The 11 Best Japanese Whisky
Under $100

‘Whisky won’t solve your problems. Then again, neither will milk…”

Is Japanese Whisky the Best Whiskey?

The question of whether or not Japanese whisky is the best whiskey in the world is not yet up for debate in my opinion. In other words, no, it’s not the best whiskey in the world. Don’t get me wrong! I am a huge fan of the Japanese spirit, however, it’s up against some strong competition!

Of course, there are several world-class Japanese whiskies that have earned the title of the best whisky in the world, and deservedly so…

However, just because one bottle of whisky is the “best” doesn’t mean that the category in its entirety is the best. To use a sports analogy, just because LeBron James is the best basketball player in the world doesn’t mean that his team is going to win the championship year after year.

While Japanese whisky has been around for some time, only now is it getting international recognition, likely in part due to its recent availability on international shelves. 

Nevertheless, hats off to Japanese whisky! Taking inspiration from bourbon, it’s certainly worth a try if you haven’t yet had it. With that said, in this article, we’ll be previewing 11 of the best Japanese whiskies under the $100 price range. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll have learned valued advice that will help you pick out your first bottle.

The 11 Best Japanese Whisky Under $100

Japanese whisky is rapidly gaining traction in the western market, and for good reason. With several incredible options, from Nikka and Suntory to Mars Iwai and Hibiki, you’ll have no problem picking out a quality bottle. The issue isn’t ‘what if I pick wrong?” it’s ‘which do I pick first?”

Below you will find an outline of the 11 best Japanese whiskies, vetted by yours truly, so that you can make the right decision the next time you’re surfing the shelves and want to treat yourself a bit.

Related: Best Whiskey Cocktails

So, if you’re ready to take a lesson in Japanese culture, and more specifically, Japanese whisky, this article of the best Japanese whiskies is for you! 

Below are the best 11 Japanese Whiskies Under $100:

  • Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky
  • Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky
  • Kujira Ryukyu Whisky
  • Kiuchi No Shizuku Hitachino Nest Whisky
  • Mars Iwai Tradition
  • Nikka ‘From the Barrel’ Whisky
  • Ohishi Sherry Single Cask Whisky
  • Kamiki Blended Malt Whisky 
  • Fukano 10-Year
  • Chichibu Ichiro’s Malt and Grain Whisky 
  • Suntory Hibiki Harmony Blend

Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky

The Whiskey: Single Grain
The Distillery: ABV: 45%
Price: $64.99

Not to be confused with Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky, this Grain whisky is truly one-of-a-kind. Often overlooked by its superior Single Malt variation, Nikka Coffey’s Grain whisky is not to be ignored. Because of its unique distillation process, you can expect unique notes of sweetness paired with a sharpness that isn’t necessarily unwelcome. 

Tasting Notes:
As a well-rounded, balanced whisky, expect combinations of sweet fruit and spices to start things off. Furthering its body, you’ll then be hit with a texture of thick syrup as it washes smoothly down your throat. Finally, experience the all-to-familiar after-taste of a traditional bourbon. 

Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky

The Whiskey: Single Malt
The Distillery: ABV: 45%
Price: $69.99

Distilled by one of the more prominent Japanese whisky brands, Nikka Coffey Grain provides its consumers with an otherworldly flavour, largely thanks to its inventor, Nikka Coffey; that’s right, we’re not talking about the caffeinated beverage but the inventor himself who developed a new kind of whisky distilled with “Coffey malt”.

Tasting Notes:
Known to be sweet and mellow, Nikka Coffey Grain boasts a silky flavour ideal for those with an undeveloped palate for peaty whisky. While it is a trailblazer, it does hold a familiar traditional taste.

Kujira Ryukyu Whisky

The Whiskey: Single Grain
The Distillery: ABV: 43%
Price: $74.99

While Ryukyu Islands distillery is not yet known by the masses, it soon will be, quickly making a name for itself internationally. Produced with Japanese rice grain, this bottle of Japanese whisky is selling out everywhere that it’s on shelves. 

Although there are several variations of this whisky, this one is the most affordable; a great entry-level whisky to the more elegant and expensive of its kind. 

Tasting Notes:
As a copper-coloured spirit, Kujira is a medium-bodied whisky offering aromas of sweet caramel and toffee complimented by delicious light fruits. 

Kiuchi No Shizuku Hitachino Nest Whisky

The Whiskey: N/A
The Distillery: ABV: 43%
Price: $49.99-64.99

Arguably the most unique and unusual on the list is Kiuchi No Shizuku Nest Whisky. Why? Because its very own distiller also makes beer, using its expertise to transfer to its whisky. Once distilled, the whisky is infused with orange peel and cardamom following its aging process to elicit notes of wood and spice. 

Thanks to its unusual but aspiring distillation techniques and its marriage to beer, Kiuchi No Shizuku Hitachino is a must-try if there ever were any!

Tasting Notes:
Because of its unruly distillation process, the tasting notes are unexpected, to say the least. With vanilla tones and hints of burnt wood, followed by flavors of orange peel and cardamom, the finished product is both palate-pleasuring and smooth. 

Mars Iwai Tradition

The Whiskey: Blended
The Distillery: ABV: 40%
Price: $54.99

Enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or as part of a cocktail, the Mars Iwai Tradition is a premium option part of the greater Mars collection, though at an extremely reasonable price. 

Aged in both bourbon, sherry, and wine casks, Mars Iwai Tradition provides a complex sip that may or may not be too peaty for the untrained palate. In any case, this bottle of Japanese whisky deserves a front-row placement on the shelves of every whiskey drinker’s home. 

