When is a whisky not a whisky? Apparently, when it’s a Japanese Whiskey—until last week. Japanese Whisky has been the darling of the uber-premium market for the last five years, but it turns out that there really was no definition or parameters of what constitutes a ‘Japanese Whisky’. However, on February 12, that all changed with the introduction of new standards.
Previously, Whisky could be labeled as ‘Japanese’ regardless of country of origin. The only requirement was that the spirits were bottled within Japan.
That all changed when the Japan Spirits & Liqueurs Makers Association (JSLMA), a trade group, rolled out the new standards. Now, ingredients are regulated; Japanese Whisky must be aged in country for a minimum of three years; and ABV at bottling must be 40% or higher. (But don’t worry, plain caramel coloring is still allowed.)
Check out the nifty chart below for details or read all the regs here.
Nikka, one of Japan’s most popular whiskies, found themselves on the forefront of the issue due to their extensive blending of internationally sourced juice. In a statement, Nikka affirmed their commitment to continue blending, but voluntarily add more info to their labels.
“Though our current labeling is not affected by the Labeling Standards, we have decided to provide further information for individual products on our website to clearly distinguish between products in Nikka Whisky’s line-up, which contains both whiskies that are defined as ‘Japanese whisky’ according to the Labeling Standards, and those that do not meet all the criteria. We feel this is an important step towards ensuring customers clarity so as that they can reasonably decide which products to buy and information will be updated if the status changes.”