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How To Drink Japanese Whisky Like A Pro (2024 Updated)

How To Drink Japanese Whisky

Last Updated on March 1, 2024 by Lydia Martin

Japanese whisky’s popularity goes over the spotlight and alcoholic beverage trends. Like other whisky brands, Japanese whiskies are versatile beverages you can enjoy in many impressive ways. 

If you haven’t had one, this article will guide you on how to drink Japanese whisky.

Keep reading to discover how it is served, its food pairings, and the distinctive flavor profile that makes it unique from other whiskies.

5 Ways of How To Drink Japanese Whisky

5. Use Specific Glasses

hand holding Lowball Glass

Lowball Glass

A lowball glass, also known as a rocks glass, is recommended for drinking Japanese whisky straight. It is a classic short glass with a wide rim and thick lower base. 

Lowball glasses are commonly used for neat drinking, on-the-rocks, or Old-fashioned cocktails. 

Highball Glass

The highball glass is a great choice for Japanese whisky mixed drinks. It is a taller version of lowball and offers more space and larger proportions for ingredients. 

A highball glass is similar to a glass tumbler used to make a tall refreshing cocktail like whisky highballs. It’s typically used for simple highball mixed beverages like whisky and soda water (sparkling water) or whisky and ales.

Martini Glasses Or Coupe Glasses 

Japanese whisky chilled cocktails are good to serve in a martini or coupe glasses. Both glasses are high-stemmed, but coupe glasses are more rounded, while the classic martini glass is conical, having an inverted triangle on top. [1]

4. Enjoy Its Tasting Notes 

couple tasting different kind of japanese whisky bottles

Of course, drinking it neat is a great way to savor its full flavor profile, but Japanese whisky’s complex flavor also pairs well with cocktails and highballs. 

If you want to lessen the edgy taste and still want to enjoy the complexity of the alcohol, pour it over ice or add a splash of water. 

Palate: Drink it without ice to enjoy its full flavor profile and heavy mouthfeel with caramel, vanilla, chocolate, citrus fruit hints, and spicy notes.

Nose: It has subtle smokiness from peat and caramel oaky aromas on the nose with honeyed dried fruit hints. 

Color: It has a golden to orange-amber color feature.

Finish: It has a medium to a long finish with slight smokiness and ends with fruity notes and complex spices.

3. Pair It With Food

Japanese Food

You can’t go wrong in pairing Japanese whisky with Japanese cuisine. Sushi and sashimi match very well with the complex profile of your favorite Japanese whisky. 

Camembert Cheese

A smooth, creamy cheese delicacy like Camembert is a great pair for wine and a bold drink like Japanese whisky. 

Drinking Japanese whisky with cheese might not be the first food pairing to pop into your head. But the cheese’s mild texture, earthy tones, and saltiness complement the whisky.


Japanese whisky drinkers can also enjoy Japanese whisky with the sweet and bitter sensation of chocolate. The milky and luxurious chocolates go extremely well with the complex nature of whisky.


Seafood is another excellent option to pair with Japanese whisky. Its light, savory flavors and unique texture naturally go great with whisky. 

Grilled salmon, tuna, or baked scallops are a good seafood choice with light and full-bodied Japanese whiskies.


Japanese whisky could bring out more of the umami flavors from the lean cuts of red meat. Steak paired with Japanese whisky screams nothing but luxury. 

The classic tender savor of the meat with the savory and honeyed whisky makes a perfect combo for a steak dinner.

2. Serve It Right

japanese whisky bottle and a glass with ice


Traditionally, Japanese consumers drink Japanese whiskies neat or straight in a lowball glass without dilution or mixers at room temperature. 

Japanese whisky has a distinct toasty and peaty flavor. So, serving it neat allows you to appreciate the true and complex flavor of the whisky. 

On The Rocks

Diluting whisky with a large ice cube in a rocks glass is another way to chill and enjoy your Japanese whisky. 

On the rocks is a colder and more refreshing option than drinking it straight. Add water or serve it on the rocks if you want something to eliminate the intensity of the alcohol taste.

In A Highball

The most common way to consume whisky in Japan is in a highball. Japanese whiskies are mixed with either ales or soda in a tall highball glass. 

This highball drink is mostly intended to be paired with food and other candied treats.

Read: Does Costco Have Japanese Whisky?

1. Choose Your Preferred Whisky Type 

pouring whiskey on a glasses

Japanese Rice Whisky

Most whiskies are made from barley, corn, rye, and wheat, but some Japanese whisky uses the biggest cereal grain in Japan – rice. The rice grains are malted before distillation. 

