Yoichi from Nikka Whisky, Yamazaki from Santory are famous whisky brands not only in Japan but around the world! You will find the story behind multiple-award-winning Japanese whisky brands which are championeded by whisky-lovers, how Japanese whisky became sophisticated, and the history of how it became popular in this article.

Japanese Whisky Spreading To The World! Here is the popular brands and history

Whisky In Japan?

If you thought Japan is known for Sake, but not whisky, you probably need to update your knowledge of Japan. Since 2001, Japanese whisky has been awarded many times by the World Whiskies Awards (WWA), International Spirits Challenge (ISC), etc. Now that Japanese whisky is becoming more popular, the pride surrounding its whisky is higher than ever!

Which Whisky Is Popular In Japan?

90% of Japanese whisky is manufactured by Santory and Nikka-Whisky.

Whisky By Santory

山崎 Yamazaki

Yamazaki is single malt whisky that has been awarded every year by ISC/WWA since 2003. The Yamazaki Sherry Cask Single Malt 2013 was chosen as the best whisky in the world by the British Whisky Guidebook; World Whisky Bible 2015.

白州 Hakushu

This is another sigle malt whisky from Santory and is fruitier than the Yamazaki.

Whisky From Nikka-Whisky

余市 Yoichi

This is Nikka-Whisky's masterpiece. Its sophisticated, smoky, and fruity flavors have attracted many fans! This is another ISC awarded whisky.

竹鶴 Taketsuru

This 7 times WWA awarded pure malt whisky is highly praised even abroad.

History Of Japanese Whisky

No one would have said Japanese whisky was great when it appeared for the first time. Whisky distilleries in Japan experienced countless hardships when they started operations. Because of their national origin and start up status, critics refused to call their products whisky.

Whisky hit Japan for the first time in 1853. It started importing whisky from abroad in the 1900s, but it was too expensive for most of the Japanese population. Instead, mixture drinks were sold as whisky.

Two Historical Persons of Japanese Whiskey

There were two men who aspired to make whisky of Japanese origin. One was Shinjiro Torii who founded Santory and the other was Masataka Taketsuru who founded Nikka-Whisky.

Shinjiro Torii


Masataka Taketsuru


Mr. Torii was selling mixture drinks as fake whisky while trying to find an earnest way to distill good Japanese whisky at the same time. On the other hand, Mr. Taketsuru studied how to distill, sell, and manage Scotch whisky in Scotland.

Mr. Torii and Mr. Taketsuru knew and respected each other. In fact, they started distilling whisky together in Yamazaki, Osaka. Santory still sells the whisky they distilled under the names Santory White and Kakubin.

However, Mr. Taketsuru left Santory after 10 years of cooperation between him and Santory because he believed Yamazaki was not the best place for distillting whisky. Mr. Taketsuru moved to Hokkaido, which he believed the best place for whisky distilling and founded his own whisky distillery called Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery. You can see inside of the original distillery in Yoichi Hokkaido, see Japanese Proud Whisky Distillery:Nikka Whisky Distillery.

Japanese whisky survived difficult times such as wars and a declining demand for whisky within Japan. However, Santory’s and NikkaWhisky’s competition has helped make the quality of Japanese whisky high and sophicticated.

As a result, Japan has gained worldwide recognition for its whiskies today!


Would you be interested in Japanese whisky? Not only Sake but whisky can be a great choice for adult fun while you are in Japan!

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