Known as the ‘Land of Rising Sun’, Japan has managed to combine its magnificent natural surroundings, the nuances of its seasons, crystallized water and some of its finest talents in providing invigorating whiskies, to be appreciated by mankind. The Japanese seem to have been born with the art of delivering fine whiskies and have mastered this art over a period of time, with Japanese Whisky gaining immense popularity in recent years.
A Japanese national Shinjiro Torri began this revolution long ago. He once imported liquor from the west and sold it as “Akadama port wine”. This became an instant hit among the people, and made him successful. Torri wanted more from this and explored the possibility of making fine Japanese whisky exclusively for his people. This was strongly opposed by a few. But a determined Torri continued with his idea and managed to set up the first distillery in Japan in a suburb called Yamazaki. Yamazaki is known for its purest form of water, and also houses the famous tea room Sen No Rikyu.
Taketsuru worked for Torri and had inherited the knowledge of making whisky from a distillery in Scotland. His knowledge combined with skills and determination displayed by Torri led to a large number of other distilleries occupying this area which later became famous with names like Nikka and Suntory. Yamazaki however remains the first distillery set up by Torri.
The Japanese owe their whisky making skills to some of nature’s secrets:
Water: The country has fresh and pure sources of water, which form a great base for their ultra fine whiskys. The famous Yamazaki whisky distillery is surrounded by lush bamboo forests and the bamboo tress provide certain aroma and freshness to the water around it.
Seasons: The four major seasons play a very important role in the quality of the whisky made here. Yamazaki always maintains a moist climate, between its extreme humidity in summer and occasional fogs during winters.
Variety: There are a lot of variations in the processes and flavors that the Japanese like to try and which have helped them to provide some of the finest whiskies. Many of these are now available around the world too, via various retailers and sites that carry whisky online.
Inheritance: The Japanese carry forward the legacies and secrets of whisky making from their ancestors and pass it on to their future generations, to retain the art of fine whisky making within their land.
The Process: A single grain called the malt is mashed into small pieces and hot water is added to this mixture and then placed in a tank. The starch within this mixture gets converted to sugar, and the mixture is later filtered forming a clear liquid called as wort.
Yeast is added to the wort, and allowed to ferment in containers called wash backs. Yeast produces an alcoholic substance, and in the process releases carbon dioxide. Certain distilleries let this fermentation take place in wooden containers. Stainless steel containers are also used. The wooden wash backs however have the advantage of providing the natural taste with the help of certain bacteria which grows in wood. After fermentation, the mixture is distilled a couple of times in different pots and slightly heated with fire or steam resulting in fine, authentic whiskys.