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From under $60 to exclusive bottles, Liberty Liquors, Claremont, Perth, Western Australia, has the best range of Japanese Whisky in Western Australia. There’s a reason Japanese whisky is spelled, like Scotch, without the “e.” It was inspired by, and still takes after, Scotch whisky. A burgeoning, and rapidly excelling, market, Japanese whisky really began with one guy, Masataka Taketsuru, a Japanese national who went to Scotland to study organic chemistry in 1918, and instead fell in love with Scotch production. Which, to be fair, is a different kind of chemistry, a science he brought home with him to found Yamazaki and Yoichi distilleries (Japan’s first and second whisky distilleries, respectively). Since then and in a comparatively short time in the world of whiskey, Japanese whisky has evolved to a place of major esteem; in 2014, whiskey critic Jim Murray named Yamazaki’s 2013 Single Malt Sherry Cask “the best whisky in the world.” Japanese whisky is modelled after the scotch tradition—double distilling malted and/or peated barley—before it’s aged in wood barrels. As opposed to the sweeter American bourbons and ryes, they tend to be drier, smokier, and peatier, and come as single malts or blends. Most of the major distilleries in Japan actually import most of their ingredients from Scotland, using malted and sometimes even peated barley from the Isles. The individuality in taste comes from the minute details in the Japanese distilling process—the water source (the “mythical” water that Yamazaki Distillery uses comes from mountains near Tokyo), the shape of the distilling stills, and the type of wood the aging barrels are made of. Some distillers use imported bourbon barrels, but others make theirs out of mizunara, a tree only found in Japan that adds its own distinct flavour. When stacked up against each other, even the experts would be hard pressed to tell the difference between scotch and Japanese whisky in a quality blind taste test. Mostly, they diverge philosophically. Scotch is made to taste like it has always tasted for centuries—Scottish distillers focus on consistency and pack in a more smoky flavour. Japanese distillers, on the other hand, look to constantly refine and perfect, leaning toward more delicate-tasting whiskies. Japanese whiskies show a lot of restraint, a lot of elegance, a lot of technical attention to detail. There are several elements that set Japanese whiskies apart from their Scottish counterparts, namely: • The collection of stills • Style • Water • Oak casks To begin with, each distillery in Japan usually has a considerable variety of stills, creating a colourful range of components for the master blenders to choose from to make a ‘single malt’. Stylistically, Japanese whiskies tend to be less peated compared to Scotch whiskies, although there are also premium samples that take on a strong peat influence, such as the Hakushu Heavily Peated and Yoichi Heavily Peated. Water is another key factor that contributes to the characters of Japanese whiskies. ‘The newly established distilleries in Japan are almost all situated on spacious lands on higher altitude… with plenty of surrounding vegetation and close to quality water sources,’ said Shimatani. The former Suntory director noted that these ‘classic Japanese landscapes’ are different from those in Scotland. Japanese distillers and blenders believe that the chemical composition of each freshwater source contributes to the unique aroma characteristics of the whiskies made. The use of domestic oak casks, on the other hand, brings a more direct impact on the flavour profile of Japanese whiskies. The Mizunara oak, which is predominantly found in Eastern Asia, tends to give a distinct ‘gorgeous sweet perfume’ in addition to an ‘orange hue in the amber colour’ to the whisky. After prolonged ageing, whiskies tend to pick up an increasingly ‘incense-like’ aroma. More and more Japanese whiskies are edging out the West’s dominance on the big stage. In 2012, the Yamazaki 25 Year won the world’s best single malt at the World Whisky Awards. The Taketsuru 17 Year also won for the world’s best blended malt. Like how you enjoy your Scotch, you can drink Japanese whisky neat or on a rock. Alternatively, enjoy them by stirring in water and ice. However, Japanese whisky is especially enjoyed in Japan as the heart of the hugely popular cocktail, the Highball. The cocktail is made by firstly filling the thin and tall highball glass with ice. Next, add around 50ml of whisky and top up the glass with soda water, then garnish with a wedge of lemon or grapefruit. The classic cocktail, with numerous variations, is widely enjoyed in diners and bars in the country. Its popularity is said to have contributed to a new boom of single malt whiskies in Japan in the new millennium. Similar to the way you enjoy hot Shochu, you may also dilute your Japanese whisky with two-thirds of hot water as a heart-warming alternative to a hot toddy. Although it’s becoming increasingly popular, supply is still limited. While there are quite a few distilleries in Japan, only whiskies made by Suntory and Nikka seem to be readily available. Suntory’s Hibiki 12 year and Hakashu 12 year, Nikka’s Taketsuru 12 year, and the Yamazaki 12 year are great places to start if you’re looking to get into the world of Japanese whisky. At Liberty Liquors we take great pride in trying to source some of the more hard to find and rare Japanese Whiskies, so if you are searching for something in particular get in contact to see if we have it in stock or can source it for you. Order and collect your Japanese Whisky or have it delivered right to your door. Free delivery for orders over $100.