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When it comes to whiskey, you may automatically turn your attention to Scottish, Irish or even American whiskeys.
However, Japanese whiskey has some excellent gems out there to enjoy.
While it is somewhat of a novelty, they’re nowhere near the level of obscurity that it used to be.
In fact, this type of whiskey can easily be found and enjoyed in most stores around the United States and even in some bars.
We’ve tried and tested this specific Japanese whiskey - Suntory whiskey - and we’ve written about what we had to say about it, including a lot of other handy pieces of information you may need to know.
So, if you’re looking to know more, read on for our complete Suntory Whiskey review!
Suntory whiskey is a Japanese whiskey that features a unique blend of different spirits produced and run by the Suntory company.
They begin their life with a mix of malt and grain-based whiskey from three distilleries; Chita, Yamazaki and Hakushu.
The products are then blended together and left to age for a certain amount of time.
Perhaps ironically, the word “Toki” which is the specific Suntory whiskey product we will be looking at in this review translates directly as “time”.
This is something that the whiskey actually lacks if anything. It’s considered a young whiskey and does not come to our stores with much in the way of aging.
When we look at the bottle and the packaging objectively and initially, we’re taken aback by how gorgeous it is.
It has this amazing amalgamation of both old and new style, which is something we adore.
While the label might seem somewhat minimalist, it actually works very well with the overall aesthetic of the packaging and the bottle’s shape, which allows you to view the beautiful color of the whiskey in all of its glory.
The bottle shape is similar to a brick. It seems to have flat walls on the two sides with harsh, sharp corners - but this really works.
Then the neck is a medium length, perfect for pouring into small glasses.
As with most other Japanese whiskeys, the cap is a screw-on. This is something we really like and it allows for quick access to the bottle.
This whiskey pours beautifully thanks to its medium neck.
The colors illuminate very well with a traditional Japanese-style whiskey glass, and allowing the whiskey to sit in the glass for a moment gives you a perfect opportunity to simply appreciate the craftsmanship.
We are almost immediately aware of the sweetness of this whiskey, but it is nowhere near the level of sweetness that some American bourbons have due to their use of brown sugar.
Along with the tones of honey and sugar, you can also pick up some floral overtones which trap themselves in your nose, as if you were in a garden or smelling a large bouquet of flowers.
On top of these aromas, you can also identify some fruits, and it’s considerably clear that the aroma is a citrus fruit like a lemon.
Luckily, this doesn’t overpower the rest of the experience, but rather adds a lighter feel.
Once you manage to get this beautiful whiskey into your mouth, the taste is almost aligned perfectly with the aromas that you’ve already experienced.
You get the sweetness all over the mouth and tip of the tongue.
Next, you feel citric fruits linger on the corners of your mouth and allow you to experience the light but lively feel of the whiskey.
If anything, we’d say that the main focus of the taste seems to be leaning toward the fruitiness of the whiskey.
Bizarrely though, towards the end of your tasting, you will experience a tinge of ginger and perhaps apple.
It’s quite difficult to pin down specifically, but you definitely know there’s more there.
Anybody who knows anything about whiskey will know that you should really enjoy whiskey neat.
Generally speaking, ice will usually cure the sickness of bad whiskey - but it’s almost like placing a band-aid over a gaping wound.
When you place ice into this whiskey, it probably comes as little surprise that the flavors are almost entirely diminished.
You do get the occasional citrus tone, but as we say - this is extremely rare.
It’s definitely worth noting that this whiskey should really only be enjoyed as it was intended, rather than adding ice to it.
We tried adding cola to the whiskey.
Once again, this was not something that we would recommend, but we were curious all the same, so we thought it would be an interesting exercise to conduct.
As you can probably guess, it was nothing we didn’t already expect.
The taste of the cola really overpowers the whiskey and dilutes any kind of experience you were going to have.
The same ruining experience applies to any other mixer too, such as lemonade or even an energy drink.
Our advice is not to mix anything with whiskey if you do not have to.
This is an 86-proof (43% ABV) whiskey. This is not the strongest whiskey out there but it’s also nowhere near the weakest that we’ve seen either.
However, due to this strength, you can happily enjoy it much easier.
The smooth flow with its lower ABV provides a perfect drink that can go down your throat like water!
Of course, this doesn’t detract from the overall experience of the whiskey process.
If anything, it helps it out because you can leave it lingering on your palate for much longer - which makes it perfect for people who are beginners in the world of whiskey.
It’s important that we explain how Japanese whiskey came to be before we dive into our most frequently asked questions.
As most of us will be aware, the islands of Japan have long been isolated from the rest of the world, both politically and physically.
However, in the mid to late nineteenth century, American battleships arrived and somewhat implemented a Western trade system.
Japanese salesmen and vendors began to explore opportunities for trade with imports and exports, and one of these was the wine trade which began in Osaka and was run by Shinjiro Torii’s business “Kotobukiya”.
However, Torii did not want to rest on his laurels and only traded with imports for whiskey, which was another facet of the wine trade.
He wanted to go further and develop his own whiskey - and get Japan on the map for whiskey.
Working with a man named Masataka Taketsuru who was well-traveled in Scotland, they began developing a Scottish-style whiskey but with huge Japanese influence.
After successes, Taketsuru would leave once his contract expired and he would go on to found a new distillery.
However, Torii’s vision would continue as the company would become known as Suntory decades later.
What you may not know however is that the successes of Suntory are so great that they even purchased the very popular Jim Beam!
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions.
There’s nothing to say you can’t! However, the whiskey is definitely best enjoyed while it is neat and used as a drink.
Having said that, if you are going to cook with it - it’s a good idea to use it for sweet things like cakes.
The natural sweetness of the whiskey can combine with the cake’s sugary sweetness much better than it can with savory meals.
This whiskey is not the strongest on the market in terms of ABV, but it’s not super strong in terms of taste either.
However, this makes it a very ideal choice for beginners or people who are not fond of powerful whiskey.
There are many places where you can find this whiskey. You can either pick it up here or you could visit your nearest store.
Just be aware that prices could vary depending on where you pick it up.
When it comes to bars, it is not an especially common whiskey to find in bars across the US, however, some bars will have it available.
If you are a huge fan, then consider asking the barman if they have any around!
Whiskey is always a great gift, but especially this one due to its beautifully designed packaging and bottle shape.
You will often see people buying this whiskey as a Christmas gift or birthday gift.
Suntory whiskey is a very good whiskey, with a unique take on Scottish whiskey style but with individuality. It is certainly a whiskey that must be tried to be understood.
You might also be interested in: The 9 Best Canadian Whiskeys to Taste in 2022