3 Great Japanese Distilleries

Japanese whisky is gaining momentum in recent years due to its mild and smooth taste. Its sophistication is seen in the impressive spirit blends of marzipan, nutmeg, orange marmalade, chamomile, quinces, lemon, and apricot jam that have come out of Japan. Japanese whisky is reminiscent of northern Scottish whisky, but some would argue, with more complexity in its flavor.

History of Japanese Whisky

While some whisky was being produced in Japan in the 1870’s, true production of the modern drink began in 1924. The industry began with Shinjiro Torii, who began the importation of western liquor and also created port wines. Port wine was not enough for him though, which is why he made it his life’s mission to give the Japanese people their own whisky. He embarked on this task by building the first whisky distillery in Yamazaki, Japan. This area was a fantastic start to the whisky industry in Japan due to its world famous water that many tea masters seeked. After creating the distillery Torii hired Masataka Taketsuru. Taketsuru had previously studied whisky in Scotland, and with this knowledge he helped to create a unique flavor in Japanese whisky. While Taketsuru did eventually leave to create his own distillery, his mark on the Japanese whisky industry is still notable in the Scottish style of almost all Japanese whiskies. Since its inception, Japanese single malt has gained recognition in recent years.


Japan has numerous distilleries of fine spirits and whiskies. Many of these distilleries offer extraordinary drinking experiences in their product, as well as easily accessible tours and information.


It is Japan’s first and most famous distillery, and for good reason. Located in beautiful Kyoto, it includes a whisky library with more than 7,000 bottles on display. Even without the tour, the whisky makes this trip worth it. Yamazaki was named the World’s Best Single Malt Whisky in 2012. This world-class spirit is offered in 18, 20, and 25 year-old bottles.


Miyagikyo is a unique northern Japanese distillery with a unique blend of flavors in all of its products. The location—near Sendai City—offers the ideal combination of clean air, mild humidity, and access to fresh water. The beautiful setting has creates a soft, mild malt. A tour at Miyagikyo includes a tasting of the soft and distinct whisky.


Hakushu located in the Southern Alps and two and a half hours west of Tokyo, the area is filled with trees and even includes a bird sanctuary. The tour is offered in many languages and comes with a tasting of some their excellent spirits. Hakushu as a brand is comprised of two distilleries that come together to form unique blends—such as the award-winning Suntory blend whiskies.

To learn more about Japanese whisky be sure to read our blog, or attend any of our educational tastings at Julio Liquors in Westborough, MA. If you’re enthusiastic about whisk(e)y consider joining our Loch and Key Society to discuss the great spirits of the world! Our staff will use their expertise to help you find the perfect bottle of whisky.

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