Is Japanese whisky more like bourbon or Scotch?

Answered by Randy McIntyre

Japanese whisky is often compared to both bourbon and Scotch whisky, but in terms of characteristics, it leans more towards Scotch whisky. While there are certain similarities between Japanese whisky and bourbon, such as the use of double distillation and the inclusion of malted barley, there are several factors that make Japanese whisky more akin to Scotch whisky.

One of the key differences between Japanese whisky and bourbon is the use of peated barley. While bourbon is typically made with non-peated barley, Japanese whisky often incorporates peat into the production process. This peat adds a distinctive smoky and earthy flavor, similar to what you would find in many Scotch whiskies. However, it’s worth noting that not all Japanese whiskies are heavily peated, and some may have a more subtle smokiness compared to Scotch.

Another factor that sets Japanese whisky apart from bourbon is the overall flavor profile. Japanese whiskies tend to be drier and less sweet compared to bourbons. They often showcase more complex and nuanced flavors, with notes of fruit, spice, and oak. This is more in line with the flavor profiles commonly associated with Scotch whisky.

Furthermore, the production methods used in Japanese whisky production are more similar to those of Scotch whisky. Japanese distilleries often employ copper pot stills, which are commonly used in Scotch distillation, whereas bourbon is typically distilled using column stills. This difference in distillation equipment can contribute to the variation in flavor profiles between Japanese whisky and bourbon.

It’s also worth mentioning that Japanese whisky has a reputation for its meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail, much like Scotch whisky. Many Japanese distilleries have adopted traditional Scottish techniques and have even hired Scotch whisky experts to help refine their production methods. This dedication to quality and tradition is another aspect that aligns Japanese whisky more closely with Scotch whisky.

While Japanese whisky does share some similarities with both bourbon and Scotch whisky, its characteristics and production methods make it more comparable to Scotch whisky. With its use of peated barley, complex flavors, and attention to detail, Japanese whisky offers a unique and distinct experience that is reminiscent of Scotch whisky.