The Top 10 Best Japanese Whisky to Try in 2021
The best Japanese whisky brands implement a commitment to quality production, flavor innovation, and craftmanship to create expressions rivalling the traditional powerhouses of Scotch whisky.
The Japanese spirits landscape is dominated by two companies; most of the top-quality brands fall under the umbrella of global giants Suntory Whisky and Nikka.
The rapidly increasing thirst for Japanese whisky worldwide has created a momentary shortfall in whisky production, which has been a boon for the industry because independent bottlers and established leaders create interesting products blended in Japan from a wider range of source materials.
Japanese whisky also accounts for some of the most expensive bottles in the secondary, collector, and auction markets, a point which keeps whisky traditionalists from bemoaning Asian spirits creativity.
See more about - 21 of the Most Expensive Whiskies You Can Buy in 2021
The best whiskies in the UK tend towards single malt Scotch whisky, however Japan thrives on innovative blending. The following list of best Japanese whisky brands include affordable expressions from the great distillers, and a few lesser-known gems that will be great for getting to know.
1. Nikka Whisky from the Barrel
Nikka Whisky From the Barrel blend packs a bold punch at 51.4% ABV and recently topped our list of best blended whiskies.
From the Barrel combines quality single malt from the Yoichi Distillery on Hokkaido with grain whiskies from the Miyagikyo Distillery on the main island Honshu.
After the whiskies are married, they are re-introduced for barrel finishing in a huge variety of casks, including bourbon barrel, sherry cask and refill hogshead. The resultant blended malt is a fine, smaller bottle (500ml) possessing distinct individuality, with full flavor characterized by solidity, depth of taste and the characteristic aroma of Japanese fruits and spices.
The palate offers grainy sweetness, the richness of candied orange peel balanced by flecks of pepper, cinnamon and cloves. Whisky From the Barrel benefits from a few drops of water to unlock the subtler flavors in a smooth finish that belies its strength.
Nikka Whisky From the Barrel is firmly on the top shelf of Japanese blended whisky expressions and would impress even the grumpiest Scotch whisky lover with its fluidity and fullness.
2. Hakushu 12 Year Old
This top quality Japanese single malt peated whisky comes from Suntory’s Hakushu distillery, which can be found in the forests adjacent to Mt. Kaikomagatake in the central region of Honshu.
The tasting notes feature toasted barley, seeded nut bread and almonds. Hints of milk chocolate and dried grass bring sweetness to the aroma which you can pick up on the tongue alongside subtle fruit flavors and herbs. Its finish is swift but satisfying with more forest flavor and a touch of smoke char.
Due to being an age statement expression at a time of limited aged whisky production, the Hakushu is one of the more expensive bottles on this list, yet you’ll find it’s well worth the price, as it received the Liquid Gold Award (2014) in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.
3. Suntory Whisky Toki
Suntory Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo created Toki by first selecting American oak cask matured malt whisky from the Hakushu Distillery. Fuykuyo then chose heavier grain whisky from the Chita Distillery to add a clean taste to the green apple and malt with clean notes of sweetness and vanilla.
I recently shared this expression neat with my father-in-law, who is generally wary of Japanese whisky brands and a staunch lover of Scottish whisky. He couldn’t believe some of the fruitier notes and the herbs apparent in the clear gold liquid.
Toki is an innovative and brilliant blended whisky that can be used in any fashion, from neat or on the rocks to various mixed drinks and cocktails.
4. The Yamazaki 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
I got to learn a LOT about Japanese whisky when I taught English in Japan during the mid-noughties. For many of my adult students the full whisky experience was their hobby, and as all Japanese students do, they took it extremely seriously. It made the job more fun, and I got to learn too!
I was priced out of most quality Japanese single malts (I had to go blended) but was lucky enough to drink Suntory Yamazaki 12-year-old one night with a salaryman who wished to practice his English skills. I can still remember the taste 15 years later, if not the lesson.
The Yamazaki mash bill boasts 100 percent malted barley, and is cask aged in American oak for 12 years before being bottled. It’s well compiled and layered, delicately tasting of sweet dried fruit and spice, with a hint of ginger on the tongue to finish. It’s well at the top end of most list’s pricing spectrum, but I rate this Japanese whisky highly enough that it must be included.
