuizawa Geisha is currently one of the most well-known single malts, the fame which keeps growing as the remaining stock continues to thin.

Aroma/flavor: A rich and complex character with layers of sherry oak and spice.

Background information: Also known as Speciality Drinks, Elixir Distillers, an independent bottling arm of The Whisky Exchange, launched its retail site the same year. Their initial bottlings were under Scotland’s Single Malts label in 2005, followed by the Port Askaig single malt brand and Elements of Islay range in 2006 and 2009, respectively. 

Type: Peated Single Malt

Distillery: Karuizawa Distillery

Region: Japan

Age: 34

ABV: 58.5%

Price: From $36,000 (750 ml)

Buy on Saucey: Karuizawa Ruby Geisha 34-Year-Old Single Malt

Cask type: Sherry

Rating: 4.35

Tasting notes: 

Nose: Sherry with several dark fruits like raisins, black cherries, and currants, with some sweet aged oak.

Palate: Sweet plums, raisins, and a bit of smoke that accompanies the palate into the finish

Finish: Very long with those dark fruits and a hint of scorched wood, but not quite smoky, right at the end.

Kavalan Ex-Bourbon Cask Single Malt

Kavalan Ex-Bourbon Cask Single Malt

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Kavalan is Taiwanese single malt made and bottled by King Car Kavalan distillery in 2008. Kavalan ex-Bourbon dilutes Solist ex-Bourbon Oak with Kavalan spring water to 46% strength which is exceptionally smooth with a delicate sweetness, losing the harshness and the edge of the spirit and lingering over those distinctive flavors. It is a pure and fresh tropical fruit with pleasant vanilla, coconut, and spices.

Aroma/flavor: Exceptional taste, starts with peppery, salty licorice (salmiak). The palate turns sugary and tropical relatively fast, though. Like gin and tonic—carbonated berries with vanilla butter and toast, sprinkle. The body isn’t buttery thick, more like a light vanilla butter.

Background information: King Car, the enormous Taiwanese group established in 1956, has several business fields. They have production in food, aquaculture, biotechnology, and beverages.

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Distilled in pot stills

Region: Taiwan

Age: NAS

ABV: 57.1%

Price: From $184.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Ex-Bourbon

Rating: 4.07

Tasting notes: Sweet and forceful on the nose, Kavalan Ex-Bourbon blends vanilla, Ceylon cinnamon, and creamy tropical fruit. The palate is deeply layered, with exotic and familiar flavors: candied pineapple, licorice root, mango lassi, wintergreen, and sweet toffee cookie. Adding water somewhat tames the heat but mutes some unique tropical flavors, bringing out a more conventional cereal background note. 

Flavor profile:

Awards: Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask Single Malt Whisky won the gold medal in San Francisco World Spirits Competition awards (2021)

Amrut Fusion Single Malt Whisky

Fusion is an adept expression for this incredible Single Malt whisky from Amrut. India’s Amrut is a known premium whisky brand worldwide among non-Japanese whiskies. The company was the first to produce single malt for sale outside India, launched in 1948.

While most Indian whiskies might have a waxy and rum-like consistency, Amrut has set itself unique and only uses Himalayan-grown barley. Aged in ex-bourbon casks, Amrut has hints of fresh fruits like peach, apricot, and fruitcake. Cinnamon, black pepper, and an earthy molasses-like sweetness also yield a different flavor profile.

Aroma/flavor: Rich barley, fruity, big on citrus, spices, and creamy sweetness. A dash of peat. Palate: Oaky, rich and gentle peat, coffee, dark chocolate.

Background information: Amrut is the only single malt Whisky ever produced worldwide to have expressions of orange, bringing forth a new range of experimentation to the malt world.

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Peated Single Malt

Region: India

Age: NAS

ABV: 50%

Price: From $77.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Ex-Bourbon

Rating: 3.65

Tasting notes: You could do with a drop of water here as they have lovingly bottled this at 50% abv. This way, you can find more to the dram, like roasted chocolate, pears, and a small dose of peat smoke.

Flavor profile:

Awards: Amrut Fusion bagged the third rank in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible in 2010.

Kurayoshi Pure Malt 18 Years Old Whisky

Kurayoshi Pure Malt 18 Years Old Whisky

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Released in April 2016, The Kurayoshi Pure Malt Whisky is the product of the Matsui Distillery in southern Honshu. Matsui, a long-time sake and shochu producer, entered the Whisky market with only a few labels available in Japan and almost no stock destined for the international market. This blended malt uses sourced Scottish single malts and Japanese single malts.

Aroma/flavor: Sweet and spicy with malt overtones and an elegant finish of the smoke.

Background information: Located in Tottori, a coastal prefecture in southern Honshu, the whiskies produced by the Matsui Distillery are characterized by aging with the pure underground waters of the Daisen Mountains. 

Type: Blended Malt

Distillery: Matsui Shuzou Distillery

Region: Japan

Age: 18

ABV: 50%

Price: From $224.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Sherry cask

Rating: 3.78

Tasting notes: Kurayoshi’s 18-year blended malt Whisky is light and briny, a pale Whisky with some maritime character. A touch of honey and a tannic woodiness come through on the finish. It’s a fine Whisky, but one expects more from malt in this price range, which may leave one wanting.

Flavor profile:

Awards: The Matsui Pure Malt Whisky Kurayoshi 18-Year-Old has been selected as the “Japanese Whisky of the Year” in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2022.

Kirin Fuji

Mars Komagatake Limited Edition 2020

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Kirin Fuji, a blended Japanese Whisky, is prepared at the Fuji Gotemba Distillery, which the Kirin Company owns. Fuji Sanroku summarizes “at the feet of Fuji,” referring to the distillery near Mt. Fuji. Kirin Fuji is bottled at 100 proof and is non-chill-filtered.

Aroma/flavor: Quince and pear aromas with cocoa notes on the finish.

Background information: Kirin Whisky is a brand belonging to the Kirin group that specializes in producing alcoholic beverages. It is mainly popular for its beers, whose whiskies are prepared at the Fuji Gotemba distillery at Mount Fuji’s foothills.

Type: Blended Malt

Distillery: Fuji-Gotemba

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 50%

Price: From $108 (750 ml)

Buy on Saucey: Kirin Fuji

Cask type: Bourbon Cask

Rating: 3.82

Tasting notes: Smooth, almost brioche-like flavor with a hint of pear and quince that stretch out and finishes with cereal notes with a whiff of cocoa.

Awards: Kirin Fuji won Gold from the International Spirits Challenge and Silver from the International Spirits Challenge.

Mars Komagatake Limited Edition 2020

This single malt was distilled at the Mars Shinshu Distillery in Nagano. Mars Komagatake is a Single Malt limited edition expression aged over three years in sherry and American white oak barrels. Expect mixed fruits, sweet honey, vanilla, and a gentle, creamy mouthfeel. In the past, these limited expressions from Mars have won several awards for their excellence, and we wouldn’t be surprised if this expression followed suit.

Aroma/flavor: Prune, vanilla, and honey on the nose precede a palate of sweet orange and evolving cocoa powder with a long, gentle finish of chestnuts and ripe persimmon.

Background information: Mars is a single malt distilled at the Shinshu distillery and blended in American and Sherry white oak casks before being bottled at 50%.

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Distilled in pot stills from 100% malted barley, made at one distillery, aged in barrels.

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 50%

Price: From $199.79 (700 ml)

Cask type: Ex-Bourbon and Ex-Sherry

Rating: 3.8

Tasting notes: Buttery peach pie, baked apple, and a bit of raspberry from the body of this Whisky’s flavors

Things get even more intriguing on the mid-palate with the introduction of salty sesame, caramel, walnut, and a hint of cardamom and baking spices. The finish has a clean tartness, fresh red berry note, sweet spice, and milk chocolate.

Flavor profile:

Awards: World’s Best Japanese Single Cask Single Malt Award (2020) at the World Whiskies Awards.

Nikka – Discovery Miyagikyo Peated

Nikka – Discovery Miyagikyo Peated

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Nikka Discovery is crafted solely from batches of peated malts to explore something different from the distillery known for its lighter, fruitier whiskies. It is a non-chill-filtered range that chose a valley in the Miyagi prefecture as the location for its second distillery and started its operation in 1969. This expression has estery aromas from selected yeast strains and a distinctive Sherry cask influence.

Aroma/flavor: Tangy flavors of ripe fruit with a chocolate, vanilla, and spicy peat takes center-stage

Background information: Japanese Whisky company Nikka kicked off a new Nikka Discovery series leading up to their 90th anniversary with two limited edition expressions: a peated Miyagikyo and a non-peated Yoichi.

Type: Peated Single Malt

Distillery: Miyagikyo Distillery

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 45%

Price: From $299.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Sherry, New American Oak, Ex-bourbon Oak, And Others

Rating: 4.25

Tasting notes: The peat is mild on the nose but soars to medium on the palate and finish. Also on the nose are pencil shavings, apple skins, and gentle barrel spices. Let the Whisky sit in the glass for 15 minutes. Sweet caramel adds the apple notes for a pleasant treat. In addition, the palate shows a bittersweet note with a spicy edge.

Flavor profile:

Nikka – Discovery Yoichi Non-peated

Nikka – Discovery Yoichi Non-peated

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This Whisky is one of the first two of the “Nikka Discovery” series for the U.S. market. The release explores techniques Nikka has honed since its establishment in 1934, leading up to its 90th anniversary in 2024. In addition, this series explores how to release non-peated Whiskies from the distillery, historically known for its peated whiskies. Nikka Discovery is non-chill-filtered.

Aroma/flavor: Golden syrup pancakes, citrus peel, vanilla, egg custard with nutmeg, and fresh barley aromas precedes dense layers of fruit and cream on the palate.

