Big in Japan: Japanese whiskey is dubbed the world’s best

Japan is making a few new enemies on the international culinary scene as of recent…

This past March, Michelin guide director Jean-Luc Naret decided to shake things up a bit by snubbing the traditional gourmand capital of Paris, and naming Tokyo the world’s top food city. According to Naret, himself a French man, “Tokyo is becoming the global city with the finest cuisine, the city in the world with the most stars.”

Indeed, the French were horrified to hear that restaurants in Tokyo were awarded a total of 191 stars, nearly twice the amount awarded to Paris and more than three times the amount awarded to New York. The final nail in the coffin came when Michelin guides announced that three of the top eight restaurants in Tokyo serve French food.

Now, it seems that Scotland and Ireland may soon join the foray, especially since a Japanese whisky was dubbed the best single malt at the World Whiskies Awards last month. Despite stiff competition from traditional whiskey powerhouses, the Yoichi 20 Years Old single malt, which is produced by Nikka Whisky Distilling Company on the island of Hokkaido, was awarded “Best of Show” by a panel of judges from Europe, the United States and Japan.

The London based competition, which was organized by Whiskey Magazine, hosted more than 200 labels that were divided into categories based on regional and style variations. Each whiskey was then independently assessed in a series of three blind tasting rounds by a panel of tastings experts.

According to Rob Allanson, the main organizer of the event: “It is well known in the industry, and amongst connoisseurs, that Japan produces good whiskey. Japanese whiskey is still a niche market but demand is growing. I think this year we have seen some of the best the Japanese market has to offer in the competition. They performed magnificently and are starting to make waves on the international market.”

The award-winning whiskey comes from the Yoichi distillery, which was founded on the frigid northern Japanese island of Hokkaido in 1934 by the legendary distiller Masataka Taketsuru. Regarded as the Japanese father of whiskey, Taketsuru learned his skills on several trips to the Scottish highlands. While temperatures in Hokkaido are significantly colder than in the British Isle, Taketsuru discovered how to adapt the whiskey distilling process to suit Japan’s climate and conditions.

So how does Yoichi 20 Year taste? Delicious.

One judge described the blend as “round and full bodied, starts with sugared pecans, vanilla, sweet malt, then moved into more hazelnut and fruit cake in the finish,” while another described it as ”medium amber hue with a bold nose of sherry tobacco and old leather.”

So how do you buy a bottle? Not easily.

Reserves of Yoichi 20 Year are flying off shelves in light of its recent accolades, though the upside is that production volume is likely to increase in the years to come. While its market price is around US$300 a bottle, you can probably expect this figure to soar. Then again, is it really possible to put a monetary value on the world’s best whiskey?

With that said, if you’ve ever tasted this epic brew, leave a comment and tell us about it!