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Iwai Whisky Price Guide & Bottle Size (2024 Best Edition)

iwai whisky buying guide

Last Updated on April 4, 2024 by Lydia Martin

Iwai whisky is a Japanese whisky that has been around for the last couple of years, but it’s just getting its feet wet in America.

It is crafted by one of the most popular distilleries in Japan, and while American whiskeys inspire it, does it taste better?

Please scroll down to read our honest review of the Iwai whisky – price, tasting notes, and its interesting background. 

What’s Iwai Whisky? 

Iwai Japanese Whisky

Iwai whisky is a Japanese whisky named after Kiichiro Iwai, and it is made from a Japanese distillery known to produce high-quality whiskies in Japan. It is made from the majority of corn, malt, and rye and is aged in ex-bourbon barrels. 

Since it has an almost similar mash bill and aging process to American whiskeys, Iwai whisky has great tasting notes ideal for daily sipping and base liquor for classic American cocktails. 

Read: Does Costco Sell Japanese Whisky?

A Closer Look 

A Closer Look 

History & Origin

Iwai whisky came from a Japanese distillery, and it is named after Kiichiro Iwai. Kiichiro was a silent pioneer of Japanese whisky, and he helped the founders of Mars Distillery to obtain their whisky license in 1949. 

Iwai (pronounced E-Y) is inspired by great American spirits, but it retains a recognizable Japanese finesse. It is distilled in Mars Distillery, the most popular distillery in Japan. 

How It’s Made

Iwai Tradition Mars Whisky

Iwai whisky is a Japanese homage to great American-style spirits, and based on the Iwai sell sheet, it is made of mash bill, mostly corn, followed by malt and a hint of rye.

After distillation, it is aged in used bourbon barrels for a certain time to develop taste and color. 

The Iwai whisky contains 40% alcohol content (80 proof), and it makes a great classic cocktail because it does not fade easily when mixed with different flavors. 

But how can you drink Japanese whisky like a pro?

Aging Process & Age Statement

Iwa whisky does not bear an age statement on its bottle but based on Japan Spirits & Liqueurs Makers Association, Japanese whiskies should be aged for at least three years in wood barrels [1]. 

While not all producers are associated with the said group, the labeling requirements aim to increase quality and transparency among members and consumers.

In addition, Iwai whisky is aged in used bourbon barrels sourced from the United States. 

Ownership & Distillery

Shinshu Mars Distillery

Iwai whisky is made in Shinshu Mars Distillery, located between the Southern Alps and the Central Alps. It has the highest altitude among all the distilleries in Japan.

Mars Distillery is situated at an elevation of about 2600 feet, where the temperature drops to 5°F. 

The Hombo Family owns the Japanese blended whisky, and they chose the distillery site because of its cool temperature that will help slow maturation. 

Read: Popular Japanese Whiskies Under $100

Tasting Notes 

Tasting Notes 

  • PalateFull-bodied, sweet pea, maple, burnt sugar cane, cigar, cedar, orange marmalade, honey with hints of ginger and oak spice
  • Color/HueLight caramel
  • Nose Delicate notes of Brulee sugar, cinnamon, English breakfast tea, and red apple skin 
  • Finish Medium length and slightly sweet

Common Iwai Whisky Price

Common Iwai Whisky Price

Type Size Alcohol By Volume Average Price
Iwai Whisky  750 ml 40% $30.99

*Average price is based on Total Wine. Prices may vary in local liquor shops.

Compared to Other Japanese Whiskies

Compared to Other Japanese Whiskies

Hibiki

Hibiki Whisky

Hibiki is a great Japanese whisky that can be a good alternative for Iwai; however, it is expensive.

A 750ml of Hibiki by Suntory costs around $99.99 on Drizly online, but it has a unique blend of malt and grain, resulting in an ensemble of flavors and aromas. 

Suntory

Suntory Whisky

Suntory whisky Toki is a clear gold spirit with a great flavor profile.