Background information: The theme of Discovery 2021 is “peat switcheroo.” The bold, intense Yoichi, commonly peated, was released as an unpeated malt. The floral, gentle, and balanced Miyagikyo that is typically unpeated was released as a peated malt.

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Nikka

Region: Yoichi, Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 47%

Price: From $319.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Unpeated Cask

Rating: 4.31

Tasting notes: Aromatic nose with various notes such as fresh orange peel and orange blossoms, yeasty bread, toasted barley, and gentle oak. On the palate, the Whisky is medium-full. Still, gums feel the spice of white pepper. The finish is gently bitter and tangy but has a sweet note of white peaches and chocolate. 

Flavor profile:

Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Whisky

Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Whisky

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A beloved icon of the Whisky world, Ichiro Akuto is a 21st-century Whisky maker who blends the heritage and heart of the Scots and flawlessly executes Japanese the exactness and art and their Shokunin “craftsmanship” philosophy. Ichiro’s family has made sake in Chichibu town since the early 1600s. Then, in 1980, this family started producing Whisky in Hanyu, using water from Chichi for the mash. Set back yet determined, in 2007, Ichiro returned to Chichibu, buying a plot of land and having the Chichibu distillery up and running within a year. Year after year, after Ichiro was crowned back-to-back World Whiskies Awards, he gained the attention of Whisky collectors worldwide. 

As the title suggests, Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Whisky is made from grains and malt. Still, the real surprise is that this is a blend of whiskies from five countries: Ireland, Scotland, Canada, the U.S., and Japan, the latter from Ichiro’s own malt and grain whiskies.

Aroma/flavor: Impeccable blend with hints of vanilla, luscious fruity notes, toffee, and a spicy finish

Background information: A delightfully blended Whisky created by Ichiro Akuto, the Japanese Whisky extraordinaire from Japan. This unique gem is made with malt and grain Whisky from Japan and (possibly) some from other countries; the label describes it as “a worldwide blended Whisky.

Type: Blended

Distillery: Single Grain and Single Malt are composed of many different distilleries.

Region: Multiple countries

Age: NAS

ABV: 46.5%

Price: From $122.32 (700ml)

Rating: 3.68

Tasting notes: The nose first brings sweetness, then vanilla, toffee, and brown sugar. Fruit aromas of apricot and banana join in. The vanilla grows more intense on the palate, with pepper, ginger, toffee, and citrus following closely. Bananas re-emerge during the medium, sweet finish alongside notes of mango and grapefruit.

Flavor profile:

Awards: Won the World’s Best Award for blended Whiskeys with low production (less than 5,000 bottles). This is the fifth year in a row that the Ichiro company has been named World’s Best.

Kurayoshi Pure Malt 8 Years Old Whisky

Kurayoshi Pure Malt 8 Years Old Whisky

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Established in 1910, The Kurayoshi Pure Malt 12 Years Old Whisky has produced shochu in Matsui Distillery ever since. Kurayoshi Pure Malt 8 Years Old Whisky is bottled after maturing in ex-bourbon barrels for 8 years. This Whisky brings an exciting range of fruity, soft, and sweet notes to the table that will have you returning for another glass before long. It’s an outstanding example of how excellent Japanese blends can be and one that every Whisky drinker should try if given a chance.

Aroma/flavor: Dried orange-like, sweet fruity flavor. A savory sweet aroma with a smooth mouthfeel highlights the taste of vanilla and nuts.

Background information: Kurayoshi Pure Malt, eight years old, has benefitted from pure waters from the volcanic rocks of the volcano Daisen that bring a unique finish to this Japanese Whisky. This Whisky is non-chill-filtered and without caramel.

Type: Blended Malt

Distillery: Kurayoshi

Region: Japan

Age: 8

ABV: 46%

Price: From $89.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: White oak ex-Bourbon barrels

Rating: 3.49

Tasting notes: A light, grain-forward Whisky, enjoyable, mild, and flavorful.

Expect cereal notes on the nose, elderflower, lemon zest, and pear on the palate, and a light graininess lingering on the finish.

Flavor profile:

Awards: Kurayoshi Pure Malt, 8-Year-Old, won a World Whisky Award in 2019 in the “Best Japanese Blend 12 Years & Under” category. 

Amrut Indian Single Malt Whisky

Amrut Indian Single Malt Whisky

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The Amrut Indian Single Malt Whisky delivers distinctly assured licorice-bourbon notes with a perfect bittersweet balance; burnt honeycomb and toffee also abound. Unique sheen and richness to the immense barley-oak sweetness; besides, there is a big bourbon cut to the cloth with all the licorice and molasses sugar customarily associated, but the barley counts that extra dimension.

Aroma/flavor: Orange segment and lemon peel steal the show. Almond or marzipan creeps up in the middle before cereal grain, like Cheerios, rounds out the finish. 

Background information: Compared with the single malts available worldwide, Amrut is among the youngest. First created in 2004, Amrut Fusion might only have existed today with a visionary, Neelkanta Rao Jagdale.

Type: Single Malt

Brand: Amrut

Distillery: 100% malted barley from a single distillery

Region: India

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

Price: From $62.69 (750 ml)

Cask type: Bourbon

Rating: 4.8

Tasting notes: The Amrut Indian Single Malt Whisky has a long finish with ecstatically layered oak, delivering variations of a lovely, dry theme, a hint of silky with some toffee cream at the death.

Nikka – Yoichi 15-Year Single Malt

Nikka – Yoichi 15-Year Single Malt

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The second-biggest company on the island, Nikka Yoichi, with the global appetite for Japanese whiskey reached a feverish level. This Whisky is produced at Nikka’s Yoichi distillery on Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido. The distillery’s location was chosen for its elevation and cool climate, proximity to a forest for access to wood for barrels, and a high-quality water source nearby. This peated expression from Nikka offers incredible depth and nuance in an exquisite package.

Aroma/flavor: Powerful on-pipe tobacco and cinnamon with notes of chocolate and vanilla coated with almonds.

Background information: Strictly selected from the malts and distilled and matured for 15+ years at the Yoichi distillery, it is the birthplace of Nikka Whisky. This single malt Whisky is portrayed by the fragrance of aged casks, a mellow well-rounded palate, and a bold taste.

Type: Peated Single Malt

Distillery: Nikka’s Yoichi Distillery

Region: Japan

Age: 15

ABV: 46%

Price: From $123.59 (750 ml)

Cask type: Ex-Bourbon, Ex-Oloroso Sherry

Rating: 4.35

Tasting notes:

Nose: Delicate but strong on pipe tobacco and cinnamon with notes of chocolate and vanilla coated with almonds.

Palate: Oily and creamy, it becomes spicy.

Finish: Rather long and complex, it releases spicy and smoky flavors. Hazelnuts and dried fruits wrapped in soft smoke.

Flavor profile:

Awards: Gold medal at the 2009 and 2010 International Spirits Challenge.

Karuizawa Asama Single Malt 1999/2000

Karuizawa Asama combines 1999 and 2000 casks from the former Karuizawa Distillery. Both vintages were aged at least 11 years in sherry butt casks with no additional maturation after combination. Number One Spirits bottled this single malt at 46% ABV in 2012.

Aroma/flavor: A whiff of ginger, mint, orange, pear, walnuts, and malt

Background information: A multi-vintage release named after the active volcano near the now-closed distillery. A Single Malt comprising 1999 and 2000 sherry matured vintages and matured together for over 12 months.

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Karuizawa

Region: Miyota, Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 46%

Price: From $4999.99 (750 ml)

Buy on Saucey: Karuizawa Asama Single Malt 1999/2000

Cask type: Sherry Butt

Rating: 4.38

Tasting notes: Malty and fruity aroma with a whiff of green olives, eucalyptus, plums, pear, red apples, and wet hay

Marzipan has a sweet taste, ginger, mint, orange, pear, walnuts, and malt.

Kurayoshi Pure Malt 12 Years Old Whisky

Kurayoshi Pure Malt 12 Years Old Whisky

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Established in 1910, the Kurayoshi Pure Malt 12 Years Old Whisky is a boutique-sized Matsui Distillery in Tottori, Japan. Their whiskies are prepared from the pure underground waters of the Daisen Mountains, used to age their products. Scottish Malt whiskies were sourced and sent to Japan, blended with malt Whisky from Matsui. 

Aroma/flavor: The aroma of nuts and almonds is followed by a rich malt flavor with a whiff of vanilla and raisins and a faintly smoky flavor. 

Background information: Whiskies from the Kurayoshi distillery have consistently branded the judging panels of various international competitions and won numerous awards, particularly those based on exacting blind tastings. The Kurayoshi distillery’s production levels are low, and stocks are minimal.

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Matsui Shuzo Distillery

Region: Tottori, Japan

Age: 12

ABV: 43-46%

Price: From $109.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Bourbon Cask, Sherry Cask

Rating: 3.75

Tasting notes: The 12-year release could claim to be the best-balanced Whisky in the Kurayoshi variety. It’s heavier in body, added by notes of vanilla and hazelnut besides the Whisky’s notable brininess. On the finish, a subtle smokiness lingers. 

Flavor profile:

Awards:

In 2020, Kurayoshi Pure Malt 12-year-old Whisky was considered the best Japanese Whisky with the most cumulative number of medals: Best Japanese Whisky, Best Japanese Pure Malt Whisky, and Gold medal in San Francisco, rating of 91.3 in the International Whisky Competition.

Fuji Single-Grain Whisky

Fuji Single-Grain Whisky

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Distilled by the batch distillation method “kettle & column” and then matured in American White Oak Barrels, Fuji 30-Year-Old Single Grain Whisky features a mix of multiple Canadian-style grain whiskies aged up to 40 years. 

