Unbeknown to many, the origin of Japanese Whisky, “yes there is such a thing”, extends as far back as the 1870s. Born from the inquisitive nature and curiosity of Shinjiro Torii, a pharmaceutical wholesaler and the founder of Kotobukiya (later to become Suntory) the first batch of Japanese whisky was created in Yamazaki, a suburb of Kyoto. Torii hired Masataka Taketsuru, an individual with extensive worldwide distilling knowledge, as a distillery executive. The two worked together tirelessly for the consistent perfection and refinement of Japanese whisky.
Taketsuru played a key role in helping Torii establish the infamous Yamazaki Distillery. Shortly thereafter, in 1934, Taketsuru left Kotobukiya to form his own company—Dainipponkaju—that would later change its name to Nikka. In this new venture he established the Yoichi distillery in Hokkaidō.
Today, there are nine active Japanese whisky distilleries born from Torii and Taketsuru’s first venture. However, right up until the turn of the millennium, Japanese Whisky sales were entirely domestic. This all changed in 2001 when Nikka's 10-year Yoichi single malt won "Best of the Best" at the Whisky Magazine awards. Since then, Japanese whiskies have won awards, including top honours, in international competitions, notably Suntory. At the 2003 International Spirits Challenge, Suntory Yamazaki won gold, and Suntory whiskies continued to win gold medals every year throughout the following decade. The resultant acclaim gave Japanese distilleries confidence to intensify its focus on the overseas market.
Today, Japanese whiskies have garnered a considerable reputation, and are worth tasting for a new perspective on worldwide whisky cultivation. To sample our very own selection just click here.