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15 Best Japanese Whiskies Under $100 (2024 Updated)

Best Japanese Whiskey Under $100

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Lydia Martin

The popularity of Japanese whiskeys increases as distillers struggle to make unique and perfect blends over time. Aside from bourbon and Scotch, Japanese whiskeys are getting sold out at our favorite liquor stores regardless of their expensive price tag. 

But good news, you can find the best Japanese whiskey under $100 that won’t bust your budget. Let’s get your glass ready and try them all out! 

Top 15 Japanese Whiskies Under $100

1. Akashi “White Oak”

Akashi “White Oak”

This single malt Japanese whiskey is a non-age-statement release by White Oak in Hyogo. Its tasting notes include vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, tobacco, toffee, cherry, and smoky. 

The flavors come out with the influence of different kinds of casks, such as ex-Bourbon casks, ex-brandy casks, ex-wine casks, and a sherry cask. It has pleasant bitterness, peat-like character, and full-bodied depth with spice. 

2. Chichibu Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Whisky

Chichibu Ichiro’s Malt & Grain

Ichiro’s Malt and Grain Whisky is a masterpiece by the Chichibu Distillery. The master blender, Ichiro, carefully blends Chichibu’s own grain whisky with other grain whiskies worldwide to create a unique and world-renowned blended whisky. 

You’ll find this malt and grain whisky with lively and complex flavor and friendly fruity notes. It starts like sweet but delicate vanilla the develops into a tart bouquet of apple and orange with alcohol. So, do not sip too much – this one is a gentle sipper. 

3. Fukano 10-Year

Fukano 10-Year on desk with glass

Fukano 10-Year is a single cask rice whisky from Japan. Compared to a traditional whisky, we find the taste of Fukano 10-year slightly different. Made with malted rice, it has a complex and elegant bouquet with a refreshing and fruit-forward taste. 

This Fukano whisky is floral and fruity to the nose and mild in taste. But, it is more fruity and floral, with caramel-like notes on the finish. This can be an excellent whisky for all enthusiasts! 

4. Hibiki Japanese Harmony

Hibiki Japanese Harmony

The Hibiki Japanese Harmony is a popular release from the well-renowned Suntory Distillery. Hibiki is one of the most famous Japanese blends at an affordable price. It has a combination of rose, rosemary, and wood, which creates a honey-sweet palate with hints of orange peel and white chocolate. 

The finish is long and subtle and is made from Mizunara oak, a prized Japanese oak popular for finishing some of the best Japanese whiskey [1]. 

5. Kamiki Blended Malt Whisky

Kamiki Blended Malt Whisky

You can expect a modern body with hints of maturity and purity. It means Kamiki’s maturity comes from spice notes and subtle smoke, while its purity comes from the lightness of the spirit itself. 

Expect to experience notes of agave upon the first sip with a sweet and sour taste. It is creamy with the domination of black pepper and smoked dark fruits and figs. So, as you drink forward, expect notes of spice and smoke with a finish of wood and fruit mixed up. 

6. Kiuchi No Shizuku Hitachino Nest Whisky

Kiuchi No Shizuku Hitachino Nest Whisky on table with glass

Kiuchi No Shizuku means “first drip from the distillation kettle.” This Japanese whisky has an alcohol content of 30 percent by volume, matured in oak barrels with coriander, orange peel, and hops. 

You will find its spirit interesting, which is reminiscent of a Genever. It has lovely malt notes, spicy coriander, and tart citrus fruit with a slight herbal quality. Its finish is sweet at first but then dries out with oak notes and woodsmoke. 

7. Kujira Ryukyu Whisky

Kujira Ryukyu Whisky

Another most affordable Japanese whisky is Kujira Ryukyu, a medium-bodied Japanese whisky with a copper-colored spirit. You will taste the aroma of toffee and sweet caramel with hints of delicious light fruits and rich honey. On the nose, expect plenty of oak with a touch of vanilla, pear, and an indication of the sea. 

In fact, this whiskey has several variations, but this one is an affordable Japanese whiskey among its kind. If you are an entry-level whisky advocate, this can be a great drink to start. 