It is slightly more expensive than Iwai because it is shy of $35.99 per 750 ml bottle in Total Wine, but taste-wise, it can be a great alternative. It is smooth, versatile, and rich on the nose and palate. 

Yamato

Yamato Japanese whisky is a blend of selected Japanese grain grown in Yamasaki and malted barley scotch whisky.

It has similar alcohol content to Iwai whisky; however, it costs approximately $65.99 per bottle of Total Wine. It is a blend of 3-8-year-old whiskies and is non-chill filtered. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Iwai real Japanese Whisky?

Yes, Iwai is indeed a genuine Japanese whisky, meticulously crafted to embody the essence of Japanese whisky-making traditions. Produced by Mars Whisky, a distillery with a rich history dating back to 1949, Iwai has garnered both domestic and international acclaim for its quality and distinct flavor profile. Japanese whisky as a category has experienced a surge in popularity worldwide, often celebrated for its attention to detail, precision in production, and the unique characteristics derived from Japanese ingredients and techniques.

Japanese whisky owes its origins to the pioneering efforts of figures like Masataka Taketsuru, who studied the art of whisky-making in Scotland before returning to Japan to establish the country’s first whisky distillery. Drawing inspiration from Scottish whisky traditions while incorporating Japanese ingenuity and craftsmanship, Taketsuru and others laid the foundation for what would become a globally revered style of whisky.

Mars Whisky, located in the Japanese Alps in Nagano Prefecture, continues this legacy of excellence with brands like Iwai. Named after Kiichiro Iwai, a prominent figure in Japanese whisky history who played a pivotal role in the development of the industry, Iwai whisky reflects a commitment to quality and innovation.

What is the price of Iwai whisky in India?

Determining the exact price of Iwai whisky in India can be influenced by several factors, including regional taxes, import duties, distribution costs, and retailer markups. Japanese whiskies, renowned for their craftsmanship and limited availability, often occupy the higher end of the price spectrum. As such, the cost of Iwai whisky in India may vary depending on the specific market conditions prevailing at the time of purchase.

Potential customers interested in acquiring Iwai whisky in India are advised to consult local liquor vendors, online retailers, or specialized whisky shops for the most accurate and up-to-date pricing information. Additionally, it’s recommended to compare prices across different sources to ensure the best value for your investment.

How do you drink Iwai 45?

Enjoying Iwai 45, or any whisky for that matter, is a highly subjective experience that can be tailored to individual preferences and tastes. While there are no strict rules governing how to drink whisky, there are several popular methods that enthusiasts often explore to enhance their enjoyment of the spirit.

Neat: Drinking Iwai 45 neat, or without any additional mixers or dilution, allows the full spectrum of flavors and aromas to shine through. Sipping whisky neat is a favored approach among purists who appreciate the unadulterated essence of the spirit.

On the Rocks: For those who prefer their whisky slightly chilled and diluted, serving Iwai 45 over a few ice cubes can be a refreshing option. The ice helps temper the alcohol’s intensity while imparting a subtle cooling effect.

With Water: Adding a splash of water to Iwai 45 can be a transformative experience, as it can help unlock new layers of complexity and aroma. Experimenting with the amount of water allows drinkers to tailor the whisky to their desired strength and flavor profile.

Whisky Cocktails: Iwai 45 serves as an excellent base spirit for a variety of whisky cocktails, offering a versatile canvas for mixologists to create innovative and flavorful drinks. Classic cocktails such as the Old Fashioned, Whisky Sour, or Highball can all be crafted using Iwai 45 as the primary ingredient.

Ultimately, the best way to drink Iwai 45 is the way that brings you the most pleasure and satisfaction. Whether enjoyed neat, on the rocks, with water, or in a cocktail, savoring the nuances of Iwai 45 is a journey of exploration and appreciation for the artistry of Japanese whisky-making.

What does Iwai tradition whiskey taste like?

Iwai Tradition whiskey offers a unique flavor profile that reflects the rich heritage and meticulous craftsmanship of Japanese whisky-making. Characterized by its smoothness, complexity, and balance, Iwai Tradition presents a delightful sensory experience for whisky enthusiasts.

