We talk a lot about Japanese whisky here on the Sunday’s Grocery blog, and while many of our readers are quite knowledgeable, if you’re new to the Japanese whisky world, it can be a little daunting and confusing. So if you’ve always wanted to try Japanese whisky but are intimidated by the varieties and/or foreign names, we’ve got the perfect recommendations for you. Here are three iconic, easy-drinking, and affordable Japanese whiskies – great for novices, and delicious for whisky aficionados too.

Yamazaki 12 Yr Single Malt

This bottle is arguably the most internationally recognized Japanese whisky and it’s a great place to start. Suntory’s Yamazaki 12 Year is classified as woody, with hints of vanilla bean, cedar, and almond. It’s one of Japan’s pioneering whiskies, having come on to the market in 1984, and was the first seriously marketed Japanese single malt.

Hibiki 12 Yr Blended

Hibiki is probably the second most well-known name from Suntory, thanks to the American film Lost In Translation where Bill Murray’s character is hired to advertise Hibiki 17 Year. While the 17 Year might be out of the average person’s price range, the 12 Year is a great bottle for the beginner. “Hibiki” means “resonance” and the soft, mellow notes in this whisky will surely resonate with bourbon lovers. Hibiki uses a blend of Yamazaki and Hakushu malt whiskies, as well as grain whisky from Chita, and is partially aged in umeshu barrels (Japanese “plum” wine).

Nikka ‘The Barrel’

A list of easy-drinking Japanese whiskies would not be complete without a representative from the other whisky giant in Japan – Nikka. Generally speaking, many Nikka whiskies are more masculine and peaty compared to Suntory whiskies, as founder Masataka Taketsuru learned about whisky production in Scotland. Like the Yamazaki, ‘The Barrel’ is also considered to be a “woody” style of whisky, with notes of oak, candied citrus, and vanilla. This bottle is affordable, beginner-friendly, and a beautiful no age statement blend of single casks from Nikka.

4 thoughts on “Our Favorite Easy-Drinking Japanese Whiskies for Beginners

  1. Are any of these Whisk’s sold in the States, I’m in Kalispell MT 59901. And Hopefully, are they under $30.00 a bottle? (I’m sure not)

    Just asking

    Robert Sleadd

    1. sundaysgrocery

      Hi Robert,
      Yes, these whiskies are available in the US and can be found in specialty stores and online also. These three whiskies do not fall under US$30.

  2. Ben Hirsch

    Understand that there’s a Japanese whisky shortage. Seems to be a trend in that 2015, Hibiki 12 was discontinued, and now in 2018, Hakushu 12 was discontinued. Is the Yamazaki 12 next? Should I stock up?!

    1. sundaysgrocery

      Yes, most definitely stock up!

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