If it’s too much, there’s also a cheaper No Age Statement (NAS) whisky from the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery that would certainly do the trick!
5. Ichiro's Malt and Grain Japanese Whisky
This is a blended whisky from Ichiro Akuto, who is something of a rock star amongst independent Japanese distillers. It’s the lead in variety of Ichiro’s Malt and Grain range, with some of his other expressions climbing to $2000+ for their sticker price.
This expression contains whisky from Akuto’s own Chichibu distillery, but also includes varieties from America, Canada, Scotland and Ireland.
‘This is worldwide blended whisky,’ it says on the label, but by virtue of being blended by the man famous for Ichiro’s Malt Full Card Series, a real whisky lover knows they’re getting a quality drop with a tale to tell from the most interesting Japanese distillery.
6. Yoichi Single Malt
In Japan there has been a whisky shortage due mainly to the ever-increasing popularity for Japanese production.
This has resulted in single malt whisky being released or updated as Non-Age Statement (NAS) bottlings, a turn off for some traditionalists yet a positive for the whisky connoisseur happy to drink a single malt product of quality crafted from different aged barrels.
Yoichi Single Malt offers a tremendously complex peated whisky; the briny crispness of coastal Hokkaido was chosen specifically for the Yoichi Distillery by Nikka founder Masataka Taketsuru for the region’s similarity to Scotland’s Islands.
This malt whisky expression offers notes of smoke, malted barley, tropical fruit and citrus on the nose, balanced by delicate cinnamon, spice, ginger, and seaweed on the tongue.
Yoichi finishes in slow waves of plum, nutmeg, peat, and just a hint more of salty brine. It’s a quality single malt offering at a reasonable price point and is a good introduction for those unused to Japanese drams.
7. Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky
Nikka decided to add their Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky to their core range in 2014 after previously being a limited-edition single cask range.
This single malt Japanese whisky is made with 100% malted barley then distilled through Coffey stills imported from Scotland at the Miyagikyo Distillery. Coffey stills are usually deployed in the production of grain whisky.
The Coffey Malt is very clean winded, and the slightly different distillation creates a fantastically spicy and fruit flavored expression. It’s an ideal bottle for the experienced whisky connoisseur looking for a more intense, uniquely individual flavored drop.
8. Kikori Japanese Rice Whiskey
Kikori Japanese Whiskey is distilled in Japan and made from 100% rice (hence the different spelling of whiskey) to create a different tasting spirit that resembles traditional Japanese crafting.
The golden colored Kikori is classified as a single grain whiskey. It’s aged for a minimum of three years in American Oak, French Limousin Oak, and Sherry Casks to instill a woodier flavor alongside the more traditional floral notes.
Kikori is a smooth drinking blended Japanese whiskey ideal for versatile use or the whiskey drinker looking for an entirely different story to tell friends and family over a bottle.
9. Hibiki Harmony Japanese Whisky
Hibiki means resonance in Japanese and is a premier blended offering from the Suntory Distillery. Malt whiskies from Yamazaki and the brand’s Hakushu distillery are combined with grain whisky from the Chita distillery.
The whiskies used to create Hibiki Harmony are drawn from 5 different types of cask before bottling, including American white oak casks, Sherry casks and Mizunara oak casks. It’s simply balanced; honey, orange, and herbs are clearly noticeable, finished off with the oaken sheen left from the maturation process.
Underrating Japanese whisky is doing your tastebuds a disservice, especially their premier blended whisky offerings which show commitment to innovation and charismatic flavor matching.
10. The Kurayoshi Pure Malt
The Kurayoshi Pure Malt is A blended malt whisky from little-known Japanese whisky producer, Matsui Shuzou, whose distillery can be found in the Tottori Prefecture, Japan’s least populous area. The Kurayoshi is made with single malt Scotch whisky sourced from the UK (likely Speyside and Highland casks) then blended with Japanese whisky and volcanic-stone-filtered water.
