Japan is the second biggest producer of single malt whisky in the world.
It has been taking top prizes in international tastings since 2001. At the 2008 World Whisky Awards, Japan underlined its arrival on the world scene by scooping both of the top prizes - the best single malt whisky in the world and the best blended whisky in the world. In the 2011 and 2012 awards, it did the same, again leaving the best distilleries from the rest of the world to scrabble for the minor prizes.
This site is probably the most comprehensive source on Japanese whiskies for English speakers. It is also independent. No one who writes for Nonjatta is employed by the Japanese distillers. Sometimes we say nice things about their products, sometimes we don't.
A few days ago, Suntory announced the release of the Yamazaki Heavily Peated 2013 edition. It will be a Japan-only release, and will go on sale on April 23rd. Bottled at 48% abv and priced at about 9,000 JPY, a mere 3,500 bottles will be available and if the recent Hakushu Sherry Cask experience is anything to go by, it won't be around for very long.
I happened to be at the distillery - doing research for a forthcoming book - when the imminent release of this Heavily Peated was announced and fans of Yamazaki will be happy to know Suntory is in the process of adding 4 more stills to the site there. These will be placed in a different building, seeing as there's no more room in the current stillhouse (which already holds 6 pairs of stills). In addition, a new warehouse is under construction at their Ohmi site in Shiga prefecture, where the bulk of Suntory's malt and practically all of its grain whisky is matured. It seems like things are going really well for Suntory and, indeed, for whisky in Japan in general. It's a big gamble, of course, since decisions made now will only prove valid ten years down the line, but the fact that the people at Suntory are confident enough to make these commitments show how vibrant the whisky scene is at the moment.
Nonjatta is maintained by a team of Japanese whisky enthusiasts living both inside and outside Japan. It was founded in 2007 by Chris Bunting.
The current regular contributors includes:
Stefan - A composer, teacher and whisky enthusiast based in Tokyo. Stefan operates his own blog at Tokyo Whisky Hub, which covers the entire Tokyo whisky scene encompassing Scotch and other global whiskies, but cross posts entries directly related to Japanese whisky on Nonjatta.
Ruben of WhiskyNotes - Supplying Nonjatta with in-depth tasting notes whilst keeping an eye on the reception of Japanese whiskies on the European front.
Among the contributors over the years are:
AshDLS - A Japanese whisky fan currently living in Australia. He has spent time in Japan and has a talent for uncovering rare bottlings.
Ulf Buxrud - Author and long time fan of Japanese whisky. He published the first book in English devoted entirely to Japanese whisky in 2008.
Nicholas Coldicott - Writer for the Japan Times and numerous other publications. Knows more about the whole Japanese drinks scene than anyone I know.
John Hawkins - used to live in Japan and had some great tips on Tokyo's whisky bars at the time.
Takeshi Mogi - An incredible gentleman who has been extremely helpful in my faltering attempts to get my head around Japanese whisky. He kept the Japanese Whisky Web (now no longer online, but it was the original Japanese Whisky website in English) . I talk about him more here.
Hasse Nilsson - Chairman of the Växjö Malt Whisky Society, one of the most active and knowledgeable whisky clubs in the world.
Nick Sikorski - Nick is a Japanese specialist and is a key figure at La Maison du Whisky of Paris, one of the two main importers pioneering Japanese whisky in Europe.
Taylor Smisson - Author of the now discontinued "Malt Drinkers Diary".