The drink is a mix of three types of grain Whisky. The blend is a Canadian-style medium-type grain, produced with batch distillation like a melting pot, still named kettle distiller. 

Further, it is supported by a Bourbon-style heavy-type grain distillate utilizing a Doubler. The only Kettle and Doubler outside the U.S. are at Mt. Fuji Distillery. The third is a Scotch-style light-type grain made using a continuous multi-column still.

Aroma/flavor: A very inviting nose with bold, confident, but not overpowering, somewhere between Rye and Brandy. You’ll get notes of bananas, apples, pears, baked fruits, cinnamon, and licorice.

Background information: This aromatic harmony is performed through the blending of three types of grain whiskies: a light type (distilled in column stills), a medium (distilled in Batch Kettle still), and an intense one (distilled in Double Still, a worldwide specificity outside the lands of Bourbon).

Type: Single Grain Blend of American, Canadian, and Scotch Grain Whiskeys

Distillery: Distilled from grain or mix of Grains, usually wheat, barley, or corn, from one distillery

Region: Fuji, Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 46%

Price: From $99.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: American Oak Barrels

Rating: 3.81

Tasting notes: Crisp pears and green apples lead on a nose with a strong floral and confectionery quality, along with notes of vanilla pudding, oak, and lemon curd. The palate is soft, showcasing toffee and cherry, and liqueur-filled chocolates. A quick finish offers burnt salted caramel and a sharp astringency with bitter citrus pith.

Flavor profile:

Awards: In 2020, in the first year of production, the Fuji 30-Year-Old Single Grain Whisky won World’s Best Grain Whisky at the World Whiskies Awards.

Kurayoshi Pure Malt Whisky

Kurayoshi Pure Malt Whisky

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A blended malt from a Japanese Whisky producer, Matsui Shuzou, Kurayoshi Pure Malt is established in the Tottori Prefecture, the least populated prefecture in Japan, renowned for its dunes. With a rich aroma and mellow sweetness, this Whisky display has been generated by aging barrels for over three years. A gentle mouth heat compliments a balance of raisin, vanilla, and malt.

Aroma/flavor: Tender, with malty and pastry-like aromas, evolves towards orchard fruit evocations.

Background information: This Whisky is made with whiskies sourced from Scottish distilleries, blended with Japanese Whisky and volcanic-stone-filtered water.

Type: Blended Malt

Distillery: Matsui Shuzo Distillery

Region: Multiple countries

Age: NAS

ABV: 43%

Price: From $70.52 (750 ml)

Cask type: Ex-Bourbon

Rating: 3.21

Tasting notes: This is Kurayoshi’s entry-level malt whiskey. It’s mild and tasty, primarily with cereal, and marked by fresh pear, honey, and jasmine. The Whisky dries out on the finish, making it salty and grainy. Though not the most complex Whisky, it’s worth enjoying casual drinking.

Flavor profile:

Paul John Edited Single Malt

Paul John Edited Single Malt

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Paul John, the maker of the Great Indian Single Malt, showcases six-row barley from northern India tastes grassier and less nutty than European and North American varieties. Aged in bourbon barrels in the warmth and humidity of India’s tropical paradise of Goa, Paul John Edited strikes the right balance between sweet notes and savory smokiness. The soft and delicate single malt, with rich, intense flavors, finished in Oloroso casks, will captivate every Whisky lover’s taste buds.

Aroma/flavor: Sense a whiff of spice and chocolate as it ends on gentle peat notes. Amber gold. The hints of peat and chocolate in this Single Malt are perfect with a mildly spiced lamb stew or even dark chocolate.

Background information: The Bangalore-based Paul John distilleries make the single malts on the pristine shores of Goa, where the sea surf kisses the Whisky with low salinity, unlike northern Atlantic-washed scotches.

Type: Peated Single Malt

Distillery: 100% malted barley, dried with peat from a single distillery

Region: Goa, India

Age: NAS

ABV: 46%

Price: From $64.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Bourbon Cask

Rating: 3.39

Tasting notes: Edited is reminiscent of old-style Bruichladdich—whiffs of peat show as lightly antiseptic bandages, then the maltiness that characterizes Paul John. Wheat germ or cream of wheat porridge is lightly dusted with savory spices – like barbecue spice. Peppery heat, another hallmark of the distillery, injects piquancy into a rich, round body, while hints of fruit sugars add sweetness. The Whisky finishes with a slight, pleasant, woody bitterness.

Flavor profile:

Awards: 

  • Liquid Gold Award by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 
  • Best Asian Whisky Award
  • Best Indian Single Malt Award.

Omar Single Malt Whisky

Omar Single Malt Whisky

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Nantou Omar is a Taiwanese single malt Whisky distilled and matured in bourbon casks. Aged entirely in ex-bourbon casks, Omar Single Malt Whisky is medium-bodied with an oily texture and notes of mandarin and vanilla.

Aroma/flavor: Floral, with a hint of sulfur at first, followed by ripened banana, biscuit, plum, jam, woody, and dark chocolate flavors.

Background information: The origin of Omar is the Gaelic language, meaning amber. Mountains surround the Nantou distillery with pure water, and the area is suitable for Whisky making and aging. 

Type: Single Malt

Brand: Nantou

Distillery: Distilled in pot stills from 100% malted barley at Nantou

Region: Taiwan

Age: 4 – 5 years

ABV: 46%

Price: From $79.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Ex-Bourbon

Rating: 3.48

Tasting notes: 

Nose: Lemon, orange peels, a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, and runny caramel.

Palate: Milk chocolate, toffee, vanilla essence, and ripe banana

Finish: Honey, barley, and a touch of dried tropical fruit.

Awards: Asian Whisky of the Year (2020) – Nantou Distillery Omar Bourbon Cask (Taiwan)

Kurayoshi Pure Malt Sherry Cask

Kurayoshi Pure Malt Sherry Cask

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Matsui Shuzou (also called sake and shochu), a sherried expression from the Kurayoshi range, was created by a little-known Japanese Whisky producer in 1910. These are blended malts made with whiskies distilled in Scotland and shipped to Japan, mixed with Japanese Whisky. 

Aroma/flavor: A sweet aroma of fruits and chocolate matches with a lemon grass-like citrus flavor, a balanced aroma, and a smooth lingering finish.

Background information: The Kurayoshi Whisky is bottled after maturing in oak for three years and finalizing in sherry casks.

Type: Blended Malt

Distillery: Comprised of malted whiskey from two or more distilleries.

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 46%

Price: From $72.59 (750 ml)

Cask type: Sherry

Rating: 3.32

Tasting notes: A hint of bubble gum on the nose comes off this young, light Whisky. It’s light on the palate, with notes of lemon zest, marshmallow, and strawberry, with bright acidity. The finish fades quickly, leaving just a whiff of malt. 

Flavor profile: 

Awards: The Kurayoshi won Double Gold Award at San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2020, held in San Francisco. 

Kavalan King Car Conductor Single Malt

Kavalan King Car Conductor Single Malt

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The first expression launched in the name of the King Car, the Kavalan King Car Conductor Single Malt, gives Scotch whiskies stiff competition. Taking full advantage of Taiwan’s subtropical climate, the brand has rocketed up the boozy charts in record time. Diverse with complex flavors, it has soothing aromas and multiple layers of background fruitiness. Kavalan is a quintessential Japanese Whisky and must be on every Whisky connoisseur’s list.

Aroma/flavor: Excellently clean and freshly fruity single malt. A touch of papaya, banana, and green apple, to name a few. Pleasantly floral, delicate, and complex, with depths and multilayers of aromas, fragrances, and nuances waiting to be discovered by each individual and connoisseur.

Background information: Initially launched in 2011, King Car Conductor is the first Kavalan Whisky released that pays honor to its parent company King Car Group. 

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Refill sherry and some ex-bourbon barrels

Region: Taiwan

Age: NAS

ABV: 46%

Price: From $127.49 (750 ml)

Cask type: Ex-Bourbon and Ex-Sherry

Rating: 3.77

Tasting notes: The fascinating thing about most Kavalan whiskey is that the flavors are lavish while the weight is not, which is no exception. The sherried influence is strong, leading with oxidized, nutty flavors. Some faint smoke and red fruits emerge in the mid-palate before making a spicy and swift exit.

Flavor profile:

Awards: By 2012, Kavalan had made it into Jim Murray’s respected Whisky Bible with the brand’s Solist Fino Sherry Cask bottling securing Best World Whisky, a title once held by Yamazaki before the Japanese Whisky made its way to Murray’s top overall spot.

Rampur Double Cask Single Malt

Rampur Double Cask Single Malt

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Rampur Double Cask distills and matures its single malt Whisky at the Himalayan foothills. The locale delivers an extreme climate variation between summer and winter, beneficial for rapid maturation. This Whisky is aged first in bourbon barrels and then undergoes a faster finishing time in sherry casks. 

Aroma/flavor: Delicate balsamic vanilla notes from the American white oak compliment the full-bodied aroma; Rich caramel, dried dark fruits, and spicy tonality from European oak add to the depth.

Background information: Rampur is distilled in copper pot stills in India’s oldest distillery, dating from 1943 with 75 years of distillation expertise. 

Type: Single Malt

Brand: Rampur

Distillery: Pot stills from 100% malted barley at one distillery.

Region: India

Age: NAS

ABV: 45%

Price: From $97.89 (750 ml)

Cask type: American Oak Ex-Bourbon and European Oak Ex-Sherry

Rating: 3.9

Tasting notes: The nose offers honey-drizzled berries, floral notes of hay and chrysanthemum buds, a slight nutty rancio, and toffee. The palate is waxy, offering dark chocolate malt balls, tannic oak, and vanilla, with a sulfurous and meaty side towards the back. The finish is moderate in length, with salted pretzels dipped in caramel, wood spice, and dried fruits.

