The SOMM Journal

August / September 2016

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Page 85 of 148

{ }  85 { fine spirits } It's not a coincidence that Japanese whiskies are characteristically similar to Scotch. The two men widely acknowledged as the founders of the category—Shinjiro Torii and Masataka Taketsuru—learned the art and science of distillation apprenticing in distilleries throughout Scotland. Shinjiro Torii built the state of the art Yamazaki Distillery in Yamazaki, Japan, located outside of Kyoto. While the production of Japanese whisky can be traced to around 1870, commercial produc - tion began with the opening of the country's first distillery in 1924. While most distilleries have one size and type of still and therefore only produce one type of whiskey, Japanese distilleries are outfitted with copper pot stills of varying configurations and capacities. Each produces different styles of whisky. Master blenders typically need to search outside of their own distillery to procure desired whiskies for their blend; craftsmen working in Japanese distilleries produce these spirits in-house. In addition to a terrain and climate similar to that of Scotland, the main reason Yamazaki was selected as the location of the distillery was because of the exceptional quality of the pure, local spring water. Access to this crisp, flavor-rich water also lead legendary tea master Sen no Rikyu to build his famed tearoom in Yamazaki more than four centuries earlier. Water is the principal ingredient in distilled spirits, often accounting for up to 60% of a whisky. Adding to their exclusivity is that there are fewer brands of Japanese whiskies than in any other category. Recently, four new whiskies have made their way to our shores. In case you missed the fanfare of their initial release, here's a look at these four new "Best of Show/Best of Class" contenders. Japanese whiskies comprise the youngest category of spirits, not just among whiskies, but all of the major spirits. Despite their relative youth, the whis- kies of Japan now rate among the most critically acclaimed spirits in the world. That they've achieved this global promi- nence in less than a century is remarkable. There's no question that these elegant whiskies are soaring in popularity and have carved out an ever-expending market share. NEW JAPANESE WHISKIES ATTAIN THE HEIGHT OF ELEGANCE by Robert Plotkin Eastern Promise

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