8. Mars Iwai Blue Label

Mars Iwai Blue Label

Distilled at Shinshu Mars Distillery, it is one of the most affordable Japanese whiskies on the market. Mars Iwai Blue Label drinks like a mild Japanese Bourbon and pairs well with cocktails. It features a mash bill of 75 percent corn and 25 percent malted barley. 

You’ll love its semi-sweet and creamy profile, and there are tasting notes of vanilla, apple, and butterscotch. Mars Shinshu Distillery used Bourbon barrels to age their whiskey, resulting in its aromatic and flavorful taste.

9. Miyagikyo Single Malt

Miyagikyo Single Malt

Miyagikyo is great Japanese whisky bottled at 45 percent ABV, distilled by Miyagikyo Distillery. This single malt whisky is elegant and fruity – made from light peated and non-peated malted barley. It develops aromas of malted barley, exotic fruits, camphor, and licorice. 

After one sip, you can expect chocolate tones with the malted barley at the center of the taste. Distilled in pot stills and heated by indirect steams, this whisky boosts signature fruitiness and delicate mouthfeel with a distinctive sherry cask influence. At its finish, it’s long and soft, which evokes the scent of wilted rose. 

10. Nikka Whisky From The Barrel

Nikka Whisky From The Barrel

Nikka from the Barrel, a blended Japanese whisky, was released in 1985. This whisky is one of the best Japanese whiskies today. This blended malt whisky is bottled at 51 percent ABV with a touch of Ben Navis of Scotland. 

It blends more than 100 unique batches of malt and grain whiskey, then ages in used wooden barrels, making it appealing. Nikka from the Barrel contains a sweet and soft palate, featuring honeyed malt, spices, and dried fruit flavor; great for cocktails! 

11. Ohishi Sherry Single Cask Whisky 

Ohishi Sherry Single Cask

As the name suggests, Ohishi whisky is aged in sherry casks. This rice whisky is soft, taking out the features of sherry casks as it matures. Its tasting notes feature nutmeg, dried fruits, cinnamon, steamed rice, and green apple. 

Bottled at 43.3 percent ABV, this whisky is smooth and light with hints of soft red fruits, vanilla, and dark chocolate. Ohishi is one of the most affordable Japanese whiskies under 100, given it’s an authentic Japanese product!

12. Suntory Whisky Toki

Suntory Whisky Toki

“Toki” means time in Japanese. Suntory Whisky Toki is one of the most widely-available Japanese whisky in the US. This is a great whisky for making cocktails, coming from its good genes. It is a smooth whiskey with hints of sweetness from citrus character and a spicy finish.  

This Japanese blended whisky is made up of Chita grain whiskies and Hakushu malt with a touch of Yamazaki malt. Suntory Whisky Toki is aged mainly in American oak casks with hints of Spanish oak in the mix. 

13. The Hakushu Single Malt Whisky

The Hakushu Single Malt

Hakushu is another best whisky distilled at Suntory Distillery. This single malt whisky reminds me of a classic Speyside whiskey. If you’ve tried the Scottish Speyside, the Hakushu whisky boosts a similar caramel-like taste with slightly spicy and fruity tasting notes. 

Also, you can expect some peppermint, pine, and fresh herbs notes. Then on the finish, there is light smoke as this is a mix of both lightly and heavily peated blended whiskies

14. White Oak Akashi Blended Whisky

White Oak Akashi Blended

White Oak Akashi, the 14th best Japanese whisky, is a small brand made in copper pot stills. This whisky tastes similar to blended Scotch whisky as it contains some Scotch grain whiskeys in the blend. Its palate features cherry Bakewells and walnut loaf with hits of sweet cereals, nutmeg, and black pepper.  

Also, you will love its finish, which is quite sweet with a touch of oatcake and dried apricot. So, if you’re looking for a smooth, grainy, light with a hint of peat, you will probably like the flavor of Akashi “White Oak” whisky. It pairs well with cocktails like Manhattan and Penicillin. 

15. Yoichi Single Malt

Yoichi Single Malt

This single malt Japanese whisky is bold and strong with delicate peaty notes and smokiness because of a traditional direct-fired distillation. It truly captures Yoichi malts’ authentic style. 

Yoichi single malt whisky expresses a delicate balance between fruity aroma, smoky and peaty with roasted malt and briny notes. We can say it is one of the best Japanese whiskies on the market. The aroma and flavor, plus its affordable price range, are perfect.

Read: Yamato Whisky Guide 

What Is A Japanese Whiskey?

Japanese whisky is developed and produced in Japan. Two of the most well-known Japanese whisky companies are Nikka and Suntory, which produces blended and single malt whiskies. 

Japanese whiskey is fermented, distilled, and aged at a distillery in Japan. Typically, a Japanese whiskey contains a malted grain bill (barley, rye, wheat) and other non-malted cereal grains. The water they used to make whisky must be concentrated from Japan and aged for at least three years. Additionally, Japanese whiskies are bottled in Japan. But does whiskey get better with age?

How It’s Made? 

How It's Made? 

When it comes to making a Japanese whiskey, it relies heavily on malted barley, which is often peated or imported straight from Scotland. It is mashed and distilled twice on pot stills, yielding more residual congeners. Some distilleries also blend in grain whiskies if they make single malt whiskies.

Like Scotch, Japanese whisky is wood-aged, usually in American oak, Japanese oak, and casks. These barrels impart unique characteristics to the overall taste and quality of whiskeys. In terms of production methods, it is also very similar to how Scotch whisky is produced. But, blending is very important in Japanese whiskeys as many distilleries are making various types of whiskies with unique blends.

Key Ingredients

Most of the ingredients used by Japanese distilleries come from Scotland. Some of these include malted barley and sometimes even peated barley. The unique taste of Japanese whiskey is due to the details that go into making it.

One key ingredient is the water they use to make the spirit, which usually comes from the Japanese alps or mountains near Tokyo. Moreso, the tasting notes of a Japanese whisky are influenced by the shape of distilling stills and the wood type used for aging. 

Given the fact that they import grains from Scotland, Japanese distilleries focus on the distillation process to achieve refinement and consistency. It is the one factor that makes these whiskeys a little pricey. 

Read: What’s A Sour Mash Recipe?

What Is Special About Japanese Whiskey? 

What Is Special About Japanese Whiskey? 

What is special about Japanese whiskey is its distilling process – it is VERY Japanese! The distillation process is incredibly unique and interesting. For instance, the Yamazaki Distillery uses water from a region in Japan, which they considered “mythical.” 

Other interesting factors making it special are the wood used during the aging process and the shape of the stills to produce their whiskies.

In fact, one of the unique characteristics of Japanese whiskey is the wood used from the Mizunara tree. This tree is located only in Japan and has been described as having various aromatic properties, including spice, citrus, and incense qualities. 

Most importantly, Japanese whiskies go well with cocktails because of their fruity and sweet flavor tasting notes!

Read: Can Sake Go Bad?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Japanese whiskey better than Scotch?

Japanese whiskey is better than Scotch in terms of maturity and texture. Japan is known to have a cool climate, and it helps the whisky to mature fast than Scotch [2]. So it tastes more authentic and refined. Also, Japanese whiskies are better in texture as the Japanese are masters of combining complexity and subtlety, resulting in mild and smooth whiskies. 

Is Japanese whiskey sweet?

Japanese whiskey is sweet. It usually features floral and fruity tasting notes with hints of honey, orange peel, caramel, citrus, green apples, plums, pine, etc. Though Japanese whisky has diverse flavors, there’s always a sweet taste in it. 

What is the most popular whiskey in Japan?

One of the most popular and iconic whiskies in Japan is Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky, produced by Suntory. It holds a significant place in Japanese whisky history and is well-regarded for its quality and craftsmanship. Another notable brand is Nikka, known for its diverse range of whiskies and innovative expressions.

Is Hibiki or Yamazaki better?

The preference between Hibiki and Yamazaki depends on individual taste preferences. Hibiki and Yamazaki are both produced by Suntory, but they offer different flavor profiles.

Hibiki is a blended whisky known for its harmonious and well-balanced character, while Yamazaki is a single malt whisky with a diverse range of expressions, each showcasing unique flavors.

Some may prefer the complexity of Hibiki’s blends, while others may appreciate the single malt characteristics of Yamazaki.

What Japanese whisky won best in the world?

Japanese whiskies have gained international recognition, and different expressions have won various awards. One notable instance was in 2015 when the Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 was named the “Best Whisky in the World” by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.

