With the surging global demand for Japanese whisky taking its toll on the availability and price point of many of the most popular bottles from the big producers such as Yamazaki, Hakushu, Hibiki, Yoichi and Mars Shinshu, it can sometimes be tough finding a good quality bottle that’s within your price range. Unless you have a large amount of disposable income that you’re willing to spend on whisky, the market can often feel like it’s slightly out of reach.
As champions of Japanese whisky from producers both big and small, we’re always keen to make sure we stock bottles that are accessible to whisky fans of all incomes, allowing you to explore a wide selection of expressions without breaking the bank.
Today we’ll be highlighting five of the most affordable expressions on the market today. Each and every one of these whiskies offers fantastic value for the money through a range of interesting, well-balanced and complex notes that you’re not likely to forget in a hurry.
Without further ado, let’s get into it.
5. Hibiki Blender’s Choice
The Hibiki Blender’s Choice is a non-age-statement blended whisky from Suntory that was released to fill the hole left by the discontinuation of the much-loved Hibiki 17 Year Old. Said hole was obviously a huge one that would be hard for any whisky to fill successfully but, despite initial concerns from whisky fans around the world, the Hibiki Blender’s Choice has now cemented its place as a firm fan favourite.
This comes down to the intricate array of aromas and flavours on offer, including lots of vanilla, punchy tropical fruits, caramel coated raisins and subtle toasted oak on the nose, followed by richer oak, gentle pepper spice and more sweet vanilla on the palate. This is all topped off with a warming, medium length finish.
Suntory has said this blend is created using whisky between 15 and 30 years old and going by the flavour profile there is more of the former than the latter. Regardless, it still ticks so many boxes that make it a worthy replacement for the famous 17 Year Old. And it can be picked up for a fraction of the price.
4. Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt
This whisky from the award-winning Nikka Taketsuru range, named after ‘The Father of Japanese Whisky’ – Masataka Taketsuru – is a delicious non-age-statement expression created by carefully blending malt whisky from the Miyagikyo and Yoichi distilleries.
Aged for an average of 10 years in a variety of cask types, including ex-bourbon and ex-sherry, it brings a surprisingly accomplished array of notes to the table including rich dark fruits, cloves, wasabi spice, poached pear and gentle peat smoke that lingers in the background.
The Taketsuru range includes a number of award-winning expressions and this one certainly doesn’t feel out of place among them. A fine example of what the master blenders at Nikka are capable of and one that every Japanese whisky fan should have in their cabinet.
3. Nikka Coffey Malt
The Nikka Coffey Malt is a beautiful whisky created at the Nikka Miyagikyo distillery using the famous Coffey stills housed there. Initially created many years ago by Aeneas Coffey, this still type helps to retain the flavours of the liquid that passes through it, resulting in a smooth, flavourful array of notes.
Most distilleries that have Coffey stills use them exclusively for distilling grain whisky, however at Nikka Miyagikyo they also distill malt whisky in these stills with this expression being one of the most famous and accessible results.
It brings an elegant range of floral, fruity and spicy notes to the table and together they create a drinking experience that is unforgettable. Despite this whisky becoming a real favourite among Japanese whisky fans, Nikka removed it from production lines last year as a result of the on-going Japanese whisky shortage. When it will return is as yet unknown, so it’s worth getting your hands on a bottle while you still can (and before the price goes up!).
2. Ichiro’s Malt World Blended Limited Edition 2018
This is not a Japanese whisky per se, but it is from popular bottler and owner of the Chichibu distillery, Ichiro’s Malt, and it has the distinction of having some of the oldest stocks produced at their rapidly growing distillery inside.
Created by blending a number of grain and malt whiskies from around the world, all of which have been aged for over 10 years, it brings a complexity and balance that is unrivaled in the world blend category.
It’s fruity and gently spicy with hints of citrus fruits, apple pie, sweet toffee and white pepper on the nose, followed by sweetened lemon zest, fresh ginger, subtle oak and raisins on the palate. The finish is long lasting and keeps you occupied until your next sip.
This is one of our favourite blended whiskies on the market and it’s one of the best that you will ever get from Ichiro’s Malt in terms of value for money.
1. Nikka From The Barrel
The Nikka From The Barrel is an outstanding blended expression created from single malt and grain whisky produced at the drinks giant’s Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries and matured in a variety of casks including sherry, bourbon and refill hogsheads. It brings elegance and balance to your glass and a delightful array of smells and flavours that keep you coming back for more.
Freshly cut grass, gentle floral tones and a range of rich spices including cardamom, sandalwood, and fresh fruits are the most apparent on the nose and they are followed by silky caramel, sweet toffee and mouthfuls of vanilla on the palate. It’s delicious and well-rounded and one that we can’t get enough of.
The Nikka From Barrel has actually been around for some time in Japan, but it was only made available overseas in 2018 and has quickly become a fan favourite. Given the relatively low price of this bottle, you’ll struggle to find an expression (Japanese or otherwise) that offers better value for money and that’s why it’s number one on our list.