Flavor Profile:

Awards:

  • Won Gold Medal in Fifty Best World Whisky 2020. 
  • Scored 93 points in the World Whisky Survey by Whisky Advocate Magazine in 2019 
  • Scored 92 points in Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2020

Nikka Miyagikyo Single Malt

Nikka Miyagikyo Single Malt

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Miyagikyo Malt is a no-age-statement version as a permanent product showcasing elegant style and fruitiness. In 2020, Miyagikyo marked the brand’s first step in blended Whisky. Instead of grain Whisky, Miyagikyo is a concoction of malt whiskies from two of Nikka’s distilleries, Miyagikyo and Yoichi. This easy and smooth Whisky is for the more delicate palate and is based on ‘Whisky for every day.’ This Japanese Whisky is made of slightly peated malts and mellow grain whiskies. With impressive floral aromas, this expression offers an incredibly silky mouthfeel and fruity flavors that rise and expand, leaving behind a delightful aftertaste.

Aroma/Flavor: Reminiscent of Ginjo Sake, expressing floral and fruity notes that have only improved after several years of maturation

Background information: Miyagikyo Single Malt is a wide range of single malt expressions from the Nikka Miyagikyo Distillery. Nikka’s creator Masataka Taketsuru chose a valley in the Miyagi area as the site for his next distillery and began its operation in 1969.

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Mostly unpeated barley

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 45%

Price: From $107.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: New American Oak, Sherry, Ex-Bourbon Oak, and others

Rating: 3.68

Tasting notes: Relatively light but still a whole bouquet of mouthwatering flavors. This expression boasts a grand fruitiness, nutty or sherried notes, and a mild smokiness in the background. One of the best “value for money” Japanese whiskies on the market today.

Flavor profile:

Awards: Winning the Best Japanese Single Malt Award in its category at the World Whiskies Awards in 2009, 2012, 2013, and 2015.

Nikka Pure Malt Red Whisky

Nikka Pure Malt Red Whisky

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The Red color expresses more of the elegant and aromatic style of malt flavors. Nikka Pure Malt Red is characterized by its lightly sweet vanilla nose and soft and gentle taste. It is bottled at 86 proof in 500ml-sized bottles and is unavailable in the U.S.

Aroma/flavor: Rich and fruity, with red berries, cherries, and a touch of menthol and cassis.

Background information: Pure Malt Red is a Japanese blended malt made of malt Whisky from the Nikka distilleries Yoichi and Miyagikyo, resulting in a fruity, buttery, creamy, and slightly herbal Whisky. 

Type: Blended

Distillery: Nikka distilleries Yoichi and Miyagikyo

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 43%

Price: From $69.09 (500 ml)

Cask type: Bourbon

Rating: 3.39

Tasting notes: 

Nose: Of the three Pure Malts, this is fruity, clean, and easy-going. The nose is clean, fruity, and quite nutty. 

Palate: Great fruitiness, buttery, and clean with hints of cut herbs, sugar, and spice.

Finish: The finish is good, balanced, and not a step wrong as it fades away gracefully on sweet, soft malt, and fruit.

Flavor profile:

Hibiki 21 Years Old Limited Edition Blended Whisky

Hibiki 21 Years Old Limited Edition Blended Whisky

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Hibiki is a blended Whisky brand distilled by Suntory. Combining their two single malt whiskies, Hakushu and Yamazaki, with their corn-based grain Whisky, Chita, they create something entirely their own. Utilizing a blend of American, European, and Japanese wood, this aged at least 21 years and bottled at 86 proof. This is being slowly released to a couple of major U.S. markets at the end of 2014 and then further expanding to the rest of the country for 2015, along with their 17-year-old version.

Aroma/flavor: Suntory Hibiki 21-Year-Old is amazingly balanced and tender, unfolding a calm essence of honeycomb, caramelized nuts, sandalwood, ripe banana, and rich sherry spice. 

Background information: Created in 1989, demand for the Hibiki mixes increased after the brand’s appearance in the movie Lost in Translation. The bottle features 24 facets depicting the 24 seasons of the Japanese lunar calendar set against a painting of Mount Fuji at sunset.

Type: Blended

Distillery: Distilled in pot stills

Region: Japan

Age: 21

ABV: 43.0%

Price: From $1200.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Ex-Bourbon American Oak, Ex-Sherry European Oak, Japanese Mizunara

Rating: 4.52

Tasting notes: This Whisky expresses a beautiful marriage of grain and fruit. The sherry casks are evident with stone fruit and cherry mixed with warm baking spices and light floral incense. The malt, however, is firm and not overpowered by the fruit. A gentle wisp of smoke with the finish acts like adding salt and pepper to your dish.

Flavor profile:

Awards:

  • Best Japanese Blended Whisky (World Whiskies Awards, 2020)
  • World’s Best Blended Whisky (World Whiskies Awards 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2019)
  • Gold Medal (International Spirits Challenge, 2012)

Nikka Pure Malt Black Whisky

Nikka Pure Malt Black Whisky

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Rich and sweet, with lots of black fruit, dark chocolate, and a little polished oak, Nikka Pure Malt Black is a part of the Pure Malt Series from Nikka Whisky Distilling. This Whisky blends single malts from Nikka’s Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries. The “Black” is a Pure Malt Whisky with powerful peat, rich taste, and intense flavor. Nikka Pure Malt Black Whisky is produced in 500 ml bottles and is unavailable in the U.S.

Aroma/flavor: The aroma is peachy, with some grapefruit, Chewits, waxy lime peel, and some tired oak.

Background information: Nikka Black is among the more popular offerings in the reasonably-affordable, no-age-statement “color” series of Nikka Pure Malts.

Type: Peated Blended Malt

Distillery: Nikka Distillery

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 43%

Price: From $84.59 (700 ml)

Cask type: Bourbon

Rating: 3.72

Tasting notes: Of the “colored” pure malt series, this feels heavier, and the peat smoke is light to moderate, adding some character. It is a bit spicier than the other two and shows more barrel wood influence. The finish is a little bitter. 

Flavor profile:

Awards: Nikka Pure Malt Black won Jim Murray’s Liquid Gold Award in 2014.

Yamazaki 25 Year (Reformulated)

Yamazaki 25 Year (Reformulated)

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Yamazaki is Suntory’s flagship single malt Whisky, a top-graded, supreme-quality Japanese Whisky with its history and heritage. Its production began in the 1870s as Japan’s first and oldest malt distillery, but commercials were released only in the 1920s. At such a juncture, a liquor importer Shinjiro Torii (Suntory’s founder), opened his distillery in Kyoto (Yamazaki neighborhood), from which the brand takes its name. Later, the company took the title Suntory, known as Suntory Yamazaki Distillery.

With a spectrum of options from Yamazaki’s Reserve to 12, 18, and 25 years old, these prestigious whiskies have carefully blended ingredients aged in Spanish, American, and Japanese Mizunara oak. Multilayered with fruit and Mizunara aromas, Yamazaki is deep and complex. So, if you are visiting Japan, this distillery is open for tours and delivers a detailed guide through the Whisky-making procedure.  

Aroma/flavor: Floral characters, jasmine, cinnamon, candied orange, peach, and red apple. Plenty of nut oils and tropical fruits.

Background information: Yamazaki is the only place of Suntory Whisky and the birthplace of Japanese Whisky.

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Pot stills from 100% malted barley

Region: Japan

Age: 25 years

ABV: 43%

Price: From $11111.19 (750 ml)

Cask type: American Oak, Spanish Oak, Japanese Mizunara Oak

Rating: 4.4

Tasting notes: Mizunara smoky smell, followed by a complex bouquet of mature kaki persimmon and ume plum notes

A smoky first sip of Mizunara opens and deepens into complex layers of kaki’s subtle sweetness, tart ume plum notes, and gentle ginger spicy notes and ends with a lingering subtly sweet wood.

Flavor profile:

Awards: In 2015, Jim Murray awarded “World Whisky of the Year” to the 25-Year-old Yamazaki Single Malt, scoring 97.5 out of 100. Murray defined it as a spirit of “near incredible genius” with a taste “dry, thick, as rounded as a snooker ball.” 

Mars Maltage Cosmo 

Mars Maltage Cosmo 

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Hombo Mars made Mars Maltage Cosmo Blended Malt consisting of Japanese and Scotch Whisky. Shinshu Mars produced the Japanese Whisky in Japan for these mixes in a distillery in the Japanese Alps. It’s unfamiliar with where the Scotch malt whiskies were sourced.

Aroma/flavor: With tones of ripe fruit blending with floral and fresh hints of youth which is delicate and robust.

Background information: A big hit when released at the 2015 Tokyo International Bar Show, the Mars Maltage Cosmo Blended Malt Whisky is a permanent addition to the Mars Shinshu Distillery’s range.

Type: Blended Malt

Distillery: Shinshu Mars Distillery

Region: Multiple Countries

Age: NAS

ABV: 43%

Price: From $139.99 (700 ml)

Cask type: Manzanilla Sherry Cask

Rating: 3.29

Tasting notes: This is a reasonably straightforward dram. It starts somewhat metallic, but softer vanilla and sweet pastry notes take over. Tobacco leaves and char accompany hints of tropical fruit. The palate is creamy, with sweet malt and caramel as the main attractions, and some spices are thrown in—finally, a whisper of smoke and tobacco.

