Oh heavenly whisky, you truly are the water of life. But tell us dear spirit, should we look towards the cold west (Scotland) or the shining east (Japan) to wet our beaks?
Tough question, I know. Fret not as I’ll break down the differences according to taste, price, and overall quality, and hopefully, put the whole ‘Scott vs Japanese Whisky’ debate to rest once and for all.
Let’s kick things off with:
Aye good ol’ Scotch – essentially any whisky distilled and produced in Scotland, whether blended malt or single malt, if it was made in Scotland – it’s Scotch.
When it comes to scotch, most distilleries prefer to stick by tradition in regard to their distillation and ageing processes. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it right?
Scotch distilleries primarily aim for consistency in their expressions. For context, a bottle of 12YO Glenfiddich from 2022 should (and most likely will) taste exactly the same as its 12YO counterpart from the ‘80s.
As for the taste of scotch, it really depends on what you’re getting. Several factors such as the region it came from as well as ingredients and type of blend all come into play.
Islay whiskies tend to be smokier due to the addition of peat whereas whiskies from the Lowland Region are generally known to be smoother and better suited for newcomers to the wonderful world of scotch.
In any case, most experienced whisky drinkers love using the word ‘complex’ to describe scotch in general – and they’re not wrong. If you’ve never had scotch, get your hands on some ASAP and you’ll get what they mean.
Now let’s take a look at…
Historians claim that Japan had been producing Japanese whisky since the 1850s, typically via shochu or sake breweries. Even so, whisky wasn’t very well-known nor sought after by the Japanese back in those days.
Then came 1923. Suntory – ever heard of them? These were the good folk who established Japan’s first official whisky distillery in that same year, pledging to create a whisky that catered to Japanese palates.
That being said, it was the individual pictured above who absolutely perfected the art of crafting Japanese whisky after learning the Scottish distilling methods during studies abroad in Scotland.
His name was Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of Nikka. Affectionately referred by many as ‘The Father of Japanese whisky’, Masataka brought home a Coffey still from Scotland to Japan and began crafting proper grain whisky in the ‘60s.
In recent years, there’s been a worldwide surge of interest in Japanese whiskies. It’s reached a point where demand outweighs supply. This is why Japanese whiskies are much harder to come by and more expensive in comparison to scotch.
Unlike Scottish distilleries that produce spirits all year round due to Scotland’s consistently cold climate, Japan’s temperature changes are much more erratic and can drastically change on a monthly basis, which would affect the overall quality of their spirits.
Now as for how Japanese whiskies taste – if you thought scotch was complex, just wait ’til you get your hands on some Japanese whisky. Similar to scotch, the flavour of the spirit will vary greatly depending on your bottle of choice.
Ask anybody who’s had some good Japanese whisky and the words fragrant, floral, sweet and smooth will usually pop up. There’s just so much going on and yet for some reason, it all balances out!
Some claim that it’s the water in Japan which makes their whiskies taste so damn delicious.
Recommendations (Click on the photos to add to cart!)
1) NIKKA FROM THE BARREL
Nikka from the Barrel is a whisky jam-packed with flavour. Personally, I love adding just a teensy dash of water when I’m enjoying a glass of this (try it out, you won’t regret it).
But don’t just take my word for it though as this mouth-watering amalgamation of spices and fruits won top prize at the World Whisky Awards once in 2007, then again in 2010.
Nose: Reminiscent of fresh fruits with a floral tinge accompanied by subtle hints of spice and oak.
Palate: Full-bodied. Toffee, spices with bits of vanilla, caramel and just the right amount of fruit.
Finish: Long and lingering, fruity yet warm with a touch of oak and spice.
2) HAKUSHU DISTILLER’S RESERVE
Oh Suntory, do you ever disappoint? (No is usually the right answer). Meet Suntory’s Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve. A delectable single malt whisky hailing from Suntory’s Hakushu distillery located in the foothills of Mount Kaikomagatake.
