Last Updated on November 5, 2023 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 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.
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 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.
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 .
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
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.
- Palate – Full-bodied, sweet pea, maple, burnt sugar cane, cigar, cedar, orange marmalade, honey with hints of ginger and oak spice
- Color/Hue – Light 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
|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
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 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 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.
Is Iwai whisky good?
Yes, Iwai whisky is good whisky. It may not be the best Japanese whisky we tasted, but it is a good-entry Japanese whisky with a reasonable price and flavor profile. Iwai whisky is elegant and soft with lovely barrel notes.
What mixes well with Iwai whisky?
Citrus flavors, angostura bitters, and sodas mix well with Iwia whisky. It has a nice flavor profile that makes a great substitute for bourbon to make a great Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour, Manhattan, and Mint Julep.
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.