Book review : Japanese Whisky by Brian Aschcraft

Japanese whisky is Big these days, no one can argue with that, and the soaring popularity of the water of life distilled in the land of the rising sun pushed prices up and up Of course, the Japanese whisky industry is having a rough time coping with the the demand. Most of us love the better Japanese malts, but I am quite sure many of you  are not familiar with the Japanese whisky industry, history, production and the many new distilleries which popped up like mushrooms after the rain in recent years, and this is where this book comes into the the picture.


The author  , Brian Ashcraft, is a senior contributing editor for the video-game site Kotaku and a columnist at The Japan Times. Ashcraft was previously a contributing editor at Wired magazine; his work has also appeared in Popular Science, the Guardian, and the design journal Metropolis, as well as numerous other publications worldwide. He has authored several books on Japanese culture, including Japanese Tattoos: History * Culture * Design. Originally from Texas, he has called Osaka home since 2001.

So what can you find in this book?  First of all History:  nothing’s complete without some information on how it all started, right? about the origins of Japanese whisky culture, how they became involved in the production of the water of life etc…

There are also some interesting insights about spelling of ‘whisky’ in Japanese, and information about the local drinks in Japan that came before whisky (and continue to be produced these days) such as Sake and Shochu…

The book starts with history of how “foreign drinks invaded japan”, and then continues a with the well-known story of Mastaka Taketsuru, who was an expat in Scotland learning the basics of whisky then returning home to build the Yamazaki distillery, and later Nikka.

Other chapters do speak about how Japanese whisky swept the world , many years after distillation started locally, what makes Japanese Barley ,oak and Japanese peat special,   and of course there are chapters dedicated to each and every Japanese whisky distillery operating today , from the lesser known Fuji Gotemba to the well-known distilleries (Yamazaki,Yoichi,Mars etc).

There’s also a lot of information about the Japanese drinking culture, cocktail scene,and even a chapter regarding the future of Japanese whisky. And of course, there are many many whisky tasting notes, written by the author, all of which were bought out-of-pocket, meaning that the tasting notes are free of advertising,and are not affected by money endorsements from any distillery – way to go!

Although I read a lot about Scotch whisky and I can say I know quite a bit about that, My knowledge about Japanese whisky and culture was quite lacking, and I must say the book did teach me a  lot, and was a brilliant read. Having read the book, I feel I know much more about the Japanese side of whisky, and many things are clearer to me now, sort of thing I’ve been meaning to research but never got to do, were pleasantly laid out for me to read , which is a big plus.

There are many whisky books out there, but not many are focused on Japanese whiskies, and this one really hits the spot. Both fun to read, colorful with many lovely photos, and historic materials, that make it a fun read regardless of your level of expertise in whisky, that of course in addition to the lovely images of various distilleries and the whisky making progress featured in the book.

If you’re a whisky fan in general, or like Japanese whiskies and would like to know a bit more about those whiskies besides the obvious , do yourself a favor and reach out for the book. The book is going on sale next week or so (hard cover) and if you’re a Kindle kind of guy who enjoys reading e-books it’s available on the Amazon site. 


Japanse Whisky

Brian Ashcraft

with Idzuhiko Ueda & Yuji Kawasaki

144 p.

Tuttle publishing

$19.99 ($17.99 on Amazon , $17.09 E-book)

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