The popularity of Japanese whisky (yes, you spell it without the "e") has exploded over the past few years, driven in part by things like Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 winning Best Whisky in the World in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, and people in Japan rediscovering just how good their native product is. All of this led to a run on supplies, something distilleries like Suntory and Nikka were unprepared for.
Suntory, one of the most popular brands, is even cutting off its supply of Hakushu 12 and Hibiki 17. The discontinuation of age-statement products is supposed to be temporary, but in the meantime no-age-statement expressions are replacing them, like Hibiki Harmony.
However, there are still plenty of bars and restaurants where you can find all the Japanese whisky you could possibly desire – although be prepared to shell out more than a few bucks per dram.
Here are ten of the best places around the country to find the most comprehensive stocks of Japanese whisky right now.
Sushi Seki - New York City
NYC’s Sushi Seki has three different locations, and you can find a stellar selection of Japanese whisky at each. In case you were wondering, Japanese whisky pairs very well with sushi, udon, and dishes like yuzu miso cod – all of which are available at Sushi Seki. Along with the increasingly pricey standards from Yamazaki and Nikka, you will find lesser-known whisky from distilleries like Chichibu here.
Bar Jackalope - Los Angeles
You can find nearly every type of whiskey you can think of at this Downtown L.A. bar tucked away in the back of Seven Grand. Bar Jackalope’s Japanese whisky menu is not messing around, with multiple bottles available from Suntory, Nikka, Shinshu Mars, along with a few rice whiskies and a blend from Togouichi. Try a dram of Yamazaki 25 Years Old Single Malt in this dark and moody speakeasy-style bar.
Shojo - Boston
Shojo is a modern Japanese gastropub in Boston with great food and a whisky list that features over two dozen Japanese single malts and blends showcasing the entire spectrum of the category. Order something hard to find like Nikka’s Taketsuru 21, Hibiki 21, or Yamazaki Mizunara Cask, an 18-year-old single malt aged in Japanese oak.
Azabu - Miami
Miami isn’t just Cuban food, beach bodies, and old people. There’s also an excellent Japanese whisky list to be found at Azabu, the second outpost of this Michelin-starred restaurant based in NYC. Look for the elusive aged expressions from the Suntory catalogue, the bourbon-like Nikka Coffey Malt, and the house whiskey called Azabu Blend (50 percent Suntory Toki, 50 percent Mars Iwai).
Nihon Whisky Lounge - San Francisco
Nihon Whisky Lounge opened in 2005, and now carries over 600 single malt whiskies, more than 100 of which are Japanese. You can purchase a bottle and keep it in a private locker at the bar, so it’s ready to drink any time you feel like popping in. Spend some dough and taste Hakushu 25, Hibiki 30, or the incredibly rare Karuizawa ‘Noh’ 31, a vintage whisky distilled in 1981.
Copper & Oak - New York City
There are a whole lot of whiskey bars in NYC that have a whole lot of whiskey to drink. Copper & Oak on the Lower East Side happens to have one of the most comprehensive Japanese whisky lists in the city, with everything from Akashi White Oak to Fukano to Komagatake – as well as the classics from Nikka and Suntory, of course. Don’t be afraid to ask your whiskey sommelier for a recommendation if the scale of the massive menu seems intimidating.
Katana - Chicago
With locations in LA and Dubai as well as Chicago, Katana is bringing high-class Japanese food and cocktails around the world. The whiskey list includes some interesting selections from Yame and Fukano, single malts from Yamazaki, and blends from Akashi and Mars Shinshu.
Morimoto - Las Vegas
Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s Las Vegas outpost at the MGM Grand has an impressive Japanese whisky list, ranging from Akashi Sherry Cask to Ichiro’s Port Pipe to the expensive Komagatake Cask. Order something pricey to go along with your oysters foie gras and yellowtail “pastrami.” Then go play some slots – you were lucky enough to taste this whisky, maybe it will follow you onto the gambling floor.
Bar Three Piece - San Diego
LA may have more bars with bigger whiskey menus, but San Diego’s got a few spots to check out as well. Head on over to Bar Three Piece, where you’ll find a whiskey list that goes on and on, including an impressive Japanese section. The bar has almost every Suntory and Nikka whisky you can think of, along with lesser known blends and single malts.
Izakaya Ronin - Denver
If you’re looking for good Japanese food in Denver, look no further than Izakaya Ronin. It also has one of the largest Japanese whisky selections in the city, with bottles from Hakushu, Yamazaki, Hibiki, and Nikka available. There are also some interesting cocktails on offer, including the Paper Crane made with Hibiki Harmony, amaro, lemon and yuzu.