Upon nosing, Iwai Tradition often reveals delicate floral notes intertwined with hints of citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons, complemented by subtle undertones of oak and vanilla. On the palate, the whisky unfolds with layers of flavors, ranging from honeyed sweetness and caramel to gentle spice notes, evoking sensations of warmth and richness. The mouthfeel is typically velvety and creamy, enhancing the overall drinking experience.

Iwai Tradition’s finish is long and satisfying, leaving behind a lingering impression of sweet spices and dried fruits, with a touch of oakiness that adds depth and complexity. Overall, Iwai Tradition is renowned for its harmonious blend of flavors, impeccable balance, and smooth, lingering finish, making it a cherished addition to the world of Japanese whisky.

Why are Japanese whiskies expensive?

Japanese whiskies have gained a reputation for their quality, craftsmanship, and distinct flavor profiles, which has contributed to their higher price points compared to whiskies from other regions. Several factors contribute to the expense of Japanese whiskies:

Limited Supply: Many Japanese distilleries, including those producing Iwai whiskey, have limited production capacities. Coupled with the growing global demand for Japanese whisky, this scarcity of supply drives up prices.

High Production Standards: Japanese whisky production adheres to stringent quality standards and meticulous attention to detail at every stage of the process, from selecting the finest ingredients to the skilled craftsmanship involved in distillation, maturation, and blending. These high production standards often result in higher costs, which are passed on to consumers.

Aging Process: Japanese whisky often undergoes extended aging periods, sometimes surpassing two decades or more, to develop its desired flavor profile and complexity. The cost of storing and aging whisky for extended periods adds to its overall expense.

Import Duties and Taxes: In many countries, including India, imported spirits such as Japanese whisky are subject to import duties and taxes, which further contribute to their elevated retail prices.

Global Recognition and Prestige: Japanese whiskies have earned numerous accolades and awards on the international stage, elevating their prestige and desirability among collectors and connoisseurs. This global recognition commands premium pricing for Japanese whisky brands like Iwai.

In summary, the combination of limited supply, high production standards, extended aging processes, import duties, and global prestige contributes to the higher price tags associated with Japanese whiskies.

How long is Iwai whiskey aged?

The aging process for Iwai whiskey can vary depending on the specific expression or variant. However, Mars Whisky, the producer of Iwai whiskey, typically employs a range of aging periods to achieve the desired flavor profile and character for each product.

Iwai whiskey offerings may include expressions that have been aged for different durations, ranging from a few years to over a decade. The length of aging directly influences the development of flavors and aromas within the whiskey, as it interacts with the oak barrels during maturation.

For example, some Iwai whiskies may feature younger expressions that emphasize vibrant fruitiness and freshness, while others may showcase more matured profiles with complex layers of oak, spice, and dried fruit notes.

Ultimately, the specific aging duration for Iwai whiskey is determined by the master blenders and distillers at Mars Whisky, who carefully monitor the maturation process to ensure that each release meets the brand’s exacting standards of quality and excellence.

Which is the highest cost whisky?

Determining the highest-cost whisky can be a complex endeavor influenced by a myriad of factors, ranging from rarity and age to craftsmanship and provenance. The world of whisky boasts a spectrum of expressions that span a wide range of prices, with some commanding astronomical figures at auctions and specialty markets. While specific bottles may fluctuate in value over time, several standout examples have earned legendary status for their record-breaking prices.

One such example is the Macallan “Fine & Rare Collection 1926,” which achieved unprecedented heights in the whisky market. This single malt Scotch whisky, distilled nearly a century ago, is renowned for its exceptional rarity and unparalleled quality. Bottled in a unique handcrafted decanter adorned with artwork by renowned artists, the Macallan 1926 has become a symbol of luxury and exclusivity, fetching prices exceeding $1.9 million at auction.