Flavor profile:

Suntory Toki

Suntory Toki

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Suntory Toki is a renowned Japanese Whisky, making procuring much easier. Suntory Toki is a grain and malt Whisky mix from Suntory’s Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Chita distilleries. According to Suntory, the exceptional traits of the Whisky are Hakushu white oak cask malt and Chita grain Whisky, with Spanish oak cask Whisky and Yamazaki white oak cask. The Toki is a soft blend that is an ideal choice for a highball and wraps up with a slightly sweet and spicy taste.

Aroma/flavor: Grapefruit, peppermint, green grapes, thyme. Subtly spicy and sweet finish with a hint of white pepper, vanilla oak, and ginger.

Background information: The word “Toki” symbolizes the connection of time in Japanese, and this new term embodies how tradition meets innovation to move forward. 

Type: Blended

Distillery: Comprised of both single grains and single malts from many distilleries

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 43%

Price: From $40.69 (750 ml)

Cask type: American Oak and Spanish Oak

Rating: 3.52

Tasting notes: This light-bodied Whisky has vanilla, pear, ripe apples, walnut, and green tea greet the nose as the palate takes on chewier tastes of shortbread and marshmallow. A mild floral quality emerges with some ice, adding peach and nectarine with chocolate and a whiff of smoke.

Flavor profile:

Suntory World Whisky AO

Suntory World Whisky AO is a mix of various acquisitions worldwide. Suntory Chief blender Shinji Fukuyo guided the project, using Whisky from Cooley in Ireland, Ardmore and Glen Garioch in Scotland, Alberta in Canada, Jim Beam in the U.S., and Yamazaki and Hakushu in Japan. This Japanese Whisky has a smooth mouthfeel, cinnamon spice aftertaste, and slight smokiness.

Aroma/flavor: Sweet malt, toasted oak, and a fruity note, rich on the palate with a sweet/tart flavor profile mixed with barrel spices.

Background information: At its base, the AO Whisky mix symbolizes harmony while revealing and layering each country’s Whisky, delivering rise to a new way of blending. Enjoy the range and depth woven from the world’s five whiskies, each with its unique history, climate, raw materials, and craft.

Type: Blended Whisky

Distillery: Distilled from a mash of grains

Region: Multiple countries – Scotland, Ireland, Canada, the U.S., and Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 43%

Price: From $73 (700 ml)

Buy on Saucey: Suntory World Whisky AO

Rating: 3.68

Tasting notes: There’s a gentle mix of char and peat smoke on the nose. The Whisky is moderately rich on the palate with a sweet/tart flavor profile mixed with barrel spices. There’s a more than-average length to the bittersweet finish. Overall, an intriguing Whisky, which for the price, makes a good value. 

Flavor profile:

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt Whisky

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt Whisky

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Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt Whisky is an expression launched in 2020 with an advanced formula and a new label design to symbolize the brand. While remaining a soft and well-balanced blended malt, the formula further showcases an exquisite harmony between elegant softness and deep complexity, rich mouthfeel, and smokiness.

Aroma/flavor:  Leads with creamy honey and vanilla, bright pear/pineapple/starfruit, toasted biscuit, and toasted oak, a hint of smoke, and subtle dark.

Background information: This is a blended malt named in honor of Masataka Taketsuru, the father of Japanese Whisky; he was the first Japanese who mastered Whisky-making in Scotland and produced genuine Whisky in Japan.

Type: Peated Blended Malt

Distillery: Distilled in pot stills

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 43%

Price: From $84.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Ex-Sherry

Rating: 3.54

Tasting notes: The nose is honeyed with added aromas of dried fruits. On the palate, more roasted nuts and citrus peel enter the scene and stick around for a long finish.

Flavor profile:

Awards: World’s Best Blended Malt (World Whiskies Awards, 2019)

Yamazaki 18 Years Old Limited Edition

Yamazaki 18 Years Old Limited Edition

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Japan’s Limited Edition single malt has a soothing and elegant taste, making it a superbly drinkable Whisky with complex aromas. It captures the hearts of Whisky enthusiasts the world over. Highly rich with mature fall fruit and a masterpiece with deep-rooted, mature notes. The sweetness of dried fruits and chocolate from sherry casks intermingled with a profoundly ripe flavor from aging the spirits over a long time in Japanese oak casks. 

Aroma/flavor: Raisin, Apricot, coffee, cream chocolate, and Mizunara

Background information: This limited-edition bottle contains a much higher percentage of Japanese oak casks, bringing it to another level of perfection. 

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Suntory

Region: Japan

Age: 18

ABV: 43%

Price: From $2437.50 (750 ml)

Cask type: Sherry butt casks, American and Japanese oak casks.

Rating: 4.62

Tasting notes: A rich and milky feel with a fabulous dessert: figs, dates, honey, walnuts, and cinnamon. Yet, despite these sweet descriptors, the Whisky finishes dry, with tastes remaining on your palate.

Flavor profile:

Awards:  

  • Gold Medal (World Whiskies Awards, 2018)
  • Double Gold Medal Award (San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2015)
  • Gold Award (International Spirits Challenge, 2013-2014)
  • Best Japanese Single Malt (World Whiskies Awards, 2015)

Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve Whisky

Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve is one of two Distiller’s Reserve single malt from Suntory in Japan. This expression from the Yamazaki distillery is jam-packed with red berry notes from the Whisky matured in Sherry casks and Bordeaux wine, featuring malt grown in Mizunara casks, adding slight aromatic oak notes.

Aroma/flavor: Smell of strawberry, cherry, and Mizunara

Background information: Released in 2014, Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve carries no age statement.

Type: Peated Single Malt

Distillery: Suntory historical distillery

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 43%

Price: From $86.99 (750 ml)

Buy on Saucey: Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve Whisky

Cask type: Mizunara (Japanese) Oak, Sherry Oak, American Oak, and French Oak

Rating: 4.05

Tasting notes: A splendid nose shows notes of Yamazaki’s signature berries with subtle floral notes and tropical fruits. The berry bouquet keeps all its promises on the palate, with cherries, strawberries, and raspberries leading the way to dried fruits, woody aromas, and a slight spiciness—a delightful finish of vanilla, custard cream, and Christmas spices.

Flavor profile:

Awards:  

  • Bronze Medal, Best Japanese Whisky No Age Statement category, World Whiskies Awards 2019.
  • Won Silver Medal at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in 2014.

Teitessa Single Grain Japanese Whisky

Teitessa Single Grain Japanese Whisky

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Teitessa is a Japanese Whisky born from this perspective: “A real Whisky like Teitessa is like a real friend. Hard and rare to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.” This Whisky differs from any other Japanese Whisky you have tasted. Sweet, mellow, and refreshing.

The Master Distiller of Teitessa broke Japanese tradition when he crafted this Whisky. Most Japanese Whisky is crafted utilizing the same distillation processes used in Scotland. However, the Master Distiller at Fuji Takasago wanted to create a genuinely distinguished Japanese Whisky, so he made his own–the Sato. 

Aroma/flavor: A thick and soft taste with a deep tannin scent

Background information: In Miyazaki Prefecture, cultivation started in 1961 as a variety for early cultivation.

Type: Single Grain

Distillery: Spanish oak, American White Oak, Limousin Oak barrel (French)

Region: Japan

Age: 30

ABV: 40%

Price: From $269.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Sherry

Rating: 3.54

Tasting notes: A refreshing, mellow top note unique to oak barrel storage

It has a soft and thick taste with a deep tannin scent, an excellent product with the perfection of fragrance, flavor, and aftertaste.

Yamazaki 12-Year-Old

Yamazaki 12-Year-Old

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The Yamazaki 12 Year is a Japanese single malt Whisky renowned for its “noble” aroma. Hailing from Kyoto, the capital of ancient Japan, Yamazaki takes its nobility status up a notch or two. It is considered the nation’s premier single-malt Whisky, but Whisky fans appreciate this award-winning spirit globally. This golden Whisky boasts multiple aromas and superior drinkability. This Whisky also has rich coconut and tart cranberry notes, while the long finish features spicy ginger and cinnamon.

Aroma/flavor: The nose features hints of fruit, including peach, grapefruit, pineapple, candied orange, and spices such as clove and orange. 

Background information: The Yamazaki Distillery is Japan’s first and oldest malt Whisky distillery, launched in 1923 by Suntory’s inventor Shinjiro Torii. Yamazaki is not only the core place of Suntory Whisky but the motherland of Japanese Whisky.

Type: Single Malt

Brand: Yamazaki

Distillery: Yamazaki Distillery

Region: Japan

Age: 12

ABV: 43%

Price: From $199.97 (750 ml)

Cask type: American ex-bourbon barrels, ex-Spanish oloroso sherry, and Japanese Mizunara oak 

Rating: 4.8

Tasting notes:

Nose: Good body with plenty of zest and nut oils, a pleasant floral aroma, a bit of tropical fruit, and a rooty note.

Palate: Soft and smooth with good sweetness and winter spice. A sweet citrus note develops with more tropical fruit notes and a little rum.

Finish: Medium with fruit and zest.

Awards:

  • Double Gold – San Francisco World Spirit Awards 2013.
  • 2 Gold – San Francisco World Spirit Awards 2011 & 2014.

Hibiki Blossom Harmony

Hibiki Blossom Harmony

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Hibiki, meaning “Resonance” in Japan, is a Japanese Harmony Whisky with a harmonious blend of Japanese craftsmanship. Considered the zenith of Japanese Whisky, Hibiki is a mix of grain and malt whiskies from Suntory’s Yamazaki, Chita, and Hakushu distilleries. In 1989, the brand was launched to celebrate Suntory’s 90th birthday, and it evolved into Japan’s most highly awarded blended Whisky around the clock. More than that, Hibiki takes the privilege of being among the most prestigious whiskies worldwide. Hibiki Japanese Harmony is both delicate and luminous with tremendous complexity.

