Barrel to bottle – the sophistication that the Japanese bring to whiskies is unparalleled. Aged in indigenous wood and fused with water from the mountains – these malts are smoky and refreshingly smooth. This makes them quite coveted across the globe, with labels featuring premium prices. In India, they’ve only recently made their way into the home bars of aficionados – with options being quite limited. In honour of World Whisky Day – we’re sipping our way through a few delicious picks that will only set you back by INR 25,000.
India’s long-standing tryst with all things malt is a well-known fact in the industry. Nothing else would explain the scores of renowned brands that have prioritised the market, bringing popular bottles to aficionados in the country. Or how several new names – many homegrown – have dominated local drinking habits in a very short span of time. Despite this, smooth Japanese whiskies are a rare spot. Especially in comparison to the more ubiquitous American bourbons and Scottish blends. These drams – deemed the new kids on the block – feature double distilled malted and peated barley that’s been aged in wood (primarily indigenous Mizunara) and water from the mountains.
The words ‘refreshing,’ ‘mellow,’ ‘smoky,’ ‘harmonious,’ and ‘mystical,’ are often used to describe these malts and blends. They also work just as well on the rocks as they do in a cocktail. Naturally, they caught the attention of connoisseurs and mixologists alike – with many swapping their usual choices for an Eastern expression. If you’re keen on doing the same, here’s a look at a few exquisite bottles on our radar. Best part? They’re all under INR 25,000.
Deliciously smooth Japanese whiskies that are under INR 25,000.
Hakushu Distillers Reserve
Hailing from a distillery in Mt. Kaikomagatake – Hakushu is produced using water from the pristine Ojira River. The no-age-statement expression pours gold and features both lightly peated and heavily peated malts. Refreshingly herbal, every sip is reminiscent of lemon, thyme, yuzu, and grapefruit. On the nose are hints of peppermint, melon, and cucumber. The finish, meanwhile, features notes of subtle smoke.
Price: INR 11,000 approx.
Chita Single Grain Whisky
Described as ‘the serenity of Japanese whisky,’ this malt goes through a rare distillation process that involves two, three, or four columns. The Chita Distillery creates three types of grain whisky – clean, medium, and heavy – that have been aged in wine, Spanish Oak, and American White Oak casks. These come together to make the Single Grain expression. The mellow, elegant dram pours a bright gold and comes with notes of honey and mint on the palate. On the nose, meanwhile, are hints of crème brûlée, acacia honey, rose, and cardamom. The finish is clean, with a touch of spiced oak.
Price: INR 8,000 approx.
The Yamazaki Distillers Reserve Single Malt
As of the most popular Japanese whisky brands in the world – Yamazaki promises the smoothest sips. Naturally, its malts are highly coveted. The signature Distillers Reserve stays true to this reputation. Aged in Bordeaux, American, Spanish, Sherry, and Mizunara oak casks, it pours gold. Every sip is rich with notes of white peach, raspberry, and coconut. On the nose are hints of strawberry and cherry. The finish, meanwhile, is clean – singing with sweet vanilla and cinnamon.
Price: INR 18,000 approx.
A popular choice amongst aficionados, Kamiki – loosely translated to ‘breath of god’ – hails from Nara, the land of temples in Japan. The amber is made with indigenous Japanese cedar (Yoshino Sugi), used for centuries to make temples. This, combined with rare malts and pure spring water makes it quite a harmonious, smooth sip. On the palate are notes of Japanese plum, toffee, sandalwood, green tea, sweet caramel, and heather honey. On the nose, meanwhile, are hints of citrus blossom, vanilla, pine, and baked apple. Best part? The amber is blended at its peak flavour – rather than a predetermined ratio, making every batch unique.
Price: INR 9,000 approx.
Hibiki Japanese Harmony
A popular choice amongst connoisseurs, Hibiki Japanese Harmony comes in a 24-faceted bottle that represents Japan’s different seasons. It features a blend of 10 malt and grain whiskies – Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Chita – as well as five different cask types. The payoff is an amber pour, with hints of orange peel, white chocolate, butter, caramelised dates, and wood on the palate. On the nose, meanwhile, are hints of lychee, rosemary, rose, and sandalwood. The finish is subtle and long – reminiscent of white grape, black pepper, and brown sugar.
Price: INR 18,000 approx.
Mars Komagatake 2021 Edition
Clad in white and pink – this smooth sip from the mountain village of Miyada (Japanese Alps) is a nod to Japan’s sakura (cherry blossom) flowers. Matured in a range of casks that held Japanese wine – this single malt is lightly peated with notes of sherry on the palate. You’ll also discover hints of vanilla, melted milk chocolate, dried herbs, apricots, and vanilla. On the nose, meanwhile, are hints of grapes and berries – with the finish being smoke driven.
Price: INR 18,000 approx.
Which of these Japanese whiskies are you adding to your collection?
This story first appeared here.
All images: Courtesy Shutterstock/Brands
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Whiskies from Yamazaki Distillery - inclding Yamazaki 12 Year Old - are quite popular in Japan.
Answer: Japanese whisky, in comparison to its Scottish counterpart - is distilled several times, allowing it to be smooth, with a subtle flavour. The water sources and type of wood used for the barrels are also unique to Japan, making the flavour more unique.