This recognition significantly boosted the global reputation of Japanese whisky.

Which is the best Suntory whisky?

Determining the “best” Suntory whisky is subjective, as preferences vary among individuals. Suntory offers a diverse range of whiskies, each with its own characteristics.

Some notable expressions include Yamazaki 12-Year-Old, Hakushu 12-Year-Old, Hibiki Harmony, and the Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask.

Whisky enthusiasts often explore different Suntory whiskies to find the one that best suits their taste preferences.

Why is Hibiki so expensive?

Hibiki is often considered expensive due to several factors:

Aging Process: Many Hibiki expressions incorporate whiskies of various ages, including older and well-aged components. The cost of aging whisky over an extended period contributes to the overall expense.

Blending Expertise: Hibiki is known for its meticulous blending process, requiring skilled craftsmen to create a harmonious balance of flavors. The expertise involved in achieving the desired taste profile adds to the cost.

Limited Editions: Some Hibiki releases are limited editions or special bottlings, contributing to their exclusivity and higher price tags.

Global Recognition: Hibiki has gained international acclaim, winning awards and recognition. The prestige associated with the brand and its quality contributes to its higher perceived value.

Packaging and Presentation: Hibiki whiskies often come in beautifully designed bottles and packaging, adding to the overall aesthetic appeal and cost.

These factors, along with the growing popularity and demand for Japanese whiskies, contribute to the higher price point of Hibiki expressions.

What is Japan’s oldest whiskey brand?

Japan’s oldest whisky brand is Suntory, founded by Shinjiro Torii. The Suntory brand has a rich history, with its first distillery, Yamazaki, established in 1923.

The Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky, produced by Suntory, is recognized as Japan’s oldest single malt distillery.

What whiskey is better than Yamazaki?

Determining whether a whiskey is “better” than Yamazaki is subjective and depends on individual taste preferences. There are many exceptional Japanese whiskies, and preferences vary among enthusiasts.

Some alternatives that whiskey connoisseurs may consider exploring include Hakushu, Nikka Yoichi, or other expressions from different Japanese distilleries.

What is the most expensive Japanese whiskey brand?

One of the most expensive Japanese whiskey brands is the Karuizawa Distillery. Karuizawa whiskies, particularly rare and limited editions, have fetched high prices at auctions. The distillery closed in 2011, contributing to the scarcity and elevated value of its releases.

Why Japanese whisky is considered better than Scotch?

The perception of Japanese whisky being “better” than Scotch is subjective and depends on personal preferences. However, Japanese whiskies have gained global acclaim for their craftsmanship, attention to detail, and unique flavor profiles.

Japanese distillers often incorporate traditional Scottish methods with their own innovations, resulting in whiskies with balance, complexity, and a smooth finish. Additionally, some Japanese whiskies have won prestigious awards on the international stage, contributing to the perception of their quality.

What is the rarest whiskey in Japan?

One of the rarest and most sought-after Japanese whiskies is the Hanyu Ichiro’s Malt Full Card Series. Produced at the now-closed Hanyu Distillery, this series consists of 54 bottles representing a full deck of playing cards.

Due to its limited production and the closure of the distillery, the Full Card Series is considered one of the rarest and most collectible Japanese whiskies.

It’s essential to note that rarity and value are often influenced by factors such as production volume, age, and historical significance, contributing to the uniqueness of certain Japanese whiskies.

Final Verdict: Best Japanese Whiskey Under $100

Japan has many good distilleries that make aromatic, flavorful, and high-quality whiskeys. With the continuing popularity of Japanese whiskeys, whiskey enthusiasts struggle to find whiskey bottles that would satisfy their curiosity without breaking their banks. Fortunately, you can easily find affordable Japanese whiskeys that suit your preferences with our comprehensive list.

As we reach the end, you’ve probably found the best Japanese whiskey under $100, and you can’t wait to try them out! You’ll be surprised at how Japanese whisky can compete with other types of whiskies in terms of flavor, taste, age, and quality. 

So, which one is your favorite?

References:

  1. What is Japanese Mizunara Oak and is it Worth It?

  2. Top Reasons Why Japanese Whisky is Better than Scotch
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