Aroma/flavor: The amber-colored liquid smells of rose, lychee, rosemary, and sandalwood, paving the way for a honey-like sweetness with candied orange peel and white chocolate notes. For finishing, it is slight, with a whiff of Japanese oak that remains on the palate.

Background information: This blend combines malt and grain whiskies that comprise the core Hibiki Harmony blend, with Whisky finished in sakura (Japanese cherry blossom) casks incorporated into the Blossom Harmony 2021 expression.

Type: Blended

Distillery: Suntory’s Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Chita distilleries

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 43%

Price: From $599.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Sakura Wood

Rating: 4.4

Tasting notes: This blend was finished in sakura cherry wood casks. The effects are pronounced, imbuing the palate with rich floral and botanical notes and well-defined flavors of almond, dried fruit, and nougat, leading to a complex, spicy finish.

Flavor Profile

Awards: Winning the World’s Best Blended Whisky Award in its category at the World Whiskies Awards in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017, and 2019.

Hakushu 18 Year

Amrut Peated Blackadder Raw Cask

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Hakushu handcrafted drink leaves little to be desired distilled in the guise of a Scott-based distillery. The 18-year-old expression of Hakushu is more of a sipper, Sherry barrels lingering long. However, once you uncork, you have unleashed an amalgam of toasted almonds, barley, and even a bit of char. The crisp flavor hits your lips with a phenomenal grassy, herby, smoky blend. 

Aroma/flavor: Dried mint, ripe pear, oregano, a hint of smoke

Background information: Hakushu was released in 1994 to celebrate 70 years of Whisky-making at the House of Suntory Whisky. Hakushu grabs the distinctive profile of the Hakushu distillery, represented by its light, fruity, and slightly sweet, smoky taste. There, this uniquely delicious and verdant single malt is born.

Type: Peated Single Malt

Distillery: 100% malted barley, dried with peat from a single distillery

Region: Japan

Age: 18 years

ABV: 43%

Price: From $699 (750 ml)

Cask type: Bourbon, Hogshead, Puncheon, Sherry Casks

Rating: 4.33

Nose: Melon, Linen, and Cinnamon. 

Tongue: Lush Grass, Dark Chocolate, Peat, Ink, Honey. 

Notes: Exquisite, like a beautiful lover.

Flavor profile:

Awards: Winning the World’s Best in Show Other Whisky Award in its category at the International Spirits Competition in 2015.

Hibiki Harmony Japanese Harmony Master’s Select

Hibiki Master’s Select was released in 2015 for the global travel retail market. It’s a meticulous blend of the ten finest grain and malt whiskies aged in 5 different casks from the House of Suntory, i.e., Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Chita Distillery. 

Aroma/flavor: An excellent nose for cleanliness and balance between wood, pepper, coffee, caramelized orange peel, ripe fruit cooked in the oven, and the return of cinnamon whispered by honeyed lips.

Background information: Hibiki Master’s Select is a blend of ten different Japanese malt and grain whiskies aged in 5 different casks, including American white oak casks, Sherry casks, and Mizunara oak casks.

Type: Blended

Distillery: Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Chita distilleries

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 43%

Price: From $114 (750 ml)

Buy on Saucey: Hibiki Master’s Select

Cask type: American White Oak Casks, Sherry Casks, and Mizunara Oak Casks

Rating: 4.17

Tasting notes: An assortment of tropical fruit aromas gently leads to creamy vanilla oak, dried plums, and cinnamon warmth on the palate. The sweet plums continue through the finish as milky chocolate and ginger suddenly appear. 

Flavor profile:

Awards: Hibiki Japanese Harmony Master’s Select won Golden Award in 2017 and 2020 at the International Spirits Challenge. 

Hibiki 17-Year-Old Japanese Whisky

A world-renowned Japanese blend, Hibiki’s 17-Year-Old, is an elegant, poised Whisky that reveals a precise yet complex equilibrium. Created in 1989 but only available in the United States, Hibiki is a mix of single malts from Suntory’s two distilleries, Hakushu and Yamazaki, and grain Whisky from their Chita distillery. The bottle’s design symbolizes the 24 seasons of the Japanese lunar calendar. 

Aroma/flavor: Sweet and rich with crisp notes of mixed peels, raisins, and custard

Background information: Hibiki 17 is made with grain whiskies and aged malt from Suntory’s distilleries. Hibiki signifies harmony, which has undoubtedly been achieved in this stunning and iconic blend.

Type: Blended Malt

Distillery: Suntory

Region: Japan

Age: 17

ABV: 43%

Price: From $699.99 (750 ml)

Hibiki 17-Year-Old Japanese Whisky

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Cask type: Ex-Sherry European Oak, Ex-Bourbon American Oak, Japanese Mizunara

Rating: 4.41

Tasting notes: Honey, caramel, juicy pear, brown sugar, and flowers on the nose with herbal notes, cocoa, and hazelnut. A hint of water brings out some chocolate. The finish is hot and gentle.

Flavor profile:

Awards: Won Golden Award at the International Spirits Challenge in 2016, 2013, 2012, and 2009.

Hakushu 12-Year-Old

Hakushu 12-Year-Old

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The Hakushu 12-Year-Old Single Malt is a finely crafted Whisky offering in the classic Islay style. The brand was developed and maintained to support Suntory’s premium Single Malt line-up, and they are appreciated worldwide. They import peat to craft an authentic, smoky dram that often beats name-brand Islays in blind taste tests. This Whisky has the light fruitiness of a Highlander with the earthiness and peat infusions of the Scottish islands. 

Aroma/flavor: The Hakushu 12-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky tastes like an exotic Islay. 

Background information: Hakushu is the Japanese connoisseur’s choice, built in 1973, and is positioned amidst sensational pine forests close to the Japanese Alps. 

Type: Peated Single Malt

Distillery: Suntory

Region: Japan

Age: 12

ABV: 43%

Price: From $197.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Ex-Bourbon, Ex-Oloroso Sherry, Peated American Oak

Rating: 4.01

Tasting notes: 

Nose: Freshly cut grass, sliced peaches, hazelnut, honey, and a whiff of smoke  

Palate: Summer fruits and smoke with lemon zest and oaky malt 

Finish: Medium length with cinnamon and a dash of sweet

Flavor profile:

Awards: Best Japanese Single Malt Whisky 12 Years and Under (World Whiskies Awards, 2016)

Ohishi Sherry Single Cask Whisky

Ohishi Sherry Single Cask Whisky

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Ohishi is a hidden Japanese gem in the mountainous countryside, along with the banks of the river Kuma, one of Japan’s fastest-flowing rivers known for its pristine quality. Unsurprisingly, Ohishi is known for its Sake and Shochu, but they also craft incredible rice Whisky. Ohishi swaps barley for rice to compose their single malts. They produce a unique strain of rice for a production called “gohyakumanishi” (5 million stones) and use koi to cultivate their crop.

Aroma/flavor: Sherry, dried fruit, baking spices, nuts, citrus, grains, pepper, oak, brown sugar, dried flowers, and cocoa’s warming finish

Background information: This Ohishi Sherry Cask is a blend of 3 to 25 years old casks.

Type: Sherry Single Cask

Distillery: A spirit distilled from a mash of Grains at less than 95% ABV, bottled at no less than 40% ABV

Region: Kumamoto, Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 42.3%

Price: From $80 (750 ml)

Cask type: Ex-Sherry Cask

Rating: 3.61

Tasting notes: This Whisky is deceptively soft on the nose, with a sherry cask and notes of almonds, dates, and leather.

Flavor profile:

Nikka Black Special

Nikka is one of Japan’s most recognizable beverage companies; its outcomes are on sale in every corner of the country. However, the Black Nikka Special is perhaps the most recognized of all its products. This Whisky, nicknamed “Bearded Black”, has been available since 1965 and was refined in the Yoichi distillery. Delighted with sweet almonds, Nikka’s refreshing quality brings to mind vanilla ice cream. Long and creamy, all the elements are in perfect harmony resulting in an exquisite malty and fruity sweetness.

Aroma/Flavor: Notes of cut flowers, fresh fruits, spice, and a little oak.

Background information: One of the most recognizable whiskies in Japan, the Nikka Black Special Blended Whisky has been a staple of the Japanese Whisky scene for over half a century.

Type: Blended

Distillery: Nikka Distillery

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 42%

Price: From $199.99 (750 ml)

Buy on SauceyNikka Black Special Whisky

Cask type: Bourbon Cask

Rating: 3.67

Tasting notes: 

  • Nose: Sweet with nuts and refreshing vanilla.
  • Palate: The sweetness is replaced with spices and salt with some bitter hints of dark chocolate. 
  • Finish: Creamy with malt, medium-long.

Kikori Japanese Whiskey

Kikori Japanese Whiskey

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Discover the soft, outstanding nature of Kikori Whiskey distilled in Japan from rice and fresh mountain water. Aged in barrels for three years, this Whisky is golden in color with a velvety smoothness and a floral aroma. For a Kikori Old Fashioned, mix simple syrup and bitters in a glass with ice. This Whisky is aged at least three years in American oak, French limousin, and Spanish sherry casks.

Aroma/flavor: Kikori Whiskey, carefully distilled at Kikori, is adored for its floral, fragrant, vanilla, and melon flavor notes.

Background information: Kikori Whiskey is a Japanese-style whiskey distilled by Korean-American entrepreneur Ann Soh Woods. Launched in 2015, Kikori is a rice-based whiskey aged three years.

Type: Single Grain Whisky

Distillery: Kikori

Region: Kyushu, Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 41%

Price: From $48.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: American Oak, French Limousin, and Spanish Sherry

Rating: 4

Tasting notes: The mix of oak on Kikori imparts only a pale straw hue, and this restrained application of wood allows the delicate aromas of the spirit to shine through. With high floral notes, an aroma reminiscent of shochu, and light flavors of pear and vanilla, it’s a unique contribution to the whiskey category that’s very easy to enjoy.

