We’re almost halfway through what has been a very busy 2022 thus far for Japanese whisky, with a range of exciting new releases popping up from distilleries all over Japan. The whisky landscape in Japan is changing rapidly, with exciting new distilleries joining the old guard, and nearly all of them seem to be producing some fantastic liquid.
With that in mind, today we’re going to take a look at five of the most exciting and intriguing new releases to come out of Japan this year. If you’re planning on buying a bottle in the near future, these ones are well worth adding to your collection.
Ichiro’s Malt has quickly risen to become one of the most popular producers of single malt and blended whisky in all of Japan, with their Chichibu Distillery becoming a fan favourite around the world since its inception in 2008.
Run by Ichiro Akuto, who’s grandfather owned the legendary Hanyu Distillery, they have a wealth of knowledge and experience to work with and it has resulted in some of the most exciting, and awarded, Japanese whiskies to date.
Their range of limited edition world blended whiskies and Japanese blended whiskies are unrivaled in their categories and have the awards to prove it – with the Japanese Blended Limited Edition picking up “World’s Best Blended Limited Release” at the World Whiskies Awards on four separate occasions.
This year’s edition of this multi-award winning expression follows on from its predecessors in style, bringing a plethora of exciting aromas and flavours to the table for you to explore.
As usual, it comes in an elegant wooden box and is highly limited in numbers. It’s a truly outstanding creation and one that is sure to delight any fan of Ichiro’s.
The Yamazakura range was typically made up of world blended whiskies that became popular just after the Japanese whisky boom. However, with the building of the exciting Asaka Distillery, the range now also includes Japanese single malts and Japanese blended whiskies, and thus far they have been a joy to behold.
This Yamazakura Asaka Sherry Wood Reserve is the pick of the bunch. Despite being released at the end of 2021, we felt it deserved a mention today because of just how good it is.
It delivers a delightful array of fruity and woody notes, backed up by building peat smoke that holds right up until your next sip. The sherry wood has had an obvious influence here, delivering a compelling fruity richness that is apparent on the nose and even more so on the palate. The entire drinking experience takes you on a fantastic, winding journey and it is one that is hard to rival.
This whisky is, in fact, so good that it was named World’s Best Blended Malt at this year’s World Whiskies Awards. Well done to the Asaka Distillery on another superb creation.
By this point, we’re all well aware of how good those at Chichibu are at producing top quality single malt whisky that can compete with the very best expressions in the world, and this is another one to add to that list.
Chichibu The Peated was an annual release between 2012 and 2018, however we haven’t seen a new bottling since then. That is, until now!
For this new 2022 bottling, the Master Distillers at Chichibu dried their malt by burning peat under the kiln, resulting in generous smoky tones throughout. It brings light peat, gentle custard, aromas of black tea and vanilla on the nose, before the palate arrives with building peat smoke, warm fruits and a hint of salt. The finish is long and moreish, with bitter chocolate and more peaty aromas mingling for some time.
We’re always excited by new releases from this already legendary distillery, but when they revitalise a fan favourite that we haven’t seen in a few years, like The Peated, it takes our excitement to a whole new level.
This is a whisky that every fan of the distillery should try, but with only 11,000 bottles produced, and limited numbers of those available online, it’s worth acting fast if you want to get your hands on a bottle of this exceptional creation.
The Lucky Cat bottlings from Hombo Mars are a series of World Blended Whiskies, created using malt and grain whisky from Japan and Scotland. They have developed something of a cult following in recent times thanks to the impressive array of tasting notes on offer, the limited nature of the bottlings and, of course, the elegantly designed, stunning cat labels.
This one focuses on Luna, a mischievous tomboy with gorgeous black and white markings. Finished in Manzanilla and Oloroso sherry casks, it’s a magnificent, rich, elegant expression that brings hints of marmalade, toasted almonds, birthday cake and dry oak. They all mingle perfectly on the nose and palate, coming and going in perfect harmony to create a memorable drinking experience.
This is not the only new whisky from Hombo Mars this year – they also released a Tsunuki single malt that is worth getting your hands on – but if you’re going to choose one, make it the Luna purely for the tasting experience alone.
The Akashi Malt Sessions Double Distilleries is a Japanese blended whisky created from spirit distilled at two of Japan’s exciting new distilleries – Akashi White Oak and Nagahama.
Both of these relatively young producers are already responsible for award-winning whiskies, including the superb Amahagan world blended malt series, so we were expecting big things when we found out they were making a blend together.
We’re pleased to say that the Double Distilleries does not disappoint. It is made up of three different whiskies – lightly peated malt distilled at Akashi and matured for 4 years in bourbon barrels, lightly peated malt distilled at Akashi and matured for 3 years in Oloroso casks and non-peated malt from the Nagahama distillery.
The results are astounding, bringing aromas of dried fruits, candied orange peel, gentle oak and subtle peat smoke on the nose, before the palate delivers soft citrus, red berries and more of that softly building peat smoke. Spices appear the longer you hold the liquid on the tongue, predominantly white pepper and cinnamon, and the finish is medium length with smoky tones holding until your next sip.
It’s a great expression and one that shows what can be done when fantastic whisky producers from across Japan come together.
Exciting Months Ahead
Some of the expressions being produced inside of Japan today really are outstanding, particularly given the industry is still relatively in its infancy. The year to date really has been one to remember, and we’re excited to see what the months ahead bring. We know there will certainly be more excellent releases from distilleries across Japan, and maybe even a few of our own!