Other notable contenders for the title of the highest-cost whisky include limited editions, rare releases, and unique blends from esteemed distilleries around the world. These whiskies often embody the pinnacle of craftsmanship and artistry, showcasing the mastery of distillers and blenders who strive for perfection in every drop.

While the highest-cost whisky may command staggering prices, it’s important to recognize that value is subjective and can vary depending on individual preferences and collector interests. For some, the allure of owning a piece of whisky history or experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime dram justifies the investment, while others may find equal satisfaction in exploring more accessible expressions that offer exceptional quality at a more modest price point.

What is Iwai whiskey made of?

Iwai whiskey, crafted by Mars Whisky, is made from a meticulous blend of premium ingredients selected to create a distinctive and harmonious flavor profile. The production process begins with the careful sourcing of high-quality grains, including malted barley and corn, which form the foundation of Iwai whiskey’s recipe.

Once the grains are acquired, they undergo milling and mashing to convert starches into fermentable sugars, a crucial step in the whisky-making process. The resulting mash is then fermented using carefully selected yeast strains, allowing for the conversion of sugars into alcohol and the development of unique flavors and aromas.

Following fermentation, the wash is distilled in traditional pot stills or column stills, depending on the desired characteristics of the final product. Distillation plays a pivotal role in concentrating alcohol content and refining flavor profiles, ensuring that each batch of Iwai whiskey meets the brand’s exacting standards of quality and consistency.

After distillation, the newly formed spirit is transferred to oak barrels for maturation, where it undergoes a transformative aging process. During this time, the whiskey interacts with the wood, extracting flavors, colors, and tannins that contribute to its complexity and depth. The length of aging may vary depending on the specific expression of Iwai whiskey, with some variants matured for several years to achieve optimal balance and flavor development.

Once the aging process is complete, the whiskey is carefully blended and bottled, ready to be enjoyed by enthusiasts around the world. Whether sipped neat, on the rocks, or as part of a cocktail, Iwai whiskey offers a captivating sensory experience that celebrates the rich heritage and craftsmanship of Japanese whisky-making.

Which whiskey is the best?

Determining the “best” whiskey is a highly subjective endeavor, influenced by individual preferences, tastes, and experiences. With a diverse array of whiskies hailing from regions around the world, each offering its own unique characteristics and flavor profiles, the concept of the “best” whiskey becomes a matter of personal interpretation.

Scotch whisky, known for its rich history and diverse styles, encompasses single malts, blends, and peated expressions that cater to a wide range of palates. Brands like Macallan, Glenfiddich, and Lagavulin are revered for their craftsmanship and consistency, earning accolades from whisky enthusiasts worldwide.

Irish whiskey, celebrated for its smoothness and approachability, boasts brands such as Jameson, Redbreast, and Bushmills, which showcase the spirit’s versatile and accessible nature.

Bourbon, a quintessentially American spirit, offers a robust and flavorful experience characterized by caramel sweetness, oak influence, and a touch of spice. Notable bourbon distilleries include Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark, and Woodford Reserve.

Japanese whisky, influenced by Scottish traditions and Japanese craftsmanship, has risen to prominence in recent years, captivating drinkers with its elegance, complexity, and attention to detail. Brands like Yamazaki, Hibiki, and Nikka have garnered international acclaim for their exceptional quality and distinctive flavor profiles.

Ultimately, the “best” whiskey is the one that resonates most with your palate and preferences, whether it’s a smoky Scotch, a smooth bourbon, an elegant Japanese whisky like Iwai, or something entirely different. Exploring the world of whiskey offers a journey of discovery and appreciation for the rich tapestry of flavors, aromas, and traditions that define this beloved spirit.

In Conclusion

The Iwai whisky price is reasonable for its quality and flavor profile. For around $30.99, you can taste the bourbon-inspired Japanese whisky from Shinshu Mars Distillery, the “highest” distillery in Japan. 

Iwai whisky is made from corn, malt, and rye and its versatile tasting notes make a great alternative to bourbon-based cocktails.

Reference:

  1. Japanese Whisky Regulations are Changing. What Does That Mean for Your Next Pour?
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