Flavor profile:

Awards: 

  • Won Gold at the SFWS Competition (2016 and 2020)
  • Gold with a 90-point rating from the U.S. SPIRITS RATINGS (2020)

Kavalan Classic Single Malt Whisky

Kavalan Classic Single Malt Whisky

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Kavalan Classic Single Malt Whisky symbolizes the sheer quality of Whisky from Taiwan with a lively and passionate amber color. The distillery’s craftsmanship works with the humid Taiwanese climate to create a diverse and complex Whisky. The spirit is clean and fresh, with silky smoothness and whiffs of tropical fruits like mango.

Aroma/flavor: Fragrant and tropical fruits with mango, floral notes, and vanilla. 

Background information: Kavalan, a Taiwanese distillery, was launched in 2005 and released its bottling in 2008. Kavalan has been gaining popularity since its opening, quickly succeeding in awards for its single malts.

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Distilled in pot stills

Region: Taiwan

Age: NAS

ABV: 40.0%

Price: From $82.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Refill Ex-Bourbon, Refill Ex-Sherry, New American Oak

Rating: 3.58

Tasting notes: Lovely herbs and green tea are found on the nose initially and turn into sweet cereal. The tasting profile reveals more of a sherry profile with nuts and dried fruit. The finish is a little short, but there is a peppery, smoky quality at the back end, wrapping up the Whisky nicely.

Flavor profile:

Awards: Kavalan has won big at the 5th Las Vegas Global Spirits Awards scooping “Best World Distillery” and “Best World Whiskey” for its Kavalan Classic Single Malt Whisky. It also won 4 Platinum medals. Whiskies from the Taiwanese distiller were among the 700 entries judged in the 2021 contest.

Nikka Gold & Gold Samurai

Nikka Gold & Gold Samurai is a special edition release with removable metallic armor and helmet piece. It was initially launched in 1968 but is now discontinued. 

Aroma/flavor: Very mild spice, which leads to a very light and smooth overall palate

Background information: This Whisky from Nikka comes with a special Samurai helmet and armor. Gold & Gold has been one of the bases of Nikka’s variety of blended whiskies since 1968.

Type: Blended Malt

Distillery: Nikka

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

Price: From $249.99 (750 ml)

Buy on Saucey: Nikka Gold & Gold Samurai

Cask type: Ex-Bourbon

Rating: 3.64

Tasting notes: The nose has vanilla, toffee, and sweet spice aromas. Buttery cinnamon biscuits and rich malt add to the warm, smooth palate. Whiffs of ginger arise as the medium finish continues giving the sweet spices evident throughout. 

Flavor profile:

Nikka Days

Nikka Days

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Nikka Days is a blended Whisky mainly made with Coffee grain and non-peated Miyagikyo malts, along with a small quantity of Coffee malt Whisky and Yoichi peated malt Whisky. Generally, it is lightly peated and bottled at 80 proof. It is delicate and complex, with flavors that rise and leave a delightful aftertaste.

Aroma/flavor: Floral notes of orange blossoms and white flowers, balanced with fruity hints of citrus and pear.

Background information: Nikka Days has been developed for Whisky enthusiasts who appreciate fine whiskies on any regular day, based on the concept of “Whisky for every day”. The round bottle and bright colored label fantasize the taste profile of the drink inside and enrich a vibrant mood.

Type: Peated Blended Malt

Distillery: Nikka

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

Price: From $59.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: American Oak 

Rating: 3.4

Tasting notes: Extremely light with vanilla, toffee, cereals, and mush bananas with a tinge of smoke in the background. Pleasantly surprised by the viscosity on the palate, especially at this low strength. Some mild smoke again, but mainly middle-of-the-road flavors like vanilla and barley.  

Flavor profile:

Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask Finish Whisky

Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask Finish Whisky

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Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask, aged initially in American oak, is a subsequently finished Whisky in Ruby Port, Tawny Port, and Vintage Port casks. The fresh air in Yilan offers Kavalan its smooth, creamy, and refreshing character with a pleasant brownish-red color. 

Aroma/flavor: The nose has tropical fruitiness with honey, vanilla, coconut, and candy floss. 

Background information: Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask Finish is a Taiwanese Whisky produced in Taiwan that has enjoyed a delicate maturation in Porto casks.

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Distilled in pot stills

Region: Taiwan

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

Price: From $93.36 (750 ml)

Cask type: American Oak, finished in Ruby Port, Tawny Port, and Vintage Port Casks

Rating: 3.64

Tasting notes: Aromas of assorted berry jam and baking spices such as clove and allspice, followed by more fruit and spice

The palate gets a brief reprieve on these notes in the mid-palate with vanilla, wet tobacco, and honey but then reverts to finish with more spices and berries. 

Flavor profile:

Awards: Kavalan’s Concertmaster Port Cask Finish has been named the Master Medal for the Asia round of the World Whisky Masters, organized by the Spirits Business.

Nikka All Malt Whisky

Nikka’s All Malt Premium Whisky is made by blending barley malt distilled in pot stills at Yoichi distillery with barley malt and distilled in Coffey stills at Miyagikyo distillery. Nikka’s All Malt Premium Whisky is an intriguing mix of sweet and dry oak on the nose alongside some banana with a soft and smooth palate. In the U.S. All Malt is unavailable for sale.

Aroma/flavor: Fine nose with discreet smoke, roasted nuts, fine wood, chocolate, and pistachio nuts. 

Background information: Nikka boasts two distilleries, Yoichi and Miyagikyo. Nikka has its bottling plant and boasts one of Japan’s most prominent offerings.

Type: Blended

Distillery: Yoichi and Miyagikyo

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

Price: From $59 (750 ml)

Cask type: Oak

Rating: 3.68

Tasting notes: A sweet vanilla nose akin to cereal milk after you’ve eaten Cocoa Puffs

The Whisky is somewhat oily and rich on the palate, with a whiff of citrus and apple skins. Baking spices are gentle, and woody notes are soft. 

Flavor profile:

Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky

Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky

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Nikka operates two Coffey stills (named after its inventor Aeneas Coffey) within the Miyagikyo distillery to elaborate its grain whiskies. Initially imported from Scotland in 1963, these old stills yield more flavor and depth than modern column stills, imparting a specific character defining the house blends. In addition, these two unique bottlings showcase the innovative spirit of Nikka.

Aroma/flavor: Bourbon-like vanilla and corn notes with a herbal hint of chamomile

Background information: The Nikka Coffey Grain is distilled in a “Coffey still”, a very conventional and rare patent that Nikka imported from Scotland in 1963. The Coffey still makes a complex Whisky with a sweet and mellow taste originating from the grain. 

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Nikka’s Coffey stills

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 45%

Price: From $79.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: American Oak Casks

Rating: 4.8

Tasting notes: Neither “Japanese Bourbon” nor “Japanese Corn Whiskey,” Nikka Coffey Grain Whiskey has no age statement with a benchmark of 8-12 years. The profile is filled with carnival candy, and the palate is slick, not sticky or sweet. Some vanilla and cinnamon are added to the flavors with honey wine and peaches.

Flavor profile:

Awards: Nikka Coffey was awarded the trophy for Best Blend at International Spirits Challenge 2017

White Oak Akashi Blended Whisky

White Oak Akashi Blended Whisky

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The White Oak Distillery is in Akashi in the Hyogo prefecture. This distillery received its license in 1919 but only began using it for Whisky in 1984; before that, it was mainly used for saké and barley shochu production. Distilling Whisky only one to two months yearly, production is minimal. Akashi is a non-age statement blended Whisky, but it is likely around three years old and is aged in ex-bourbon before finishing in ex-sherry casks. 

Aroma/flavor: The aroma is delicate, with barrel spices, raw corn, marshmallows, and vanilla notes.

Background information: Akashi is a version specially made for the European market using a blend of Japanese and foreign-made malt and grain Whisky with an expression of sherry and chamomile.

Type: Blended

Distillery: Comprised of both Single Grains and Single Malts from many distilleries.

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

Price: From $47.72 (750 ml)

Cask type: Ex-Bourbon and Ex-Sherry

Rating: 3.29

Tasting notes: Young spirit vanilla, caramel syrup, spice, and a watery herbal quality

The palate mimics the nose and comes across as young and spirited.

Flavor profile:

Kura 8-Year-Old White Oak Whisky

The Kura 8-Year-Old White Oak Single Malt is handcrafted in Okinawa and has been reserved in assigned North American white oak casks for eight years. This spirit is made from the best quality Indica rice with black Koji unique to Okinawa, using conventional production techniques of over 600 years of craftsmanship. Complex aroma and mellow taste bring Whisky enthusiasts to a different and new concept of authentic local Japanese Whisky.

Aroma/flavor: Rich, brown sugar, citrus fruits, toasted aromas, oak.

Background information: Under the tagline “From Okinawa to the world”, the Helios distillery has refined spirits for over 50 years. The identity, culture, and know-how around Okinawa are significant.

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Kura Distillery

Region: Japan

Age: 8

ABV: 40%

Price: From $161 (750 ml)

Buy on Saucey: Kura 8-Year-Old White Oak Whisky

Cask type: North American White Oak

Rating: 4.00

Tasting notes:

Nose: Toasted oak and a whiff of moss, creamy lemon, soft malt, caramel

Palate: Brown sugar, lime marmalade, burnt oak.

