Last Updated on February 8, 2023 by Lydia Martin
Whiskey trends come and go, but Japanese whisky never goes out of style. This whisky grew from a little-known category to one of the most sought-after.
But why do Japanese whisky prices keep on rising? With almost a century in the market, the art of Japanese whisky looks toward perfection in quality.
Keep reading to know what this whisky is all about—from its roots and types to the current average Japanese whisky price in the market.
Overview of Japanese Whisky: Price & Buying Guide
Japanese whisky is timeless and always aims to refine whiskies. Although it is popular, the supplies are still limited—that’s why the price tags keep escalating.
There are many Japanese whisky brands to choose from, offering traditional whisky to blended whiskies, with prices that could range from less than a hundred to a thousand dollars.
But always check the bottle’s authenticity because fraudsters fake a bottle and sell it for less than half of the current market value.
History & Origin
The first whisky in Japan was made in 1923 at Suntory’s Yamazaki Distillery. 
Shinjiro Torii founded the brand and hired Masataka Taketsuru as a distillery executive.
Japanese whiskies are instilled with skill and history, which has been enjoyed domestically for almost a century.
It was inspired by Scotch whisky—the reason it is spelled without the ’e.’
How It’s Made
Like Scotch whisky, Japanese whisky depends heavily on malted grain, and other grains can be added if it’s a single malt.
But it must be distilled, fermented, aged, and bottled in Japan. It has to be matured for at least three years to comply with Japanese whisky standards. 
All Japanese whiskies are wood-aged, and the manufacturers use Sherry casks, American oak barrels, or Japanese Mizunara oak, which imparts unique, vibrant notes.
Japanese Whisky Types
Shochu is one of the traditional expressions of Japanese whisky. It is mainly made from grains such as buckwheat, rice, and sugar cane, and vegetables like sweet potato or carrots.
This Japanese whisky is often fermented with ’koji,’ a mold that grows on the grain, and as a distilled beverage, Shochu has an average alcohol content of 25% to 37% when bottled.
Japanese Rice Whisky
Aside from the prominent malted barley, Japanese whisky also produces rice whisky, commonly known as the ’Sake.’ Like beer, rice whisky is fermented—using rice, water, yeast, and koji.
Blended Japanese Whisky
Japanese blended whiskies are made of grain, containing corn, rye, and even wheat as their base, with single malts combined from different casks and ages.
This type of Japanese whisky often delivers profound, complex, and unique flavors to the whisky.
5 Most Popular Japanese Whisky Brands
1. Suntory Whisky
Suntory whisky is a pioneering brand of Japanese whisky. It offers single malts and blended Japanese whisky that are revolutionary and timeless.
This brand holds the most well-known and expensive bottles of Japanese whisky—the Yamazaki whisky single malt whisky, and Hibiki, one of the famous blended Japanese whisky.
2. Mars Whisky
Mars whisky is distilled in Japan’s highest whisky distillery located between Japan’s Southern Alps and Central Alps at 2,600 ft. above sea level.
It offers malt-driven whisky like the famed Iwai Tradition and other blended Japanese whisky finished in different casks like Sakura cask, Sherry cask, and plum wine cask.
3. Nikka Whisky
Nikka whisky is founded by Masataka Taketsuru, known as the ’father of Japanese whisky.’ The brand consists of single malts like Yoichi and Miyagikyo.
It also offers blended malt of varying ages, like Taketsuru and its premium blended whisky, the Nikka Tailored.
4. Akashi Whisky
Akashi whisky is owned by Eigashima Shuzo, also known as White Oak Distillery in Japan. This distillery is the first Japanese distillery to be licensed to make whiskey.
Aside from its well-known single malt whisky, the brand has the first ready-to-drink canned Japanese highball drink, Akashi Japanese Whisky Highball, from Eigashima Shuzo.
5. Akkeshi Whisky
Akkeshi is considered the second Japanese whisky distillery after the Yoichi distillery of Nikka whisky. It is referred to as the ’Little Lagavulin’ as it is comparable to the Scottish distillery.
This brand is one of the best-aged whisky producers of Japanese whiskies with an ex-bourbon barrel, Japanese Mizunara oak, sherry butt, and ex-wine casks finish.
“Whisky making is an act of cooperation between the blessings of nature and the wisdom of man” – Masataka Taketsuru, Nikka Whisky Founder
Common Japanese Whisky Prices
|Type||Size||Average Price||Alcohol Content|
|Yamazaki 25-Year-Old Single Malt||750ml||Around $10,055||48%|
|Hibiki Harmony 12-Yr||750ml||Around $127||43%|
|Hakushu 12 Year Single Malt||750ml||Around $190||43%|
|Hakushu 18 Year Single Malt||750ml||Around $750||43%|
|Hakushu 25 Year Single Malt||700ml||Around $9,000||43%|
|Nikka Whisky Yoichi Single Malt||750ml||Around $125||45%|
|Miyagikyo Single Malt||750ml||Around $105||45%|
|Nikka Whisky from the Barrel||750ml||Around $90||51.4%|
|Kirin Fuji Sanroku||750ml||Around $150||50.0%|
|Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu ’The Peated’ 2015 Cask Strength||700ml||Around $800||62.5%|
|Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu ’On the Way’ Single Malt||700ml||Around $750||51.5%|
|Mars Iwai Tradition||750ml||Around $65||40%|
|White Oak Akashi Single Malt||750ml||Around $115||46%|
|Karuizawa Vintage Single Cask Malt||750ml||Around $62,000||57.4%|
Caution: Japanese Whisky Authentic vs Fake
Since Japanese whisky prices are costing a bomb—you must be careful about getting an authentic bottle.
Here are some tips to spot a fake Japanese whisky:
- The low print quality of the label.
- Crooked or dotted flat line on the rip seal.
- Misaligned writings.
- It doesn’t have the same color as the authentic bottle.
- The fill–level is not met or overly filled.
Compared To Other Whiskies
Canadian whiskies mostly use corn as a majority grain in its mash content which is cheaper than most malted barley.
Also, it doesn’t have many legal requirements to produce its whisky, making its bottles lower in price, and you can have the best affordable Canadian whisky sold for around $30 or less.
Scotch whisky is comparable to Japanese whisky because of its main ingredient—malted barley, but Scotch whiskies tend to be more peated.
Although Japanese whisky imports many of its components from Scotland, the Japanese distilling process makes it more distinct. You can find a bottle of Scotch for around $50 or less.
What’s the most expensive Japanese whisky?
The most expensive Japanese whisky is Yamazaki 55 single malt Japanese whisky, sold at a massive price of around $800,000 for a single bottle.
Is Japanese whisky expensive?
Yes, Japanese whisky is expensive compared with other types of whisky. Much of it is due to a limited supply with increased market demand.
More connoisseurs worldwide are turning towards Japanese whisky because of its fine whiskies made using the right skills and tools, imparted with a rich history.
Like other whiskies, Japanese offers different variations from traditional expressions to single malts and blended whiskies that could range up to more than a hundred thousand dollars.
So if you’re planning to buy a luxurious bottle of Japanese whisky, beware of the fake bottles in the market. Use the tips above to spot a fake bottle.
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! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.