Tasting Notes:
Aromas of peat, malt, and smoke, palate serving smoked meats, peppercorn, and nuts, and finishing the flavour with creamy caramel notes, this whisky pairs well with red meat! 

Ohishi Sherry Single Cask Whisky

The Whiskey: Single Cask
The Distillery: ABV: 40.8%
Price: $89.99

Comparable to the Fukano blends, Ohishi Sherry Single Cask whisky too experiments with several different bottlings annually. This bottle, in particular, is likely the most desirable, coming in extremely light and smooth, making for an authentic Japanese whisky that can be enjoyed by all palates. 

Made from rice and aged in 3-25 year ex-sherry casks, Ohishi distillery really nailed this product from all angles, but you’ll have to experience it for yourself to truly know what I’m talking about!

Tasting Notes:
Smooth and light, Ohishi tastes of green apple, caramel, and cinnamon, with early notes of steamed rice to begin with. Following, experience hits of dark chocolate, soft red fruits, and vanilla.

Nikka “From the Barrel” Whisky

The Whiskey: Blended Malt & Grain
The Distillery: ABV: 51.4%
Price: $49.99 – $99.99 (price ranges greatly)

If you’re a bourbon fan, Nikka “From the Barrel” Japanese whisky is likely going to be a favorite. Sharing much of what a traditional bourbon offers, the Nikka ‘From the Barrel’ makes for an idyllic addition to the classic Old Fashion much as a typical bourbon does.

Enjoyed both neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail, you truly can’t go wrong here, for its versatility is unmatched. Beware, however, for its 51.4% ABV is nothing to play with!

Tasting Notes:
As a full-bodied, rich spirit, Nikka ‘From the Barrel’ offers complex beginnings of tobacco and spice, with finishes more smooth such as dried fruits and toffee.

Kamiki Blended Malt Whisky 

The Whiskey: Blended Malt
The Distillery: ABV: 48%
Price: $67.99

Its origins come from the location in which it’s made; at the foothills of Mount Miwa. Its name, Kamiki, derives from the phrase “God Breath” priding itself in having deep roots in ancient Japanese culture. With that said, there’s nothing ancient about its flavour. 

Instead, expect a worldly familiar, modern body that is both mature yet innocent. What do I mean by this? Simply put, its maturity comes from the subtle smoke and spice notes, while its innocence comes from the lightness of the spirit itself. Ultimately, Kamiki Blended Malt whisky is perfect for beginners and enthusiasts alike.

Tasting Notes:
Upon the first sip you’ll experience notes of agave. Throughout its journey, expect notes of smoke and spice, finishing with a merge of wood and fruit.

Fukano 10-Year

The Whiskey: Single Cask Rice Whisky
The Distillery: ABV: 41%
Price: $99.99

A pioneer of koji whisky in its own right, Fukano’s 10-year Japanese whisky has been an experiential spirit since its inception, being tested in variously aged barrels until it achieved perfection. To date, the 10-year variation of Fukano whisky is undeniably the best! 

Made with malted rice, the difference in taste compared to a traditional whisky is noticeable, but in a good way. With an elegant flavour, complex aromas, yet simple fruity taste, the Fukano 10-year is amongst the best in my opinion. 

Tasting Notes:
Floral and fruity to the nose, mild on the palate, and more fruity, floral, and caramel notes on the finish, the Fukano 10-year makes for a great whisky for all levels. 

Chichibu Ichiro’s Malt and Grain Whisky 

The Whiskey: Blended
The Distillery: ABV: 46.5%
Price: $84.99

While Japanese whisky has been around for centuries, Chichibu was only founded in the early 2000s. Interestingly enough, its founder was previously employed at the more prominent Japanese distillery, Suntory, and decided to embark on his own. Though the brand is new, Ichiro is known to be one of the best distillers of his time. 

With that said, don’t let the size of this small craft distillery confuse you; Ichiro’s Malt & Grain whisky is a worthy bottle to behold. So, not only will this bottle impress your friends but it will impress your palate, as well.

Tasting Notes:
Expect a level of complexity that brings together notes of fruit and hints of malt and grain. 

Suntory Hibiki Harmony Blend

The Whiskey: Blended
The Distillery: ABV: 43%
Price: $84.99

Crafted at the renowned house of Suntory distillery, Hibiki Harmony is an internationally-renowned whisky praised for its innovation and flavour. While the version of harmony discussed is the most affordable, Suntory offers an entire line of Hibiki blends aged up to 30 years!

So, if you want to get your hands on some Suntory royalty but don’t want to break the bank, Hibiki Harmony Blend is the way to go; a great bang for your buck for some of the best Japanese whisky available.

Tasting Notes:
It begins with a nose of fresh herbs, rosemary, and wood, followed by an intersection of sweet honey and orange. To finish, the subtle nature of oak, more specifically Minunara oak cleanses the palate.

I hope you enjoyed my opinionated and highly researched (my liver is fine, leave me alone!) list of the 11 best Japanese whiskies under $100.

If you’ve teased your palate with Japanese whisky, I’d love to hear about your experience. What bottle did you buy? What were the pros? The cons?

Related: Best Japanese whiskies Under $50

I can’t wait to hear all about it and if you haven’t tried all of them yet, well, what are you waiting for?

Stay Gold! 

About Todd Smidt

Todd is a man of simple tastes: traveling, words, whiskey, & dad jokes. He enjoys first-rate banter, long walks along the coast, High West, and Vonnegut. He spends his free time traveling the world, drinking whiskey, and writing about it.

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