The 10 Best-Selling Japanese Whiskies of 2018

With 2019 well underway, we’ve already had some exciting new releases. The Trinitas, the Mars ‘Sun and Phoenix’ single malt and, most recently, the stunning Karuizawa Shibari Collection have all been well received. On top of that, we have plenty of others to look forward to, the upcoming Suntory Ao World Blend for example. But before we lose ourselves in this year’s brilliant new expressions, we thought we’d take a look back at the best sellers from the year gone by.

Some of these whiskies picked up medals at awards events around the world, while others became popular thanks to word of mouth, design or the story behind the delicious liquid inside, but that’s not what we’re interested in today. Today we’re looking at the 10 best sellers from 2018 – the whiskies that you, the consumer, liked the most. To us, that means more than any award, medal or trophy in the world. So without further ado, here they are.

10. Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve

The Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve is one of the cheapest bottles in the world famous distillery’s range but that doesn’t mean it lacks in quality. Released to celebrate the founding of the founding of the distillery, in 1923, this one brings flavours of sherry, vanilla, raisins and sweet honey together and they combine so well together. It’s an elegant single malt whisky and one that is the perfect first buy for someone looking to try Yamazaki whisky or get into Japanese whisky in general.

9. Hibiki Japanese Harmony

Hibiki Suntory Whisky Japanese Harmony

The Hibiki Japanese Harmony is an NAS expression crafted from a range of quality single malts aged in a number of differing casks. The results are a smooth and warming expression that comes together in perfect harmony as a range of notes dance on your nose and palate. The Japanese Harmony is the prime example of what a blended NAS expression should be and that is highlighted by its ever-increasing popularity.

Hibiki released a number of other delicious NAS whiskies that have been met with similar acclaim, such as the Japanese Harmony Master’s Select and the Blender’s Choice. Both bring something a little bit different to the table and we’d highly recommend trying them.

8. Nikka Whisky From the Barrel

Nikka Whisky From the Barrel

The Nikka from the Barrel is a delicious blend that could be seen as the perfect entry-level Japanese whisky. It is produced using matured malt and grain whisky, with the grain originating from the Miyagikyo distillery and the malt from Yoichi. The whisky variants are mixed and then matured in a first-fill bourbon cask, creating a rich harmony between distinctly different whiskies. A real delight from nose to finish.

7. Yamazaki Limited Edition 2017

Yamazaki Limited Edition 2017 Japanese Whisky

The Yamazaki Limited Edition 2017 is the fourth release in the distillery’s Limited Editions series and it has been a huge success with whisky-lovers around the world, far surpassing the others in the range. Made from top quality malt and grain whiskies, some of which are aged for 20+ years, matured in a combination of Mizunara, American oak, European oak and ex-sherry casks, this one really has it all and it delivers a taste sensation like no other. Delicate, delicious and moreish, this beauty will remain a favourite for as long as stock remains.

Along with the Limited Edition 2017, the 2014, 2015 and 2016 editions were equally triumphant and today, they are highly collectible.

6. Nikka 12 Year Old

The Nikka 12 Years Old Final Version

Released in 2014, the Nikka 12 Year Old is a blend of some of the finest single malts in the Nikka arsenal. Bringing notes of Miyagikyo and Yoichi together, this expression manages to create something altogether new, refreshing and interesting. You really are getting the best of both worlds here thanks to Nikka’s expert blending and it is this that has made this 12 Year Old so popular.

5. The Kikou

The Kikou Japanese Whisky - No Box

The Kikou was the first release in our “Ki” series. Produced at the Eigashima distillery, this expression gained the title of “A Japanese Whisky Encased in Scottish Legend” thanks to the time it spent maturing in a cask sourced from Islay’s silent Port Ellen distillery. Since closure, whisky from Port Ellen has become something of a commodity, much like Karuizawa in Japan, and the cask has imparted a whole array of wonderful notes on the delicious Eigashima spirit. As a single cask whisky, numbers of this bottle were highly limited and thanks to huge demand there are very few remaining in store today.

For those of you who loved The Kikou, the next installment in our Ki Series will be coming later this year, so keep your eyes peeled and make sure to sign up for our newsletter for updates.

4. Yamazaki 18 Year Old

Yamazaki 18

The Yamazaki 18 Year Old sits in the middle of the iconic distillery’s range, between the 12 and 25 Year Olds. Fetching a slightly higher price than the 12, this whisky brings hints of Japanese Mizunara Oak to the table along with a longer and spicier finish than it’s younger sibling. It has become a staple among the whisky elite and, according to 2018 sales data, everyone else is in love with it too, and no wonder – it’s incredible.

3. Hibiki 17 Year Old

Hibiki 17

Sat in the middle of Hibiki’s core range, the 17 Year Old is a hugely successful Japanese blended whisky that is the epitome of harmony, elegance and craftsmanship. As with all Hibiki expressions, the 17 Year Old has been tirelessly slaved over by the master blenders and the results are truly special. Despite being one of the world’s best blends and a huge fan favourite, this whisky was the latest casualty in a string of discontinuations in the Japanese whisky market. The Hibiki 12 and Hakushu 12 were notable others that met the same fate. For this, we have a distinct shortage of ageing Japanese single malt whisky to blame. Regardless, this remains a favourite among fans of Japanese whisky and due to its newly limited status, its popularity is only likely to increase while stocks last.

2. Hibiki 21 Year Old

Hibiki 21

The Hibiki 21 Year Old is the oldest in the Hibiki brand’s core range. Winner of the World’s Best Blended Whisky on no fewer than five occasions, this expression really is one of the best blended creations in the entire whisky world, never mind the Japanese whisky market. Elegant, subtle and smooth, it really does have it all and so it’s no wonder that everyone loves it, making it the second best selling bottle in 2018. Hibiki also released a stunning Mount Fuji Limited Edition of the 21 Year Old, with the jaw-dropping mountain emblazoned in elegant fashion across the face of the bottle.

1. Yamazaki 12 Year Old

Yamazaki 12 Year Old Single Malt Japanese Whisky

The Yamazaki distillery is Japan’s most popular thanks to their mastery and craft in whisky production. Their expressions are said to be the most well-balanced, flavourful and smooth whiskies to come out of the country in recent times and the 12 Year Old is the most popular of these. A newer version of this whisky, with a freshly designed black box, was released in 2018 and both this and the older version are firm favourites among followers of the distillery and Japanese whisky in general.

Bonus – Asia’s Best Selling Non-Japanese Whisky: ‘One’ Kavalan Solist Barrique Single Cask

This stunning complex whisky from Kavalan is obviously not a Japanese whisky, instead hailing from Taiwan, but it managed to make our top 10 best sellers of 2018 and so it’s only right that we feature it here. This ‘One’ Solist Barrique single cask is a dekanta exclusive that was hand-selected by company director Makiyo Masa and Kavalan Master Blender Ian Chang. It’s fruity, complex and smooth and is a fine addition to the distillery’s award-winning Solist Barrique range. Their are very few bottles remaining of this excellent whisky, so it’s worth acting quickly if you want to get your hands on one.

If you’re a fan of peated whisky, you might want to try the ‘Two’ bottling, matured in a peated Scotch cask.