Japanese whisky has been on the rise over the past decade, receiving international acclaim for the beverage’s balance and several distillers’ careful attention to detail. While scotch and bourbon tend to reign in the states, brands such as Suntory and Nakki have made their way onto American shelves and our menu.

We pride ourselves on carrying the best whiskeys around, and several from Japan rank among the best we’ve had. If you’re looking to try some, look no further than Kildare’s of West Chester. Here are our top reasons why you need to try Japanese Whisky.

1. It’s a Fresh Take on Scotch

Whisky production came to Japan from Scotland in the early 1900s, and is still produced using quite the same methods. Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii is widely accepted as a leader in the Japanese whisky industry, being one of the first to produce and sell it on a mass scale. Japanese whisky is generally made with the use of barley imported from Scotland, distilled twice using pot stills and laid to rest in oak barrels until deemed ready. Different flavors come from the selection of barley, the type of barrels and the age of the whisky, all of which the Japanese have experimented with to create their own twist on whisky to suit their palates. Blends of whiskies made at different distilleries may also be blended to achieve more complex liquids. Also, Japanese whisky has kept the same spelling as its Scotch counterpart—with no “e”.

2. It's Critically Acclaimed

Japanese whisky flew under the radar in the American whiskey scene for most of the 1900s until Suntory’s Yamazaki was named whisky of the year by Jim Murray in 2015. Now, distilleries like Suntory struggle to keep up with demand, and consumers will go to great lengths or pay top dollar for a single bottle. Murray said, “People were shocked when I gave Yamazaki the award—until they tasted it. Then, they saw it was not the affront to Scotch they first thought and something truly extraordinary.” Yamazaki is widely thought of as the best Japanese whisky around, and is credited with putting Japanese whisky on the map.

3. It’s a Taste of Japan

Distilleries such as Suntory go into great detail about the water, climate and people that produce their whisky, and claim that the mixture of all three is what makes their production unique. The fresh rivers of Japan have been kept crystal clear, and the area’s moist climate is ideal for the extended aging of whisky. Furthermore, the type of oak used plays a big role in the finished product. Suntory’s website reads, “When whisky is allowed to age in Japanese oak (Mizunara) over long periods of time, the wood imparts a distinctively mellow bouquet that evokes aromatic trees found in Japan.” Like many of the best beverages in the world, Japanese whisky stirs up images and feelings of the place where it is created.

4. It's Versatile

Part of the reason whisky has caught on in Japan is thanks to a campaign led by Suntory promoting the consumption of highballs. Rather than drinking whisky neat or on the rocks, serve it in a glass with sparkling water and ice. While not the best method for noticing all of the subtle flavors in the whisky, this method is great for enjoying a casual beverage and getting an overall feel for the liquid. If you enjoy the concoction, try the whisky on the rocks or neat to see what deeper flavors you can uncover. Highballs are also a great way to enjoy whisky with a meal, as the flavors won’t overpower the dish.

Japanese whisky is a welcomed guest to the worldwide whiskey party, and provides some much-needed excitement in the world of spirits. Japanese producers are raising the bar for quality around the world and giving consumers everywhere more options when it comes to their drink selection. Next time you’re here, try out a Suntory. We offer whiskey flights for you to test your palate, and can mix you up a great highball if that is more your speed.

Kildare’s in West Chester is a destination: an authentic Irish pub that has something for everyone. We’re a place to bring the family for weekend brunch; cheer your favorite soccer (or American football) team; enjoy next-level fare at a business lunch, dinner with friends or special event; spend happy hour (questionable dance moves and all); and, of course, imbibe great beer, whiskey and other adult libations. Join us and find out why we’re not your average Irish pub.

Jay Breslin

Photos: Kildare's