I am a huge fan of Japanese whisky…
Two of the most influential figures in the history of Japanese whisky are Shinjiro Torii and Masataka Taketsuru. Torii created the Yamazaki distillery in 1924 to bring Japanese whisky to the Japanese people. Taketsuru studied whisky making in Scotland until moving back to Japan in the 1920’s (with his Scottish bride) and began work as a distillery executive for Torii. In 1934 Masataka Taketsuru left to create his own distillery, which would become Nikka.
Japanese whisky is based on Scottish traditional methods of distillation. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Japanese tea ceremony, but I can assure you that it is no easy task to learn its methods and intricacies. (My best friend studies the art and won’t be considered competent until she has completed 10 years of study) This, in my opinion, is how these whiskies have gained their “superiority”. The level of perfection that is put into traditional methods and the importance placed upon creating a superior product is undeniable. Scottish whisky was the solid foundation that the Japanese whisky (tea)house is built upon.
More legendary whiskies have been produced in Japan as well. Most of them are not sold here in the states, but they are heavily sought after. A rare 1960 Karuizawa 52 year old malt sold last week for $118,548 at auction. The complete set of playing cards whisky by Ichiro Akuto of Chichibu and Hanyu distilleries sold for $490,000. Now an argument could be made for these costs being crazy, but it just goes to show what the rest of the world thinks of the quality that lies in these products.