In recent years, Japanese whisky has become a popular go-to for whisky drinkers, gaining international acclaim for its quality and craftsmanship. Enthusiasts have noted that some of their favourite Scotch whiskies are now on par with these upcoming, refined Japanese whiskies.

With a rich history dating back to the early 20th century, whisky distilleries in Japan combine traditional Scottish techniques with unique Japanese precision and innovation.

Let’s have a look at some of the best whisky distilleries in Japan and learn a little more about the intricate whisky-making process!

A Quick Intro to Japanese Whisky

Whiskey distilleries to visit in Japan What is Japanese whiskey
Taketsuru Masaka (left) and his wife Taketsuru Rita née Jessie Roberta Cowen (right)

Japanese whisky all started with one man, Masataka Taketsuru. In 1923, Taketsuru travelled to Scotland to study organic chemistry. After acquiring a taste for fine Scotch whisky, he returned to Japan to begin working at the Yamazaki distillery. It was there that Japan produced its first authentic whisky.

Whiskies can be enjoyed in different ways in Japan. A popular way to drink it is as a highball, which is whisky combined with a mixer. This can even be found in cans. However, typically, fine Japanese whiskies are still enjoyed neat, with ice, or with still water (mizuwari).

So that’s an overview of Japanese whisky. Now, let’s have a look at some of the best whisky distilleries in Japan.

Must-Visit Whisky Distilleries in Japan

Nikka Whisky [Hokkaido]

Credit: Look Sharp!CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Referring back to Taketsuru, he believed that a location with a cool, humid climate similar to Scotland, rich water sources, and clean, dignified air was essential for ideal whisky production. Therefore, he selected Yoichi, located at the base of the Shakotan Peninsula west of Otaru, from a variety of candidate sites.

General tours are available here; however, you would need to book for a guided tour.


7-6 Kurokawa-cho , Yoichi -cho, Yoichi – gun , Hokkaido 046-0003


Kamui Whisky [Hokkaido]

Kamui Whisky was started in 2019 by American entrepreneur Casey Wall. Wall, who had visited the island of Rishiri many times over several years, decided to use the location for the site of Japan’s northernmost whisky distillery due to its cool climate. This makes Rishiri similar to Islay, a Scottish island famous for its whisky.

The facilities, including the distillery and office, are approximately 180 square metres in size. It is a one-storey wooden structure with black-painted walls and two distillation machines hand-made by craftsmen in the USA.


097-0401 128-2, Aza Kamii, Kutsugata, Rishiri-cho, Rishiri-gun, Hokkaido


Venture Whisky Chichibu Distillery [Saitama]

Whisky distilleries in Japan: Venture Whiskey Chichibu Distillery
Credit: Japanese Whisky Dictionary

Famously known for its ‘Ichiro’s Malt,’ Chichibu Distillery started in 2008 with large ambitions. It is crucial that this distillery stays faithful to its Scottish counterparts; therefore, staff travel to the UK every year to study whisky processes.

All the whiskies developed here have incredible reputations and have won many awards. Their whiskies are enjoyed all over the world. In 2019, they held a whisky festival where visitors were able to sample some of the products from the range released so far. The constant queues at the booth showed the popularity of Ichiro’s Malt.


368-0067. 49 Midorigaoka, Chichibu, Saitama, Japan


Niigata Beer Shinobu Distillery [Niigata]

Whiskey distilleries to visit in Japan Niigata Beer Shinobu Distillery
Credit: Shinobu Distillery

Niigata’s craft brewery started distilling whisky in 2016 with the aim of using local fresh water to provide spirits enthusiasts with quality whisky. The distillery imports original spirit matured in sherry and bourbon casks from distilleries around the world and mixes it at the Niigata factory (Niigata City) to make the whisky ‘Koshino Shinobu.’


953-0012 5120 Echizenhama, Nishigamaku, Niigata City, Niigata Prefecture


Suntory Spirits Hakushu Distillery [Yamanashi]

The Hakushu Distillery is characterised by a variety of different types of original whisky, which is unparalleled in the world. In the fermentation process, the distillery uses wooden fermentation vats with excellent heat retention properties, and the lactic acid bacteria and other micro-organisms that live in the distillery produce the distinctive flavour unique to Hakushu.


408-0316 2913-1 Toribara, Hakushu-cho, Hokuto City, Yamanashi Prefecture


Kirin Distillery Fuji Gotemba Distillery [Shizuoka]

Fuji Gotemba Distillery has been particular about the production of grain whisky, which uses corn and wheat as whisky ingredients. Grain whisky is generally produced using continuous distillation.

This distillery was established as a joint venture between Kirin, JE Seagram, and the Seabass Brothers, which led to the opening of the distillery a year later. In 2016, Fuji Gotemba Distillery Single Grain Whisky Aged 25 Years Small Batch won the World’s Best Grain Award at the World Whisky Awards 2016. On 27 March 2020, Kirin Single Grain Whisky Fuji 30 Years won the World’s Best Grain Award at the World Whisky Awards 2020.


412-0003 970 Shibafuda, Gotemba, Shizuoka, Japan


Kyoto Brewery Kyoto Miyako Distillery [Kyoto]

Whiskey distilleries to visit in Japan Kyoto Brewery Kyoto Miyako Distillery

Kyoto Miyako prides itself as the first whisky distillery in Kyoto. Kyotanba-cho, where the Kyoto Miyako Distillery is located, is in the Tanba Plateau and is surrounded by mountains including Mt. The Yura River, known as a fishing ground for sweetfish, flows right next to the distillery, and the area is overflowing with rich nature. Kyoto Brewery launched three different types of whisky: Kyoto Whisky Nishijin-ori Red Belt (blended whisky), Kyoto Whisky Nishijin-ori Black Belt (a blend of bourbon and malt whisky), and Kyoto Whisky Nishijin-ori Purple Belt (blended malt).


11 Nambayashi Sakahara, Kyotamba-cho, Funai-gun, Kyoto 629-1131


Enjoying Japanese Whisky

Japanese whisky is a rapidly growing market, with options available that rival even some of the finest Scotch whiskies. Known for their meticulous craftsmanship and unique flavours, Japanese whisky distilleries offer a distinctive experience that whisky enthusiasts shouldn’t miss.

Why not take the opportunity to visit a distillery and experience firsthand the rich history, innovative techniques, and exquisite taste that make Japanese whisky so exceptional? Whether you’re sampling a highball or savouring a single malt, a visit to one of these distilleries promises an unforgettable journey into the world of Japanese alcohol.