Bookshelf

Japanese Whisky: The Ultimate Guide to the World’s Most Desirable Spirit by Brian Ashcraft

Book Review: Japanese Whisky

The Ultimate Guide to the World’s Most Desirable Spirit with Tasting Notes from Japan’s Leading Whisky Blogger

  • 144 pages (Hardcover)
  • Publisher: Tuttle
  • ISBN 4805314095
  • RRP £16.99

Japanese Whisky Brian Ashcraft

What they say

Japanese whisky has been around for less than a century—but is now winning all the major international awards. How did this happen and what are the secrets of the master distillers? This whisky book divulges these secrets for the first time.

Japanese Whisky features never-before-published archival images and interviews chronicling the forgotten stories of Japan’s pioneering whisky makers. It reveals the unique materials and methods used by the Japanese distillers including mizunara wood, Japanese barley, and novel production methods unique to Japan. It also examines the close cultural connections between Japanese scotch and whisky drinkers and their favorite tipples.

For the first time in English, this book presents over a hundred independently scored tastings from leading Japanese whisky blogger, Yuji Kawasaki, shedding new light on Japan’s most famous single malts as well as grain whiskies and blends. Japan expert Brian Ashcraft and photographer Idzuhiko Ueda crisscrossed Japan visiting all the major makers to talk about past and present whisky distillers, blenders and coopers.

What I say

Firstly thanks to Brian for contacting me regarding reviewing a copy of this book and Tuttle publishing for providing me with a copy.

I have been collecting whisky books at a pace my blog has been unable to keep up with from the moment it started. Originally I had intended to review each when I had completed it but that simply was not feasible. Recently however I had started thinking about cataloguing the books I have at least as a prompt to maybe add more to each post at a later date. When Brian contacted me my first thoughts were; 1. Yes I’d love to read/review this book as I love Japanese whisky and my understanding of the subject isn’t that deep, 2. Brian is regarded as one of the absolute experts on the topic 3. maybe in some way this would re-kindle my attempts to get more book reviews onto the blog.

Having had a copy of this book for near on two to three weeks now I have to admit I can’t put it down and I’m becoming a little sad that I have nearly completed reading it from cover to cover. So before It slips away to the recesses of my mind where all the other ‘to do one day, eventually’ items exist I thought I would put down some of my initial impressions.

In terms of whisky books I have read recently this one is certainly refreshing, yes it is a book about all aspects of Japanese whisky, starting with the history and moving through the major producers down to the level of each distillery wherein Yuki joins with masterful taste notes almost like expanded Haiku’s (or Tanka) for each expression.

The result isn’t a book about whisky, or a book about distilleries, it is essentially a book about Japan, and how the Japanese make or interpret whisky (or uisukii).

I have learned a lot whilst reading this book. Familiar with the story of Masatake Taketsuru and how whisky came to Japan, however I now understand much more about the years that followed. The beauty of much of this history is thanks to the personal accounts within this book. This period is still within the living memory of people that grew up as children nearby, or worked within these distilleries, during and following the Second World War (1939-1945) and into the early 1950’s. It is from these more personal accounts that you get a feel for these distilleries and what they do. For example I never knew a public road ran right through the middle of the Yamazaki distillery complex.

Educating and enlightening this has certainly sparked my curiosity in delving even deeper into Japanese whisky – almost a shame that availability and pricing have made this almost prohibitive (within the UK at least for now). Thankfully I was blessed for having this curiosity before the Japanese whisky boom struck and have sampled many a whisky then that I now could barely afford. I guess I just wish I knew then what I know now thanks to Brian’s book.

Invaluable reading for anyone with an interest in Japanese whisky!

Currently £10.96 on Amazon also available on Kindle, but this book is full of beautiful photography so I recommend the hardcover edition

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