Whisky Focus - New Regulations For Japanese Whisky

New Regulations For Japanese Whisky

25th February 2021
Long overdue rules and regulations governing Japanese whisky production are set to come into play from April this year.

Suntory Yamazaki Distillery Japan

There is no doubt that regulations for Japanese whisky production have been very slack to say the least, requiring only that the spirit be distilled from cereal grain, not rice and aged in barrels, with no restrictions on grain or spirit sourcing. Until now a Japanese whisky producer could bottle entirely imported spirit and repurpose it as Japanese whisky.

So it is very welcome news that the Japan Spirits and Liqueurs Makers Association has announced a new set of rules and regulations for the production of Japanese whisky which should end all this.

The new regulations will come into play from 1 April 2021 but producers have been given until 31 March 2024 to adhere to the new laws.

The new regulations are very much similar to those for Scotch whisky production and state that the whole production process must take place at a distillery in Japan and must be aged for at least three years, be bottled at a minimum strength of 40% ABV, sadly like Scotch whisky production they can still use "plain caramel colouring" and it doesn't look that they need to state on the bottle whether it has been used or not.

It is certainly about time that these rules were brought in, they are long overdue, especially considering the price Japanese whisky fetches these days.

The new Japanese whisky production method rules are as follows:

  • Raw Ingredients

    Raw ingredients must be limited to malted grains, other cereal grains, and water extracted in Japan.

    Malted grains must always be used.
  • Production Method

    Production: Saccharification, fermentation, and distillation must be carried out at a distillery in Japan. Alcohol content at the time of distillation must be less than 95% ABV.

    Aging: The distilled product must be poured into wooden casks not exceeding a capacity of 700 litres and matured in Japan for a period of at least 3 years thereafter.

    Bottling: Bottling must take place in Japan, with alcoholic strength of at least 40% ABV as of such time.

    Other: Plain caramel colouring can be used.

If the current slack rules for Japanese whisky production hasn't put you off, I hope not as there are some outstanding Japanese whiskies to try, then you will find a great range of Japanese whisky available from specialist online whisky retailers such as The Whisky Exchange, The Whisky Shop and Master of Malt

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