Although the West is definitely growing fonder of Japanese whisky, however excellent it may be, it remains relatively obscure. Poised to change all this is Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, which some consider to be the definitive annual ranking, has given Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 97.5 out of 100 points, good enough to snag the bottled work of “near incredible genius” the top slot. It is, of course, the first time a Japanese distillery has received the honor, and it’s hard to read as anything but a blow to the Scottish ego: British distillery English Whisky Company’s Chapter 14 Not Peated took home best European whisky, while no actual Scotch placed in the top five.
Murray calls it a “wake-up call” and says Yamazaki is “a single malt which no Scotch can at the moment get anywhere near,” before turning glumly philosophical about how Scotch is turning mediocre with no “bewildering layers of depth” or “hair-standing journeys through dank and dingy warehouses.” Dang. Of course, as is typical for the guide’s winner, all of that Yamazaki is selling out right this second, so if you’d like to escape the mediocrity, here are a few others out of Japan well worth your time.