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Japan Finally Regulates What Is— And Isn't— Japanese Whisky

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Japanese whisky has been booming over the last several years, thanks to worldwide spirit enthusiasts gravitating towards its lighter, more palatable presence in comparison to Scotch and bourbon. 

But its success has one downside: leechers capitalizing on the popularity with disingenuous branding and production. But thankfully, the Japanese government is stepping in with the newly formed Japan Spirits & Liqueurs Makers Association.

The group just published a series of rules — or definitions — plainly describing what can be considered "Japanese whisky" or "Japanese whiskey": 

  • Raw ingredients must be limited to malted grains, other cereal grains, and water extracted in Japan.
  • Malted grains must always be used.
  • Only plain caramel coloring is allowed.
  • 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 percent.
  • The distilled product must be poured into wooden casks not exceeding a capacity of 700 liters and matured in Japan for a period of at least three years thereafter.
  • Bottling must take place only in Japan, with an alcoholic strength of at least 40 percent at such time.

And if you don't meet the practices above, the group also covered misleading labeling by prohibiting the use of the following:

  • Names of people that evoke Japan.
  • Names of Japanese cities, regions, and famous places as well as mountains and rivers.
  • The Japanese flag or a Japanese era name.
  • Any labeling that makes it seem like the whisky satisfies the Japanese whisky production requirements.

Everything is set to go into place on April 1, which is the start of the new business year in Japan. Now, who wants to share a bottle of Hibiki Harmoney...?