japanese whiskey in a glass by plant and bottle and screen

Best Japanese Whisky: Find Your Perfect Pick

Japanese whisky is exactly what the name implies: whisky made in Japan. However, there’s a lot more to it than that. Additionally, it’s a good idea to learn how it’s made, how much it costs, and why some types of Japanese whisky are better than others. Whether you know nothing about Japanese whisky or consider yourself an enthusiast, you’re in the right place if you want to find the best Japanese whisky.

This article takes you through everything you need to know about Japanese whisky. We cover what it is, the factors you should consider before purchasing, and, of course, the best Japanese whiskies on the market. Read on to learn more.

What You Need to Know About Japanese Whisky

There’s a lot you need to learn about Japanese whisky before you can buy it. Sure, you can jump in blind and hope the taste matches your palate, but why take that risk? Japanese whisky varies greatly in cost, quality, and even flavor.  While it shares many traits with other whiskies, that doesn’t mean it follows the same pattern for taste and quality – aside from how aging relates to cost and quality.

For these reasons, you’ll want to learn about the history of Japanese whisky and how it’s made to be enjoyed. Understanding other factors to consider when choosing a Japanese whisky will also help you make the right purchase. The cost and knowing where you can get your hands on it at the right price are also important if you want to enjoy Japanese whisky. Learn more about these factors to consider below.

Japanese Whisky: An Overview

Japanese whisky has been around for a long time. Its origins can be traced all the way back to 1870 when it was made by independent farmers. While the blends were unique, the flavors were all over the place until Yamazaki Distillery began producing the whisky in 1920. Once Yamazaki distillery started, other distilleries began popping up all over the country, and now it’s available worldwide.

While Japanese whisky gives you a taste of Japan, if we had to compare it to something else, it’s more like a scotch. Therefore, it’s not always the best choice if you prefer smokey and dry bourbon or rye whiskies. While Japanese whisky is known for tasting similar to scotch, that doesn’t mean it always will. Some Japanese distilleries offer more variety, including smoky flavors and even some botanical additions.

When it comes to enjoying Japanese whisky, you can enjoy it as a shot, neat, or over ice. Ultimately, it depends on how you prefer your whisky and the age of the whisky. For example, younger Japanese whisky makes for a better shot, while older whiskies are more expensive, and you’ll get your money’s worth if you sip it instead.

How to Choose the Best Japanese Whisky?

No two Japanese whiskies are the same, so it’s important to understand the factors that go into making a Japanese whisky good. First and foremost, age is one of the most important factors to consider.

You can find cheaper Japanese whisky for less than $50, which is fine if you want to knock back a few shots with your friends. However, more expensive and longer-aged Japanese whisky is better for sipping or enjoying on the rocks. Depending on your preferences, both are viable options and if you prefer, you can shoot some more expensive blends for a quick burst of that smooth flavor.

Another factor to consider is how the whisky is aged. Some Japanese whisky is aged in American-style oakwood barrels, which gives it that smokey flavor. On the other hand, some Japanese whisky is aged in sandalwood barrels; this gives off an almost incense-like flavor to the whisky that’s smoother and less harsh than smoky whisky.

You also need to consider how the whisky is made because different distilling principles will net you a different outcome, flavor, and even price point. Most Japanese whisky is made with malted barley and other grains. The distilling methods can change depending on the whisky. Some Japanese whisky is distilled twice in a pot still, while others are run through column stills, the latter being more common in Japanese whisky blends.

What Does Japanese Whisky Cost?

Japanese whisky varies greatly in price. Some of the more affordable options cost as little as $30 for a bottle. These inexpensive whiskies are perfect for shots and to mix in cocktails. Therefore, while inexpensive, that doesn’t mean they’re terrible. On the high side, some aged Japanese whisky can cost more than $200. More expensive Japanese whisky is best enjoyed in a glass, potentially with some ice and a garnish. On average, expect to pay $75 to $175 for a good bottle of Japanese whisky.

Where Can You Buy Japanese Whisky?

You can buy Japanese whisky in lots of places, so you don’t have to worry about Japanese whisky being exclusive to Japan. It can be found online, in liquor stores, and in most restaurants. If you’d like a glass of Japanese whisky with dinner during a nice night out, you’ll have the best luck with Japanese restaurants, including sushi places. That said, it’s not an uncommon whisky, so you can find it in most places.

The Best Japanese Whisky

Japanese whisky is delicious but okay when you get it right from the source. With plenty of manufacturers rebranding American whisky as Japanese whisky and different levels of quality, even among Japanese distillers, finding the best Japanese whisky has never been harder.

