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11 June, 2022

Japanese Whiskey Drinking Traditions

Japanese Whiskey Drinking Traditions

Despite being around since 1924, Japanese whisky isn’t well known outside of its home country. It is considered a niche category of whisky, often expensive and difficult to get your hands on in countries like Australia and the US. 

What makes Japanese Whisky unique?

In Japan, whisky is made through a unique distilling process. The Japanese place a great emphasis on creating complex hybrids of whisky by blending different barrels, flavours, and scents to give it a wide range of notes.

Japan’s climate and water also have an impact on distinguishing Japanese whisky from other forms of whisky. Japan’s water is very clear and its climate is different to other countries that make whisky, such as Scotland, whose summers are far colder. 

The temperature changes between summer and winter make the maturation phase more rapid and add a more complex flavour to the whisky. Japanese whisky is often placed in barrels made of wood from the mizunara tree, a tree that is only found in Japan. This adds a unique flavour that distinguishes Japanese whisky from others out there. 

Drinking Japanese Whisky

How you drink whisky is up to you. If you’re trying Japanese whisky for the first time and want to get the most out of your experience, it’s best to try it neat at least once. This way, you can experience all its unique flavours. 

You can also enjoy Japanese whisky ‘on the rocks’. This is when whisky is served in a tumbler with ice. It’s important to remember that the ice will dilute the whisky as it melts, meaning that your drink will start out strong and weaken as time passes.

Japanese Whisky Drinking Traditions

Basic Drinking etiquette in Japan

Different countries and cultures have different etiquettes when it comes to drinking. If you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to follow what your friends or colleagues are doing.

Before you start drinking, meet and greet everyone, giving respectful bows. In Japan, bowing is a way to show respect, gratitude and appreciation. 

When drinking, make eye contact with the person nearest to you and raise your glass. One important thing to remember is that the glass of the most senior person should be slightly higher than others’. 


Drinking the same as your group

In Japan, drinking is a shared experience. Though it’s not a requirement, it’s a good idea to order the same drink as the other group members, at least the first time round. This shows that you are a ‘team player’.


“Kanpai” means “cheers” in Japanese. If you’re in a more sophisticated situation, you can also say “Otsukaresana deshita”, which basically means “You’re tired and deserve a drink”. As hard work is highly valued in Japan, this is considered a compliment. 


Nommunication involves drinking with colleagues after work. The word is derived from the Japanese ‘Nomu’ which means ‘to drink’, and the word communication. It is also referred to as ‘nomikai’ or ‘nominication’. 


The point of Nommunication is to take employees out of their serious work environment and into an environment where they can relax and get to know each other. When employees let their guard down, they are more likely to voice complaints or concerns about their workplace.

Nommunication is also important for career development, and many believe they may miss out on opportunities if they don’t attend nommunication events.