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Is Japan the new whisky king?

Thursday, December 04, 2014 - 02:05

Scotland won't like it but the world's best whisky, if you're to believe the Jim Murray Whisky Bible 2015, is now the Japanese Yamazaki single malt sherry cask. And as David Pollard reports, it's only sold in Europe.

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Scotch whisky lovers, hold on to your hats. Not only is this single malt being poured onto ice - that's enough to make some gasp - but its maker produces the best whisky in the world. And it makes it in ... Japan. In fact, the whisky in these casks is, according to a leading whisky guide, ''near indescribable genius''. It's Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 to give it its full title. Distillery boss Takashisa Fujii says it's taken years of effort. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) YAMAZAKI DISTILLERY SENIOR GENERAL MANAGER, TAKAHISA FUJII, SAYING: "For those of us who make whisky, it's important that each distillery plays to its strengths. I feel that has been shown in this result. So I'm of course very happy and pleased." Jim Murray's Whisky Bible made the award. It's a first for Japan - and an unwelcome first for Scotland too. Never before has the dram's spiritual home failed to get any into the final five shortlist. As for the Yamazaki malt: Jim Murray praises a ''nose of exquisite boldness', a finish of ''light teasing spice''. Apparently, the local climate helps. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) YAMAZAKI DISTILLERY SENIOR GENERAL MANAGER, TAKAHISA FUJII, SAYING: "Compared to other countries the temperature is also a bit higher, so the maturing process becomes much more influenced by the casks. So we have to make sure to maintain the quality of the barrels." The casks are specially crafted from oak from northern Spain. In return, Europe gets the end result. And only Europe: the top malt isn't sold in Japan, though a near identical one from 2012 is. After a slump in the 90s, whisky's made a strong comeback in the bars of Tokyo and other cities. Kiyoshi Nakano started drinking whisky for the first time ten years ago - but is now planning to open a whisky bar of his own. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) 51-YEAR-OLD, KIYOSHI NAKANO, SAYING: "I experienced the flavour of Japanese whisky and just fell in love with it." So, cheers to Yamazaki then, and its world champion. Though at upwards of £100 a bottle, you may be less inclined to toast the price tag.

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Is Japan the new whisky king?

Thursday, December 04, 2014 - 02:05