Produced by one of the oldest distilleries (and sake breweries) in Japan, this underappreciated whisky is a blend of malt and grain whiskies. Light, herbaceous and slightly savory, with a beautiful honey-drenched maltiness, Akashi White Oak is an incredibly versatile, drinkable whisky—and a must for fans of the Bondian staple. If you’re down to get a little weird, we dare you to serve it with a splash of water and a buttery Castelvetrano olive.
Comprised of mostly corn in the mash bill (it wouldn’t be Japanese without malt in the mix, though), this entry-level whisky from Iwai is aged entirely in ex-bourbon casks after distillation. On the palate, the spirit is peppery and vanilla heavy, with flavors of buttered popcorn, apricots, ginger and honey. If you enjoy a Manhattan’s piquant rye notes, smooth velvety viscosity, and dark rich flavor, this whisky is your new go-to. Best of all, there’s no mixing required to enjoy it.
Essentially a whisky liqueur, Akashi Ume Flavored Whisky is made with the brand’s White Oak whisky that is slightly sweetened and infused with ume, or yellow Japanese plums. A twist on Umeshu—a Japanese plum liqueur made with either sake or shochu at the base—this unique spirit is fruity, honeyed and savory all at once. Even though it is less bitter than Aperol, it’s just as bold of an ingredient. This flavored whisky is exceptional mixed with Champagne, sparkling wine or seltzer as a spritzy aperitif.
If You Drink Beer: Suntory Toki ($42)
Suntory Toki packs everything great about Japanese whisky into one bottle. Not only is it designed to be versatile in cocktails, but it’s also affordable, approachable and downright crushable. With flavors of grapefruit, breakfast cereal and custard, this Japanese blended whisky definitely makes for easy drinking. But, when made into a Japanese Highball, it’s just as effervescent and refreshing as any Pilsner on a 100-degree summer day.
Sauvignon Blanc fans, listen up: this Japanese whisky has all those bright tropical fruit and pineapple notes that you love. Made exclusively on the brand’s vintage 1960s Blairs Coffey Still, Nikka’s Coffey Malt was only released as a limited, single cask series until 2014. A beast of a whisky in the glass, this single malt is complex and layered with notes of pepper, cornbread and butterscotch pudding—and lots and lots of fruit.