A three-year-old whisky matured in bourbon casks and colored a deep gold, the Pure Malt creates a nice balance between oak and sweet malt on the nose, with gentle Japanese style fruitiness emerging on the palate with hints of bread and corn. There’s subtle poached apples and pears, with a splash of vanilla and a thrust of spicy warmth at the finish, which adds to the Scottish whisky vibes of this expression.
Top 29 Best Watches Under $500 For Men
With cellphones so ubiquitous, your watch choice can be less about telling time and more about personal style. However, a watch is not ‘just’ a watch. For example, the vast majority are made for right-handed people, but a select few cater to the lefties among us. There is a wide range in functionality and size.
The wristwatch is also one of the few socially acceptable accessories for men, so why not have a small selection? If you’re not cashing a CEO’s paycheck just yet, here are the top 28 most handsome watches for men that retail for under $500.
Got a bigger budget? Then check out our guide to the best men’s watches under $1000 instead.
Top 29 Best Watches Under $500 For Men
1. Tommy Hilfiger Stainless Steel Men’s Watch
If you like the feel of a pliable, non-metal band but aren’t comfortable with genuine leather, this watch comes equipped with a handsome synthetic band. At 46mm in diameter, this watch is perfect for men of smaller stature, as it will not overpower your hand or make it look like you’re wearing your father’s watch. With bold Arabic numerals, a stainless steel case, and classic styling, this watch is an outstanding choice for an everyday watch and the man on a budget.
2. Nordgreen Pioneer – Black Dial
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Not everyone has an endless amount of cash to drop on a luxury timepiece. If you’re money-conscious but want something high-end, then why not consider the Nordgreen Pioneer.
An inspired take on a classic Chronograph, Nordgreen celebrates the Danish with what they call a timepiece “that captures the sustainable future.” Available in various dial colors from blue, black, and white. There’s even the choice of three case colors – gunmetal, silver, and rose gold. A perfect addition to the collection of any watch enthusiast.
3. Fossil Grant Brown Leather Watch
This lovely offering by Fossil features slim Roman numeral hour markers and delicate cut-out hands. The casing is stainless steel and is water-resistant to 165 feet, making it a great dive watch. The band is made of supple, soft calfskin leather and uses a buckle closure.
Of course, this timepiece also comes with the generous 11-year warranty and it’s own fun tin. This watch oozes class and is great for nearly every occasion in your life.
4. Citizen Sport Stainless Steel Men’s Watch With Brown Leather Band
If you don’t want to deal with changing out a battery in a digital watch, this watch is powered by either natural or indoor lighting. The mineral crystal face and stainless steel case make this watch water-resistant to 330 feet, making it a great choice for swimmers and snorkelers.
Handsome and utilitarian, this is a great watch for everyday wear. It’s one of the best watches for men who are always on the go.
5. Fossil Men’s Machine Chronograph Silicone Watch
This watch was designed with the active man in mind. The knurled silicone band stands up to sweat and oils without issue, and the timepiece itself is water-resistant to 165 feet.
The patterned bezel and quality craftsmanship of the black dial is excellent, as is to be expected from a Fossil watch. It even comes in the iconic and collectible tin!
6. Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Watch
This men’s watch features Japanese quartz movement that charges itself indoors or out when exposed to light, making it a great choice for those who don’t want to change out the battery too often. The stitched canvas strap is soft against your skin and will wick away moisture, while the mineral crystal face stands up to the rigors of your everyday life.
Water-resistant to 330 feet, this dive watch is a classic and simple design you’ll be proud of for years to come.
7. Invicta Pro Diver Chronograph Men’s Watch
Another gorgeous offering by Invicta, this watch features a bold design with a slightly nautical feel to it. It will look at home whether you’re wearing a business suit or are going for a dive of less than 660 feet. This piece is also covered by a one-year warranty as a matter of course. The luminosity feature and magnified date window make it a great choice if you work or play in low light.
If you want something that looks like a Tag Heuer but without the luxury watch brand price tag, this is a good option!
