Up until recently the Japanese whisky industry has had very little regulation surrounding what can be considered Japanese whisky. Given the recent rise in global attention and popularity of Japanese whisky in the past few years, this has left the industry without sufficient supply to meet demand. Not to mention more companies wanting to get in on this surge of popularity, which for a product that take years to mature is a decision that cannot be made over night.
Outside of the truly authentic Japanese whisky distilleries this has left companies and other distillers seeking unconventional means to sell a product labelled as Japanese whisky.
Such methods have included the use of whisky distilled and produced in other countries such as Scotland or Ireland being bottled with the guise of being Japanese whisky, or whisky being mixed with another local spirit such as Shochu yet sold as Japanese whisky.
For the benefit of consumers and Japanese whisky distilleries, the Japan Spirits and Liqueurs Makers Association has recently passed a set of regulations in order to return consumer confidence and establish standards for producers to abide by.
- Some of the key new regulations include:
- Only malted grains or cereal grains may be used
- Water used must be extracted from within Japan
- Fermentation and distillation must take place within Japan
- The distillate strength must not exceed 95%
- Wooden casks must be used for maturation with a maximum capacity of 700 liters
- The whisky must be matured in Japan for 3 years
- The whisky must be bottled in Japan
The full list of standards and regulation can be read here
These new regulations will come into effect of 1st April 2021 and all labeling must comply by the end of March 2024. The regulations will also caution against brands taking advantage of Japanese imagery which could mislead consumers.