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Delve into the History of Japanese Whiskey Culture

by Jack Guy

Jan 28, 2020

© Anidimi | Dreamstime

Destinations / Asia

Scotland and Japan might share much in common at first glance, but they are in fact united by a love of whisky.


The spirit is one of the most popular drinks in Japan, with production starting around a century ago. It steadily replaced sake as the national alcoholic drink of choice for many Japanese, with production booming as the popularity of sake dipped.


As the story goes, Japanese whisky was kickstarted by Masataka Takaretsu, sent to study in Scotland on behalf of the Settsu Shuzo liquor company. Bosses wanted Takaretsu to work out what made Scottish whisky so good, and then bring the secrets home. After his studies were over, he returned to Japan with his wife, Jessie Roberta Cowan, who he had fallen in love with in Glasgow.


By 1924, Takaretsu started making whisky for Shinjiro Tori after being fired by Settsu Shozo. Soon enough they found a successful recipe, and whisky started to take off. Takaretsu later set out on his own and established the Nikka brand, while Tori formed the Suntory brand, both of which remain hugely popular to this day.


Japanese whisky has become increasingly popular around the world as brands started to export to new markets, such as the United States. Whisky saw a slump in sales at the turn of the century as people started to drink more beer and wine, but it’s made a comeback since then as Japanese whiskies receive increasing international recognition, taking its place as a staple drink.


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