1. Yamazaki Whisky: The House of Suntory

bottle of Yamazaki Whisky
Image Source: https://house.suntory.com/yamazaki-whisky

 MSRP: $159.99

Proof: 86 Proof

Tasting Notes: Opens with fruity and citrus flavor notes similar to peach, grapefruit, orange, and even a hint of vanilla. There are also finishes of sweet cinnamon and ginger flavor.

Our Rating: 5/5

The House of Suntory is one of the oldest Japanese whisky brands on the market. It’s been around since 1923 when the House of Suntory opened the first malt whisky distillery in Japan. This flagship single malt whisky is the House of Suntory’s greatest whisky to date. Depending on your preferences and budget, you can find it aged 12, 18, or 25 years. However, each iteration of this smooth and tasty whisky is true to the original style of Japanese whisky.

The distillery’s location is just outside Kyoto, so you’re getting an authentic Japanese whisky. This area is known as Minaseno, which is famous for its natural water, which is said to enhance the flavor of this whisky. The distillery claims that this water improves the flavor of all of their whisky, and after trying it, we agree. As for the aging process, Yamazaki Whisky is aged in Japanese wood barrels, American oak barrels, and sometimes even Spanish wood barrels.


  • Available in 12, 18, and 25-year age brackets, each age has a unique flavor for you to experience
  • From one of the oldest Japanese whisky distillers in the world
  • The whisky is from Japan and not an American brand that’s labeled as Japanese whisky


  • It can be hard to find this whisky in your area depending on the liquor retailers available

2.  Nikka Single Malt Yoichi

bottle of Yoichi Single Malt
Image Source: https://www.nikka.com/eng/brands/singlemalt-yoichi/

MSRP: $92.99

Proof: 90 proof

Tasting Notes: Bold and strong with refined peaty notes and smokiness.

Our Rating: 5/5

Another Japanese whisky that is straight from Japan is Single Malt Yoichi. This Japanese whisky comes from the Yoichi distillery, which was Nikka’s first distillery. It’s been around since 1934, and the location of this distillery was chosen due to the town’s environment and how similar the conditions are to Scotland. For this reason, if you’re a fan of single-malt scotch, there’s a great chance you’ll love this Japanese take on your favorite whisky.

As one of the distillery’s original creations, Single Malt Yoichi is an original Japanese whisky that’s been refined for centuries. The distillation method is a direct coal-fired distillery, so it gives off an authentic flavor that you can’t find anywhere else. Furthermore, if you’re lucky, you may catch some limited edition blends that further expand on these natural and original whisky flavors.


  • Located in Japan in an environment that produces authentic Japanese whisky
  • Similar in flavor to single malt scotch
  • Bold and strong
  • Affordable price


  • Not for people who prefer whisky blends, especially if you’re not a fan of this particular malt

3.  Hatozaki Finest Blended

bottle of Hatozaki Finest Blended
Image Source: https://akashisakebrewery.com/product/hatozaki-blended-finest/

MSRP: $43.99

Proof: 80

Tasting Notes: Unpeated, floral, delicate

Our Rating: 4/5

Are you looking for a Japanese whisky that you can enjoy in a cocktail? Or perhaps a whisky that’s better for enjoying a shot or two with your friends? If so, Hatozaki Finest Blended is the best choice. While it’s still a Japanese whisky, it’s a blended whisky that makes use of several malts.

Despite the malts, it’s still aged for up to 12 years and has a two-stage blending process that emboldens the flavor. Furthermore, it’s never colored with additives or artificial flavors. Akashi is also one of Japan’s oldest distilleries and has been around since the 1800s. Based on their earlier work with botanical clear liquors, it’s clear that Akashi knows how to work with botanicals to improve the flavor of whisky.

When it comes to the cocktails you can enjoy this whisky in, we recommend a highball cocktail. You can also enjoy it with a little bit of tonic and a lemon peel garnish. Depending on your flavor palette, you may also enjoy this Japanese whisky with other cocktails that can bring out some of its sweeter flavor notes.


  • Better for cocktails than the other Japanese whisky options we covered
  • Two-stage blending process
  • No artificial flavors, dyes, or colors
  • One of the few Japanese whisky blends


  • Not the best for sipping straight

What Are the Best Alternatives to Japanese Whisky?

If you love the flavors of Japanese Whisky, you may enjoy these options from other countries as well:

Enjoy the Best Japanese Whisky Today

whiskey barrels stored in japanese distellery

Japanese whisky is one of the best liquors around, but only if you get the whisky that works best for you. You’ll find that some Japanese whisky brands are great for sipping, while others are great for shots. While you can usually tell based on the price, it also takes some time to evaluate how long a Japanese whisky has been aged. This can be a huge factor that plays into the quality of the whisky.

Aside from these factors, feel free to get creative and enjoy multiple types of Japanese whisky. Check out some of the brands that we featured in this article and have some fun with it. After all, enjoying a glass of whisky is supposed to be enjoyable, not stressful.

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