While every whisky drinker has their favorite Scottish blend, those who are looking for distinct, harmonious, flavor profiles may be in for a wonderful surprise with Japanese whiskies. They are quite rich in character, come with sharp, spicy, and fruity characteristics and because there are no distinct regional styles, every bottle comes with pleasant aromas and complex tastes. If you are curious about trying out a Japanese whisky or two, check out seven of the most affordable options below.
The Kura 8 is a single malt, rice whisky that comes with a beautiful amber coloring. It is handcrafted in the Helios distillery with traditional production methods that are over 600 years old. The distillery is located in the Okinawa region, which is in the southernmost part of Japan. The Helios distillery is well-known for its awamori, which is made from the highest quality of Indica rice and Okinawa’s unique, black Koji mode. The whisky is slowly distilled in North American White Oak casks for eight years. For whisky lovers, the taste is quite mellow, but it comes with a complex aroma due to its aging. The volume is 72cL with an ABV of 40% and comes with its box. It rings in at $199.00.
The Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve is a non-peated, single-malt whisky that is perfect for beginner whisky drinkers as it goes down smooth and is very sweet on the tongue. Released in 2014, the Yamazaki is matured in Bordeaux wine casks and sherry casks, which give it rich berry notes. To the nose, you are going to smell Yamazaki strawberries, cherries, and Mizunara which is Japanese oak. You may also get a little bit of coconut and some sandalwood. On the tongue, you are going to get a little bit of spice, some white peach, and light oak with a vanilla finish that is spicy and blended with cinnamon. The volume is 70cL with an ABV of 40%. It rings in at $169.90 on sale.
The Hibiki Harmony is a well-balanced blended whisky that is made from several malt whiskies from the Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Chita distilleries. It is a very delicate yet complex whisky that is amber in color and very sweet to taste. It is distilled in five different types of casks including Mizunara oak, Sherry, and North American White Oak. To the nose, you are going to smell honey, green apples, red berries, sandalwood, rose, and lychee with a hint of rosemary and woodiness. To taste, you are going to get a honey-like sweetness with white chocolate and candied orange. The finish is subtle, with a hint of Japanese oak. The volume is 70cL with an ABV of 43%. It rings in at $148.00 on sale.
A light gold, single malt whisky sporting a green bottle, Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve throws a citric curveball at the usual fruity and floral batters. In light of this, it still releases a blend of peppermint and melon scents, while tasting like a mixture of citrus, grapefruit, and lemon thyme, until finally finishing with that classic hint of smoke. A larger bottle for a slightly larger price, Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve rings in at about $170 for 70 cL.
In stark contrast to Nikka’s usual limited releases, Nikka Coffey Grain was made for mass production to really show off Nikka’s key components. This Grain whisky, produced from corn in a “Coffey still”, offers a bourbon-like scent with a hint of chamomile. Flavors of melon and grapefruit are blended with syrup and vanilla, finishing off with long lasting notes of corn and biscuits. Despite being a larger release, Nikka Coffey Grain borders on the expensive side, ringing in at $138 for 70 cL. Discounted from $148.
Though technically a malt whisky, Nikka Coffey Malt is classified as a grain whisky because of its unique distillation process. Malted barley is distilled through a “Coffey still” rather than a pot, which is what regular malt whiskies are distilled in. It has a deep golden color to it and comes with a lively smell. It is very easy to pick up lemon, pepper, vanilla, coffee, and pear when you smell it while the palate will come away with vanilla cream, coffee, pralines, and rum. The finish has a hint of prune, plum and liquorice to it. It is richly textured and blends dense spices, oak, and fruity notes together well. The volume is 70cL with an ABV of 45%. It rings in at $138.00 on sale, down from $148.00.
A blended whisky, distilled in bourbon barrels, Nikka from the barrel was hailed as the best Japanese Whisky under 12 years old at the World’s Whiskies Awards in 2007. It’s made from a mixture of two Nikka single malts and a single grain whisky, giving it a golden-brown color and a complex finish. It has a mixture of fruity and floral aromas, while boasting a strong, spicy taste that develops into a caramelized apple flavor. Not one to break the bank, Nikka from the barrel rings in at around $80 for 50 cL.