Finish: Rye bread with bitter grape, spicy, dry

Awards: Silver Medal at CATHAY PACIFIC Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition 2017

Yamazakura Fine Blended Whisky

Yamazakura Fine Blended Whisky

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The Yamazakura Fine Blended Whisky is made by Sasanokawa Shuzo liquor company, a small distillery that has been making craft Whisky since 1946. Based in Kōriyama, their portfolio expanded into Whisky before Japan’s boom started. Rephrasing to “mountain cherry trees,” Yamazakura releases barely make it out of Japan, like this limited edition Fine Blended Whisky made available in 2015. 

Aroma/flavor: Orange blossom and subtle notes of earthy oak on the nose

Background information: The Yamazakura is a ji-Whisky made by Sasanokawa Shuzo Co and is their best-selling range. This fine-blended Whisky release combines the company’s best distillations to date. Small, local, with huge flavors and ideas. 

Type: Blended

Distillery: Distilled in pot stills

Region: Japan

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

Price: From $76.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Bourbon Casks

Rating: 2.32

Tasting notes: Orange blossoms on the nose, followed by oak, caramel, and fresh orchard fruit on the palate. This bottle from Japan’s new-generation distilleries brings serene balance and depth.

Flavor profile:

Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch Whisky

Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch Whisky

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Monkey Shoulder derives its name from the maltmen’s condition who hand turn the grain in a malthouse, resulting in an arm hanging. This blended Whisky comprises three single-malt distilleries: Kininvie, Glenfiddich, and Balvenie. The trio gets familiarized in a tub for three to six months before being bottled on-site.

Aroma/flavor: Orange zest, vanilla, spicy, with floral flavor notes.

Background information: Monkey Shoulder is born of one of the world’s oldest Whisky-making Scottish families, William Grant & Sons. Still family-owned today, William Grant & Sons has been distilling the finest Scotch whiskies since 1887.

Type: Blended Malt

Distillery: Monkey Shoulder

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

Price: From $36.99 (750 ml)

Cask type: Ex-Bourbon

Rating: 3.54

Tasting notes: The mid-palate shows more malted barley than the nose, with some added cinnamon. More malt and herbs show up with continued tasting, such as anise and mint. The finish is of average length, but while it’s around is quite remarkable.

Flavor profile:

Awards:  

  • Gold in the 2022 International Wine & Spirit Competition
  • Bronze in the 2022 New Zealand Spirits Awards
  • Gold in the 2021 International Spirits Challenge

Flavor Profile Credits* Distiller

Sipping History

Asian Whisky is identified with rice, the primary cereal for local grain spirits and the manufacture of Whisky. When Whisky exports to Asia started, there set off regional competition by domestic distillers making Eastern rice Whisky. In the West region, rice Whisky was a foreign concept. In 1857, the British publication ‘The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics’ nominated rice Whisky or rice arrack from Japan and China as ‘Spiritus oryzae;’ Identifying rice, the ‘liquor fungus’ Aspergillus oryzae and Oryza sativa, named Koji in Japan and Qu in China. This fungus is the millennia-old Asian’s alternative technique to malting. Enzymes and microbes break down rice starches into sugars, letting the yeast convert the sugars to alcohol in an ongoing procedure. The fungus’s metabolic path delivers glutamate, forming the savory flavor of umami – one of the five gustatory sensations alongside salty, sour, sweet, and bitter, giving rice Whisky a slight sensory difference.

Across Asia, many countries and cultures distilled Koji spirits in wooden, metallic, or earthenware stills using fermented rice, sorghum, barley, and millet. From the 14th century onwards, Han China designed a thriving grain-distilling industry. The oldest functioning distillery in the world is Sichuan’s Luzhou Laojiao Distillery, which has manufactured savory baijiu (meaning white spirit) since 1573. Baijiu has rice as an essential component, and, like British Whisky, it was flavored with spices and herbs to make it palatable into the 18th century.

To meet the new demand for alcohol, in the late 19th century, some Japanese sake breweries converted to distilling shochu, a vodka-like alcohol; others made a regional Osaka rice Whisky. Then, in 1889, Britain imported 244,000 tons of rice, of which 3,000 tons of damaged rice were sold to four patent grain distilleries to be mashed and distilled for blended Scotch. The spirit yield from mashed rice is half that of barley and corn, doubling when made with Koji fungus. As a result, mashed rice Whisky has a subtle taste; however, the Koji process lends it a complex flavor.

Whether mashed or Koji, rice is in the Whisky pantheon in Asian and Western distilleries. Jim Beam and Buffalo Trace replaced rye with rice in their mash bills two decades ago. A handful of distilleries in the U.S. are also experimenting with rice Whisky and the Koji technique. In Asia, rice and Koji Whisky are rallying, notably in Japan. Ex-sake distilleries and start-ups manufacture rice Whisky, exporting brands such as Kikori, Kukano, and Ohishi. In 2016, Asaka’s Shinozaki Distillery released Takamine Koji-barley Whisky, swiping the name of a Japanese chemist who gained an American patent in 1894 for operating a radically new approach to saccharify corn using koji fungus. Likewise, in 2020, Japan’s spirits Leviathan released Essence of Suntory Rice Whisky. In 2021, Diageo India launched Epitome Reserve, a 100% mashed rice Whisky.

Types of Whisky

There are different types of Whisky, usually differentiated by their types of grain, place of origin, blending process, or aging process.

Single Malt Whisky

Whisky prepared from a single distillery using a single malted grain 

Scotch Whisky

Scotch includes single malts from malted barley and blended Whisky, including grain Whisky. 

Blended Whisky

Any Whisky distilled from different grain types and a blend of various already-aged Whisky

Japanese Whisky

Japan focuses on single malts with peaty flavors, which are excellent.

Bourbon Whisky

American-made Whisky from at least 51% corn, distilled to 160 proof, barreled no higher than 125, and aged in charred oak barrels. 

Irish Whisky

Triple-distilled from unmalted barley in Ireland is often made, though single malts are available.

Rye Whisky

Mostly made in North America, it focuses on using rye; smaller proportions of other grains may also be used. 

Tennesse Whisky

Tennessee uses a charcoal filtering called the Lincoln County Process, which mellows the Whisky while giving it a slightly burnt wood flavor.

Canadian Whisky

Rye is Canadian’s favorite grain that goes into the blends made from various grains. 

Moonshine

Also known as “white dog” in Ireland, Moonshine is unaged raw Whisky straight out of the still (possibly diluted) without the color, mellowness, or extra flavors imparted by wood barrels. 

From the Old Fashioned to the Manhattan, Asian Whisky is the quintessential alcohol in numerous classic cocktails. So, are you a Whisky enthusiast? Explore our top choice of the best whiskies dominating the Asian market.

Quick Facts

Whisky is a dark distilled alcohol made from various grains, including corn, rye, barley, and wheat. It is distilled worldwide, most popularly in Scotland, Ireland, the United States, Canada, and Japan. Don’t let the spelling confuse you – Whisky is Whiskey. The term is an anglicized version of the classical Gaelic term uisge beatha, meaning water of life, also called ‘aqua vitae’ in Latin. Whisky was initially used as a medicine, both as an external antibiotic and an internal anesthetic.

  • Unquestionably, rice is a cereal grain, a member of the Poaceae botanical family, and classified for Whisky production. 
  • Rice, the world’s third most cultivated grain indigenous to Asia and China, is poised as a new flavor vector for Whisky. 
  • Barley’s maltiness led to the British century of Scotch Whisky, America’s bourbon century was led by sweet corn, and the Asian century may become famed for umami Koji Whisky.
  • One of Kyushu’s most aged sake breweries, the Fukano Distillery, started distilling rice Whisky in 1823. Mongolia made a millet Whisky called Koa Eang. Its rye-like character was alleged in 1894 to resemble bourbon whiskey or rye-Korn brantrim, Danish Whisky.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes the best quality Whisky?

Dark, full-bodied, old – these characteristics represent a high-quality Whisky. So, maturity is significant. The ideology is not necessarily ‘the older, the better’, but the Whisky must be well or harmonically matured.

What is the king of Whisky?

Douglas Laing’s King of Blended Scotch Whisky was made in 1886. Over 135 years later, Fred Laing, the 2nd generation of the family business and our Master Blender, hand chooses casks for the King of Scots and marries them together to form this, the crowning gem of Blended Scotch Whisky.

What is the most expensive Japanese Whisky?

The most expensive Japanese Whisky brand is Karuizawa, with some bottles fetching more than $40,000 on the secondary market. However, Yamazaki often releases limited bottles worth more than $1 Million.

How is Japanese Whisky made?

Japanese Whisky is most like Scotch Whisky in its production techniques. Single malts and blends are prominent styles made using column and pot stills and aged in various barrel types, including sherry casks, ex-bourbon barrels, and Japanese Mizunara oak. Blending is essential in Japanese Whisky, as many distilleries make varied Whisky types that are married together by the blender before bottling.

How is Japanese Whisky different from other types of Whisky?

Recently, limitations have been put into place, which should become law over the next few decades to define Japanese Whisky properly. Now, some bottles have Whisky imported from other countries into the mix, but these are initiated to be labeled as world whiskies. Across the board, the style of Japanese Whisky drives the gamut, from peated to sherry cask-influenced to light and floral. 

What is the content of the Best Whisky?

Best Whisky is a product of Westside Distillers in South Africa, a blended Scotch Whisky with a 43% alcoholic content.

Can you mix Japanese Whisky into a cocktail?

Yes, you can mix Japanese Whisky in cocktails. For example, the Highball is a simple drink that is very popular in Japan, combining Whiskey, a slice of lemon or citrus peel, and soda water. Leaning on the bottle, you can also use Japanese Whisky in classic Whisky cocktails like the Old Fashioned or Manhattan. Then, try these whiskies to get familiar with their character.

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