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”
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
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 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
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 .
5. 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 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
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
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 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 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
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
“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
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, 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
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!
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?
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.
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.
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!
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 . 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.
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?
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds!