Don't write Japan off just yet
For a few years back there Japanese was the THE whisky success story - the whiskies of Suntory and Nikka wiped the floor at every event they entered. The novelty factor carried the nation's whiskies for a few years, then the whiskies became staples and favourites in cool bars and trendy outlets, and Japan became respected for its outstanding malt making and the emphasis it put on quality wood.
And because the whisky was in short supply the whiskies remained rare and high priced - and with that they became enigmatic.
But something changed a few years back. American bourbon and Irish whiskey got on their game, world whisky started to appear elsewhere, particularly with the arrival of Kavalan from Taiwan and Amrut from India, and suddenly Japan wasn't the sexiest story in town.
The pure demand for aged Japanese whisky meant that supplies fell way short - simply because the brand owners didn't lay down enough stock 15 or 20 years ago. And then the twin disasters of earthquakes and tsunamis put the country on the back foot.
So has Japan lost its advantage?
Absolutely not. New whiskies from Chichibu, the new distillery owned and operated by legendary Japanese whisky maker Ichiro Akuto, rare whiskies from Karuizawa, and a range of exciting new malts from Suntory, all suggest otherwise.
And The Wizards back this up. Suntory has swept the board in the Japanese section of the Wizards of Whisky, picking up an impressive three golds and a silver from its four entries.
Suntory, which owns Scottish distillers Morrison Bowmore and is by some distance Japan's biggest distiller, received a gold for malts from both its distilleries and for Hibiki, its much decorated blend. And the score given to Yamazaki 18 year old was the highest score of the entire judging.
Highly impressive stuff - and proof that the Japanese are still very much in the game.
JAPANESE WIZARD DISTILLER OF THE YEAR
JAPANESE WIZARD WHISKY OF THE YEAR
GOLD MEDAL WINNERS
- Hakushu 12 Year Old
- Hibiki 21 Year Old
- Yamazaki 18 Year Old