This no-age-statement expression tastes both smoky and lightly herbal. Additionally, this particular expression is a tad bit peatier than most Japanese whiskies.
Nose: Herbal, peppermint, pine and pleasant grassy notes. Cucumber and melon round out the nose.
Palate: All the notes on the nose swim effortlessly through the palate, the mint developing sweeter notes as it goes on. Citrus zest also pops in to say hello.
Finish: A waft of smoke appears during the long finish.
Overall: This shall make a fantastic Highball. Oh yes it shall.
3) NIKKA GOLD & GOLD KABUTO
Feel like embracing your inner samurai spirit? Nikka Gold & Gold Kabuto has got you covered! Complete with removable samurai armour and helmet, this limited release is made available only to Japanese duty free.
Besides being a gem of a collectible and an amazing conversation piece, Nikka Gold & Gold is a fairly light and balanced blended whisky from the Yoichi distillery.
Another plus is that it’ll last longer (in my opinion) because for me, it’s more suited for cocktails like a highball instead of just sipped neat.
Nose – Clean, fruity, dash of cider, hints of Asian pear, honey, caramely.
Taste – Sweet honeyed fruits, pear, hint, gentle peppery sensation, a little drier than most blended whiskies.
Finish – Light warmth, lingering Asian pear sweet (like it’s been sitting out a bit & has oxidized to a light brown), honey.
Fairly new to our ever expanding collection of spirits, every drop of this spectacular Scotch is triple distilled then matured for over twelve years. This spirit is a Lowland Single Malt Whisky fragrant, nutty and creamy smelling delight.
It’s sweet, fruity and creamy at the same time. Can be drank neat, on the rocks and even mixed in cocktails though I recommend that you try it out neat first then go from there. Mild but pretty intriguing to say the least.
Accompanying that is the signature Auchentoshan taste. Oh, you’ve never had any? Well then what the heck are you waiting for? It even comes with a free high-quality microphone for those spontaneous DIY karaoke nights with the squad!
EXCLUSIVELY AT THE GOOD STUFF ONLY!!! (get it while stocks last)
SAME DAY DELIVERY IS NOT AVAILABLE FOR THIS ITEM
Nose: A cereal-sweet nose with notes of guava and mango, with a drizzle of honey.
Palate: Oaky and sweet palate, barley sugar, hints of passion fruit and vanilla custard. Perhaps even some rose petal jelly in there.
Finish: A lengthy, dry and oaky finish with barley sweetness and cocoa powder.
One of our top sellers of all-time (with good reason too!). A glorious, fruity symphony of citrus, sweeter fruits and various spices – I always pick up cinnamon for some reason.
Try finding this anywhere else, I dare you. On the rare chance that you do, check the price tag then check out ours. This is an absolute must-have!!! Just trust me on this one and add this to your cart.
Nose: Sherry, citrus – orange in particular, dry wood. Slight suggestion of smoke?
Palate: Medium, Sherry, raisins. Fruitcake, spices, sweetness.
Finish: Candied fruits, raisins, spices, Christmas pudding, oak takes over.
3) XR 21 JOHN WALKER & SONS
To the genius who thought of this magnificent elixir, I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love this. You will too. It’s a blended scotch whisky unlike any other.
Another one of our top sellers, this glorious golden nectar from God (or Gods depending on your beliefs, if any) and masterful distillers deserves to be in every household.
Smooth is an understatement. But even so there’s just enough of a kick for you experienced whisky lovers. It’s fruity but not overwhelmingly so and can be drank in any imaginable way. Elegant, delicious, makes for a neat gift too. Need I say more?
Nose: Spiced apple, smoky oak and a little toasted brioche.
Palate: Herbal as it opens. This gives way to orange and lemon peels by the bucket-load, followed by another kick of smoky malt.
Finish: Wafts of Sherry-soaked raisins last and last.