Japanese Whisky is relatively young when compared to Scotch Whisky, but has already made so much impact in the whisky world.
Japanese distilleries use exactly the same techniques that Scottish distillers use. As a matter of fact, Japanese expertise was directly imported from Scotland in the early 20th century by MasatakaTaketsuru, founder of Nikka.
There is, therefore, no fundamental differences in the technical process of making Japanese whisky. However, there are a few things that make Japanese whisky different from Scotland.
Five Differences Between Japanese Whisky and Scotch Whisky
Japanese whiskies are less peated as compared to Scotch whisky. Many of the distilleries in Scotland are located on islands and coastal areas, where naturally peat is widely used for drying barley during the phase of malting. Japanese distillers also make use of peat but in a reduced quantity.
The Scots have more distilleries than the Japanese. The richness of Scotch Whiskies is obtained through the exchange of productions among many distilleries, each producing mainly one type of single malt.
For Japanese whiskies, the distilleries are few but can produce nearly as many different single malts that exist in Scotland. The Yamazaki distillery, for example, can produce over sixty single malts with distinct characteristics, and blended together it allows Suntory to produce a large number of whiskies.
More so, Japanese distilleries have stills of different shapes and sizes that help in the production of single malts with distinct characters. Stills in Scottish distilleries generally have the same shape and the same size.
Unlike Scottish distilleries, Japanese distilleries use a wide variety of yeasts with different characteristics during fermentation. Companies like Suntory have found a way to grow their own strains and even create their own strains. For example, Suntory owns a strain called suntoryeus lactobacillus.
Japanese whiskies are distilled using low-pressure distillation techniques. This technique is induced naturally by high altitude, with a lower boiling point. Japan has three of the highest distilleries in the world; Karuizawa (now closed), Hakushu and Mars Shinshu located between 700 and 800 metres. The higher the altitude, the lower the pressure, and subsequently the lesser the boiling point. Low-pressure distillation helps keep a larger number of aromas and a thinner and lighter texture, which makes Japanese whisky taste different from Scotch.