Book Review: Japanese Whisky by Brian Ashcraft


While Japanese whisky is certainly experiencing worldwide popularity, it still seems rather unfamiliar with a lot of whisky fans. I get questions about the spirit all the time, and people are amazed at some of my responses. For example, people are surprised to know the Japanese have been making whisky since the early 20th century.

By the way, it’s NOT Japanese Scotch. There’s no such thing. The Japanese were certainly inspired by Scotch whiskies, but Japanese whisky is its own style.

Sigh… if only I could point people to a guide to Japanese whisky.

Enter author Brian Ashcraft.

Ashcraft’s Japanese Whisky: The Ultimate Guide to the World’s Most Desirable Spirit proves to be an extremely valuable source of information. Not only does Ashcraft cover the whisky-making process in great detail, he also dives a bit into Japanese drinking culture.

Japanese Whisky starts with a history lesson, providing more than just a glimpse into the whisky’s beginnings and evolution. I find Masataka Taketsuru’s journey most interesting. Being called the “Father of Japanese Whisky” suits Taketsuru quite well. You’ll have to read to find out why. The author’s look at Mizanura oak is especially fascinating. Ashcraft explains what it brings to the whisky maturation table and why it is rather rare these days.

The next section of the book profiles major Japanese distilleries, from Yamazaki and Hakushu to Yoichi and Miyagikyo, providing tons of historical information and distillery styles. As a bonus, Japanese whisky blogger Yuji Kawasaki provides tasting notes for more than 100 Japanese whiskies, categorized by distillery.

Japanese Whisky is the Yellow Brick Road on your journey of discovery into Japanese whisky. It will guide you into a great appreciation for the spirit. A favorite chapter of mine is entitled “What Makes Japanese Whisky ‘Japanese’?”. To me, it encapsulates not only the spirit of the book, but that of the whisky and its makers. It doesn’t get more in-depth than this, folks.

Japanese Whisky will be on shelves May 2018 for $19.99.

Thanks to Brian Ashcraft and Tuttle Publishing for the review copy. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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