8. Casio Edifice Multi-Function Men’s Watch
This watch has three sub-dials for 12 hour, 60 minute and 60-second displays, in addition to the standard time. It also features a fold-over, push-down clasp on the stainless strap, keeping it secure throughout your activities. If you’re looking for a classy timepiece that shrieks sophistication, this is a great choice.
9. Fossil Machine Three Hand Stainless Steel Men’s Watch
This quality watch is a chameleon piece. It looks at home as a dress watch riding below the cuff of your best suit, and it also looks great paired with jeans and a t-shirt. Backed by Fossil’s 11-year warranty as a matter of course and beautifully crafted, this smoke-colored piece is guaranteed to become the go-to accessory for nearly every occasion.
10. MVMT Watches Black Face Men’s Watch
If you like the look of a simple watch, this minimalist offering from MVMT is right up your alley. With just a plain black face, tick marks to denote the hours and a single date window, there is nothing overdone or extravagant about this design. The is understated and suited to the simple design. It’s definitely a classy, low-key piece for the budget-conscious.
11. Timex Weekender Watch
If you’re looking for a fun watch to pair with casual outfits, this is a great option. The band is blue and yellow woven nylon, and the face features both civilian and military timekeeping. An Indiglo night light is also included. This watch is water-resistant to 99 feet, meaning it can withstand splashes of water or exposure to rain but you won’t want to submerge it.
12. PUMA Ultrasize Black Sport Men’s Watch
Boasting a 50mm diameter, this piece is perfect for the large-framed man or one who likes to wear his accessories oversized. A true fashion statement, this sports watch comes in eight different colors schemes to match your favorite hues.
Do be aware, however, that the dial knob is configure for left-handed men!
13. Timex Easy Reader Men’s Watch
Another dress watch designed with the older gentleman in mind, this watch features a white dial with generously sized numerals that do not appear comical to the casual observer.
It’s also an excellent choice if you take your contacts out at night and still want to be able to check the time. With classic lines and a simple white face, the watch would not be out of place at any casual gathering. It comes with Timex’s one-year warranty at no additional charge.
14. Fossil Nate Men’s Chronograph Watch
For men who like a more gritty, industrial feel to their accessories, this Fossil watch is right on point. The bezel is gear-edged and the face is utilitarian black and gray. Water-resistant to 165 feet, this watch is a great choice if you like your adornments to be understated yet add visual interest.
It’s definitely a stand-out piece, for those who would take notice!
15. Timex Expedition Field Chronograph Men’s Watch
Featuring an indigo night light, tachymeter, a date window and a buckle closure, this watch is perfect for men who like to work or play outdoors. It is also water-resistant to 330 feet, making it a great choice for snorkeling or swimming.
You won’t want to wear it for diving, however. With classic, black styling and a genuine crystal face, this is a timepiece that will stand the test of time in both form and function.
16. Seiko 5 Automatic Stainless Steel Men’s Watch
This Seiko automatic watch has all the bells and whistles you need, but presents it all in a plain and strikingly attractive manner. It features a date window in either English or Spanish, sword-shaped hands, a sweeping second hand and a mineral dial window. This is a great option for the man on the go. The canvas strap can be removed and hand-washed if sweat or other odors become an issue.
This watch is not water-resistant, so you’ll only want to wear it when you won’t be popping by the pool for a swim!
17. Invicta Pro Diver Collection Silver-Tone Men’s Watch
For those who prefer an all-metal timepiece, the stainless steel Invicta fits the bill nicely. It has a similar aesthetic to a Tag Heuer watch, but at a more affordable price. Equipped with a unilateral bezel and removable links, the band can be customized to fit your wrist perfectly. The face is flame fusion crystal and features a magnifier to highlight the date window.
It’s also water-resistant to 660 feet. If you’re looking for a gorgeous watch that stands up to an active lifestyle, this is an excellent choice.
18. Seiko Men’s Adventure-Solar Classic Casual Watch
This Seiko watch derives its power from either natural or indoor light and can withstand water depths of up to 330 feet. The supple brown leather strap and timeless brushed steel give this piece an attractive look, and the alarm chronograph is easy to set.
If you’re looking for a watch that can serve as a backup for your wake-up call while traveling, stand up to the elements and look awesome, this casual wrist watch is a winner.
