Japanese whisky has been exploding lately to the point where they have become sparse on the shelf due to scarcity. The meticulous attention to detail and creativity have put brands like Suntory and Nikka in the spotlight. This has led to other distilleries making their way across the ocean to bring their whiskies to market. Just this month Minnesota received a small shipment of rice whiskies from the Ohishi and Fukano distilleries in Japan. That’s right: rice whisky. While most Japanese whisky is much more akin to Scottish Single Malt, these whiskies draw much more from traditional Japanese heritage, bringing classic Japanese ingredients together with new distillation techniques. These whiskies are made from malted and unmalted rice injected with koji, a mold used in sake production to push along fermentation. These whiskies are also similar to the traditional Japanese shochu, a rice based alcohol usually sitting lower in alcohol than whisky but above sake.
Two different distilleries have brought their rice whiskies to Minnesota, Ohishi and Fukano. Ohishi has a few offerings but their classic shines the brightest. This is a light and bright whisky with an intense florality, light fruit, a rich yet delicate texture on the palate, and a clean finish. It is a very agreeable dram, one a clear spirit or whisky drinker would enjoy. Ohishi also has a sherry cask with a balance of dark fruit and light fruit but if you are looking for a sherry cask finish, look no further than Fukano’s Sherry Cask. A light crisp rice whisky with a ton of dark rich sherry slathered over the top giving it dark raisin plum tones while maintain a brightness that can be lost in a richer whisky. These whiskies take pride in how crisp and clean they are and share a common thread with many other Japanese beverages containing rice, giving them a sense of place.
We are very excited to have these whiskies on our shelves and look forward to many more distilleries from foreign lands, including Taiwanese Whisky from Kavalan and brand new Indian Whiskies from Paul John. Come in and find something new this weekend!