In Japan, fermented and distilled rice could be classified as shochu. It will become a rice whisky after aging it in American oak, sherry casks, or Japanese Mizunara oak.

Japanese Shochu-Based Whisky

Japanese shochu, pronounced as ’show-chew,’ is a clear Japanese liquor. It is made with grains, Japanese sweet potato, barley, buckwheat, rice, and sugar cane. [2

Japanese shochu has two categories: Otsurui shochu and Kourui shochu. 

Blended Japanese Whisky

Japanese blended whisky is a mix of single malts and grain whiskies that have matured for at least three years.

Suntory and Nikka are two of the most popular whisky makers of blended whiskies in Japan.

Also Read:

3 Japanese Whisky Brands To Try 

3. Nikka Whisky

Nikka Whisky  bottle

Average Price: Around $75.99 for 750ml (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 45% 

Why We Like It: Nikka is one of the best Japanese whisky brands, not only in Japan but in the world. Nikka whiskies are blended Japanese whisky, offering a sweet yet full-bodied flavor profile. 

Nikka’s signature grain whisky, Nikka Coffey Grain, is predominantly made from corn and tastes similar to bourbon.

2. Suntory Whisky

Suntory Whisky bottle with glass on a wooden bench

Average Price: Around $40.69 for 750ml (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 43%

Why We Like It: Toki Suntory whisky is made by the largest Japanese whisky brand – Suntory. It has an incredibly smooth texture with light spice and crisp notes. 

Its smoothness makes it an easy sipper, but it also complements well as a cocktail mixer like in a Highball. 

1. Mars Whisky

Average Price: Around $36.99 for 750ml (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 40% 

Why We Like It: Mars Iwai whisky is a quality blended whisky with a light and smooth body. It is made from a majority of grain, mostly corn, with Japanese single malts and is aged in ex-bourbon casks. 

Mars Iwai whisky’s flavor profile is good for sipping like a Mint Julep or decent shots.


What is so good about Japanese whisky?

Japanese whisky has its local twist on traditional American and Scotch whiskies. Japan’s cold winter season made a significant impact on its maturation process. 
Also, it creates a smokier and more distinct flavor because it is made from malted barley and slightly peated, similar to Scotch whisky.

Is Japanese whisky good in cocktails?

Yes, Japanese whisky is good in cocktails. Although it is remarkable and satisfying by itself or over ice, Japanese whisky is also enjoyable in mixed drinks. 
Its wide range of flavors ranging from rich to smoky to fruity herbaceous is a great choice for a delightful cocktail. But do whiskey and tea go together?

How should I drink Japanese whisky?

Japanese whisky can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails, depending on personal preference and the particular characteristics of the whisky.

Is it traditional to drink Japanese whisky neat?

Yes, many Japanese whisky aficionados prefer to drink it neat to fully appreciate its nuanced flavors and aromas.

What flavors can I expect from Japanese whisky?

Japanese whisky often exhibits a range of flavors, including notes of fruit, oak, spices, and sometimes peat smoke, depending on the distillery and production methods.

Can I add water or ice to Japanese Take your time to savor the aroma, take small sips to appreciate the flavors, and pay attention to how the whisky evolves on your palate.y?

Adding a few drops of water or a single ice cube can help unlock additional flavors and aromas in Japanese whisky, but it’s ultimately up to personal preference.

Are there any traditional Japanese whisky cocktails?

While Japanese whisky is often enjoyed neat or on the rocks, it can also be used in classic cocktails such as the Highball, Whisky Sour, and Old Fashioned.

Should I pair Japanese whisky with food?

Japanese whisky pairs well with a variety of foods, including sushi, sashimi, grilled meats, and seafood, as well as desserts like chocolate and fruit.

What are some tips for tasting Japanese whisky?

Take your time to savor the aroma, take small sips to appreciate the flavors, and pay attention to how the whisky evolves on your palate.

Final Thoughts 

There are many ways to drink Japanese whisky. Japanese consumers can enjoy their preferred Japanese whisky served in lowball glasses for neat drinking, highballs, or frozen Japanese whisky in coupe glasses.

Japanese whisky makers perfected the art of Japanese whisky blending, following the Scotch tradition in whisky making. Japanese rice whisky, shochu-based, and blended whiskies have different flavors and aromas.

But whether you prefer Japanese whisky straight, on-the-rocks, or if you prefer it in mixed drinks, it is a great drink to pair with a savory meal or other sweet food delicacies.


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