19. Nautica Men’s Stainless Steel Watch with Blue Resin Band
Featuring a plethora of options and a smart, snappy style, this a great casual watch with a eye-catching blue dial. The hardy resin band is adjustable, and the face is protected by a mineral window. Whether for work or play, this bold blue design is handsome and substantial on the wrist. It comes with Nautica’s five-year warranty at no additional charge.
20. Citizen Sport Men’s Stainless Steel Watch with Black Leather Band
The black, red and white face of this piece eschews the traditional two-tone color scheme so often employed in other watches, and the contrasting stitching on the band adds creative flair. It comes backed by Citizen’s five-year warranty and will compliment any casual outfit.
21. Alessi Tic15 Analog Display Analog Quartz Black Men’s Watch
Another not-quite-round offering on our list, the curved square casing of this piece gives it instant visual appeal. Sleek and clean, this unfussy design will be a compliment to almost any occasion. It has quartz movement and is water-resistant to 99 feet, making it a great choice for everyday wear.
22. Invicta 1517 I Force Collection Watch
Another on our list designed for left-handed men, this watch is something special. Water-resistant to 330 feet and featuring oversize stenciled numbers and a sub dial, this watch is great for any casual outfit. The cloth band is extremely durable and stands up to dirt, sweat and grime.
If you lead an active lifestyle, this watch will be right at home in your collection.
23. TRIWA Blue Steel Nevil Canvas Watch
This watch comes in a whopping 14 color variations, all of them beautiful. You may decide to add more than one to your collection!
Designed in Sweden, this watch features Japanese quartz movement, a stainless steel casing and a strap made from Tärnsjö organic leather. TRIWA, which stands for Transforming the Industry of Watches, believes in the artistry of fine jewelry and it shows in their product.
24. Victorinox Swiss Army Alliance Watch
Another fine dress watch from the makers of the Swiss Army knife, this watch is emblazoned with the internally recognized cross and shield emblem. It has no sub-dials, tachymeter or other add-ons to detract from its simple and appealing style.
This watch will be at home with all but the most formal of outfits and carries a two-year warranty.
25. Ingersoll Automatic Stainless Steel Bull Run Watch
Again, Ingersoll remakes the classics and brings them into the present day. With a highly polished stainless steel casing, two sub-dials, a date aperture and arrow-shaped hands, this quartz watch is beautiful.
The band features contrasting stitching on the fine-grain leather, adding depth and detail to the workmanship. This watch will compliment any casual occasion and can be relied upon for years to come.
26. Tissot Quickster Chronograph Black Leather Men’s Watch
Made with scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and Swiss automatic movement, this watch is a smart and utilitarian choice. If you’re looking for a solid Swiss watch that isn’t flashy, this is an excellent option. It’s also guaranteed for two years.
27. Seiko Sport Solar Men’s Beige Watch
Are you getting tired of squinting down at your watch or holding it closer and closer to your face? Don’t worry, we all get a bit nearsighted with age, especially over the age of 40.
If you’re not quite ready for reading glasses or a comically huge watch, this is a great choice from Seiko. The numerals, indices and luminous hands stand out in stark white against a black background, and the numerals are generous in size. It’s a perfect casual watch for the older gentleman.
28. Seiko Men’s 5 Watch Blue Canvas Band
This simple and affordable watch has a clean, crisp aesthetic to it and doesn’t bog down its design with a ton of bells and whistles. It’s time and date, end of.
If you want a watch for casual wear, this Seiko is a shoo-in. The band is forgiving and comfortable against your wrist, and it’s blue color will likely compliment your existing wardrobe. The price is also extremely affordable.
29. Tommy Hilfiger Men’s Stainless Steel Watch With Brown Leather Band
Featuring the Hilfiger logo at the three o’clock position, this wrist watch is a statement piece. It is a bright, shiny stainless steel work of art that you’ll be proud to wear at all but the most stuffy of workplaces. The calfskin leather band uses a buckle closure and the date window is beside the logo at three o’clock.
If you’re a fan of Tommy clothing, cologne or luggage, you can complete your look with this stunning accessory.