Japanese Whisky: The Perfect gift for your Otosan

Christine McFarlane

Father’s day is almost upon us, and the team at Vine Arts has put together a list of some of our favourite new whiskies that will make the perfect gift, and that just so happen to come all the way from Japan.  Father’s Day in Japan is celebrated in much same day as we celebrate it North America, and children generally make their “Otosan” (father) a homemade gift, or will often buy them a gift consisting of their favourite spirit.  So, if you’re not quite the macaroni art master you used to be, come on down and grab a bottle of what is soon to be his favourite drink!

If you aren’t already familiar with the whiskies of Japan, they tend to be similar in style to the softer styles of Scotch whisky and are generally extremely soft and smooth. Many of the godfathers of Japanese whisky studied in Scotland, and much of the barley used to make whisky in Japan is brought in from Scottish malting houses! One of these godfathers, Masataka Taketsuru, was a Japanese chemist who studied in Glasgow in the early 1900’s. He eventually returned with is beautiful Scottish wife Rita to become the Master Distiller at the now famous Suntory distillery in Yamazaki.  He then went on to open his own distillery in Yoichi and to found the now famed Nikka Whisky.

  Taketsuru and wife pictured drinking (what we would like to assume) are mugs of his favourite whisky at the beach

Taketsuru and wife pictured drinking (what we would like to assume) are mugs of his favourite whisky at the beach

Like Scotch, Japanese whisky tends to be extremely representative of the place that it comes from.  The top Japanese distilleries hold the utmost respect for tradition, while still appreciating creativity and innovation.  The result is a whisky that can stand up to the best of Scotland, giving us a sense of the place it was created. Here are a few of our favourites.

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Nikka from the Barrel - Yoichi and Miyagikyo Distilleries - $64 (tax included)

Nikka from the Barrel is one of our absolute favourites here at Vine Arts, and a staple on the shelf.  It is the flagship product of the Nikka distilleries founded by the father of Japanese whisky - Masataka Taketsuru -  and often wins top prize in its category at the World Whisky Awards. It is bottled at cask strength and can benefit from a few drops of water to help open it up.  The nose is quite tropical, and extremely powerful. It is robust, and beautifully balanced, and will make the perfect sipper for your next barbeque.

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Akashi White Oak Single Malt - White Oak Distillery in Hyogo - $140

The Akashi White Oak Single Malt is a delicious lightly peated option.  It is aged in five different types of casks- sherry, brandy, bourbon, american oak, and shochu barrels, making it extremely unique and absolutely delicious.  It is extremely smooth, bursting with fruit, and is said to smell of the sea air from where it comes. Take a sip and it might just transport you out of the hot city to a beautiful Japanese beach.   

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Kura the Whisky Rum Cask Finish - Helios Distillery - $108

The Helios Distillery which operates out of Okinawa is best known for their delicious rums.  The distillery opened in 1961, right at the height of the tiki movement, creating a need for a lot of rum!  As a result, some pretty well seasoned barrels were kicking around and the distillery, and they decided to make use of them to age their whisky!  The Kura is a seductive beast with a soft palate, butter texture and a bright, peppery finish. A very unique whisky indeed.

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Nirasaki Blended Japanese Whisky  - Yamanasi Distillery - $43.25

The Nirasaki Blended Japanese Whisky comes from the Yamanasi distillery who also produces the famed Suntory whiskies.  This distillery produced the first Japanese Whisky to win the “World Whisky of the Year” award in 2015, which helped to launch Japanese whisky into the spotlight worldwide.  This is a new one for us at Vine Arts, and was previously only available in Japan. It is a more mellow option compared to the Nikka, silky and smooth, and slightly sweet. Try this straight up, on the rocks, or mix with soda water and a wedge of lemon in a tall glass over ice for a classic Japanese whisky highball!