Whisky 101: The Main Japanese Whisky Companies and Distilleries

If you’re new to Japanese whisky or whisky in general, we’d like to introduce you to a few of the most well-known distilleries and Japanese Whisky Companies in this field. Japanese whisky has gained tremendous attention around the world, and it’s worth noting the popular Japanese liquor companies and distilleries if you want to enter this whisky wonderland.

Suntory Holdings Ltd.

Suntory, founded by Shinjiro Torii and known as the oldest liquor company in Japan, has been producing spirits and Japanese drinks and specializing in Japanese whisky for over 100 years. Winning countless international awards and gaining recognition from whisky lovers everywhere, Suntory has established themselves as one of the most world-renowned whisky companies.

Suntory’s whisky distilleries are Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Chita. Yamazaki Distillery is located strategically in Kyoto near one of the purest water sources in Japan. Yamazaki opened in 1923 and became the first malt whisky distillery in Japan. The whiskies made at Yamazaki are often described as having a more fruity and sweet flavor profile with hints of mizunara (Japanese oak) tastes. Hakushu offers more peaty, smoky type Japanese whiskies that has a fresh, herbal, and earthy flavor, which is due to the mountainous and woody region this distillery is located in. Although not as well known as the other Suntory distilleries, Chita is a distillery that exclusively makes grain whiskies for the company and is often used in blended whiskies.

Yamazaki and Hakushu are two distilleries with their own line of spirits, and the other product line from Suntory is Hibiki, which features harmonious and carefully blended drams from all of Suntory’s distilleries.

Read more about Suntory Whisky here. You can find plenty of Suntory whiskies in our exclusive Suntory Collection.

Nikka Whisky Distilling Co., Ltd.

Founded by the man who was known as the Father of Japanese Whisky, Masataka Taketsuru, Nikka Whisky is another legendary Japanese whisky company that has a long and unique history. Taketsuru, a chemist at the time, traveled to Scotland to learn about the intricate process of producing scotch whisky and opened Nikka Whisky in 1934.

Nikka presents a wide variety of luxurious Japanese whiskies, from single malt to blended, and Nikka has two main whisky distilleries: Yoichi and Miyagikyo. Yoichi whiskies are heavy-bodied and peaty while Miyagikyo is gentle and fruity in flavor. Nikka’s own blended malt product line is called Taketsuru, which is named after the founder of Nikka Whisky. Taketsuru has several bottles with different ages for you to try. Other classic Nikka whiskies include Super Nikka, the Nikka Premium Blended Whisky, Nikka Whisky from the Barrel, and Nikka Coffey Grain or Malt Whisky.

Find out more detailed information about Nikka Whisky here. You can also shop our Nikka Collection and add one of these grand drams to your own collection.  

Chichibu Distillery

Owned by Venture Whisky, Ltd., Chichibu Distillery is a small distillery, but famous for the whisky it produces. Chichibu also has a fascinating background, and it all starts with the owner, Ichiro Akuto. Akuto is from a family that brewed sake and other liquor products in the town of Chichibu in the 1700s, so the spirit-making blood runs strong in him. Another fun tidbit about Akuto is that he was the one who acquired the remaining stock of the closed distillery Hanyu and sells the rare leftovers under his brand name Ichiro’s Malt.

See Chichibu-exclusive whiskies in our collection here.

The whiskies produced from these companies and distilleries are perfect as an introduction to Japanese spirits besides sake and shochu. Once you’re more familiar with the one-of-a-kind tastes of Japanese whisky, you can extend your collection and experiment with your palate by trying other drams from other distilleries, both closed and open.

Be sure to check out our other Whisky 101 blog posts for more easy-to-understand lessons on Japanese whisky and whisky in general!