The 11 Best Japanese Whisky
Under $50

“Whisky is liquid sunshine.”

What is Japanese Whisky?

Developed in regions of Japan with its origins introduced around 1870,  Japanese whiskey is a spirit heavily inspired by Scotch. What makes Japanese whisky different from the rest, however, is its distillation process. With deep roots in Japanese culture as you would expect, this spirit is made from Mizunara trees, a tree exclusive to Japan.

While this may not sound like a major difference, the flavors that this elicits are incredible, often described as both spicy and intense, with more welcoming notes of citrus and incense as well.

Prior to 2000, Japanese whisky was far less-known internationally, largely only offered domestically in Japan. In the years that followed, however, Japanese whisky made a name for itself, in large part, thanks to Nikka who earned awards for its 10-year at Whisky Magazine’s Awards. 

Since its rise in popularity, other brands that you’ll soon become familiar with began to pop off., including but certainly not limited to Yamazaki, Hibiki, Suntory, and others.

While other spirits are certainly in a league of their own, Japanese whisky can’t be overlooked, slowly but surely making its way into mainstream consumption.

The 11 Best Japanese Whisky Under $50

Although there is an abundance of Japanese whiskies, most being widely accessible internationally, you’ll come to learn that the two most popular Japanese brands are Suntory and Nikka.

The range of Japanese whiskies is grand, offered in both blended, single malt, and blended malt fashions. Because of its similarities to Scotch, it’s not uncommon to consume Japanese whisky neat or on the rocks.

Related: Best Whiskey Cocktails

With that said, the majority of Native consumers enjoy Japanese whisky as part of a cocktail rather than on its own. This is likely a nod to culture rather than the quality of the product itself… 

So, if you’re eager to give Japanese whisky a chance but are unsure where to start, this list of the best 11 Japanese whiskies will be your guide! 

Below are the best 11 Japanese Whiskies Under $50:

  • Mars Iwai Blue Label
  • Mars Shinshu Iwai 45
  • Suntory Toki Blended Whisky
  • Suntory Ao World Whisky
  • Kikori Japanese Whisky
  • White Oak Akashi Whisky
  • Nikka “From the Barrel” Whisky
  • Hatozaki Blended Japanese Whisky 
  • Kiuchi No Shizuku Hitachino Nest Whiskey
  • Nikka Days Blended Whisky
  • Matsui Shuzo Bourbon Barrel Blended Japanese Whisky

 

Mars Iwai Blue Label

The Whiskey: Japanese Whisky
The Distillery: ABV: 40%
Price: $39.99

This bourbon-inspired Japanese whisky opens the floodgates for floral aromatics upon first smell. Because of its ageing process that takes place in bourbon casks, Mars Iwai Blue lends itself to bourbon-like tasting notes across the board. 

Having been around for decades, the Mars Shinshu Distillery isn’t only a trusted and reliable source for Japanese whisky, but its products are delicious for beginners and enthusiasts alike.

Tasting Notes:
A nose of fruit and vanilla, a flavour of menthol and vanilla, and a finish medium-bodied that ends with a lingering heat, its profile is more or less bourbon-esc. 

Mars Shinshu Iwai 45

The Whiskey: Blended
The Distillery: ABV: 45%
Price: $39.99

Produced on the foothills of the Southern Japanese Alps, Mars Iwai 45 is the ideal addition to a craft cocktail and can even be enjoyed on its own as a daily sipper. Inspired by the whiskies of America, it’s no surprise that Mars Iwai is quickly making its way into the hands of mainstream consumers.  

Tasting Notes:
With notes of vanilla, spice, and pear, the Mars Iwai makes for an incredibly refreshing, early evening option for a summer sip. 

 

Suntory Toki Blended Whisky

The Whiskey: Blended
The Distillery: ABV: 43%
Price: $39.99

Winner of the Gold Medal at the 2017 International Spirits Competition in Denver, CO, Suntory Toki is one of the most well-known Japanese whiskies of its kind. Praised for its creativity and innovation, Suntory Toki is particularly ideal for those looking for a new but familiar whisky taste. 

If you’re looking to bring a unique spirit to the party and have it be the talk of the night, Suntory Toki is the choice for you…

Tasting Notes:
Boasting notes of grapefruit and nuts, and offering a familiar finish of vanilla, Suntory Toki makes for the perfect addition to your cocktail of choice.

Suntory Ao World Whisky

The Whiskey: Blended
The Distillery: ABV: 43%
Price: $47.99

Uniting whiskies from around the world (hence its name) including regions of Ireland, Canada, Japan, America, and Scotland, Suntory Ao World Whisky is a world-sourced blended Japanese whisky that boasts features so international, its notes may confuse you; but in the most amazing, experiential way possible!

Lucky for you, this product has since been launched to international retailers, available and accessible to the masses since 2020. At a great price, this intriguing whisky provides great value across the board.

Tasting Notes:
Gently mixed char and peat, the smokey nose may or may not be welcomed on initial study. However, thanks to its toasty and fruity notes that follow, this moderately rich whisky is ultimately sweet and tarty, offering an overall smooth experience. 

Kikori Japanese Whisky

The Whiskey: Blended
The Distillery: ABV: 41%
Price: $48.99

Uniquely distilled from rice and mountain water, and aged in American Oak, French Oak, as well as sherry casks, Kikori Japanese whisky provides its international consumers with a taste of familiarity, similar to that of bourbon.

Arguably the most distinctive and memorable of the bunch, Kikori is an extremely easy spirit to enjoy, both on its own or in a cocktail of your choice; id recommend a good Ol’ Old Fashion myself…

Tasting Notes: Kikori offers high notes of floral with flavours of fruit and vanilla. Its uniqueness, however, derives from its aroma of shochu, a Native Japanese distilled beverage. 

White Oak Akashi Whisky

The Whiskey: Blended
The Distillery: ABV: 40%
Price: $49.99

Unique in and of itself due to the fact that it was the very first distilled Japanese whiskey in 1919, White Oak Akashi whisky is a great beginner’s option, especially if you’re new to Japanese whisky. For those familiar with the flavors of bourbon, you won’t be surprised by the notes of White Oak Akashi.

Tasting Notes:
Initial hits of bourbon, secondary leads of sweet and savory notes, and finishes of peat, however, not too intense. A great gateway whisky for all types.

Nikka “From the Barrel” Whisky

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

For my bourbon fans out there, Nikka “From the Barrel” Japanese whisky is the choice for you. Not only does it share several notes and similarities as a bourbon does, but it also makes for an idyllic addition to the classic Old Fashion much as a typical bourbon does.

With enough body to be enjoyed both neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail, Nikka ‘From the Barrel’ is arguably the most versatile of the bunch. 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.

Hatozaki Blended Japanese Whisky 

The Whiskey: Blended
The Distillery: ABV: 40%
Price: $44.99

Distilled with the perfect blend of malt and grain, this Kaikyo Distillery masterpiece offers a complex flavour profile thanks to its extensive barreling process in both sherry, bourbon, and Mizunara casks. 

What makes this product more unique than most, at least in my opinion, is its wine-like texture and its appearance of crystal clear spirit. In other words, it looks a whole lot like white wine to me!

Tasting Notes:
To kick things off, expect initial aromas of malt and cereal, followed by notes of fruity nectarine. Next, with a palate grainy but sweet thanks to its touch of honey, the finish will be enjoyed in full. 

Kiuchi No Shizuku Hitachino Nest Whisky

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

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 finish product is both palate-pleasuring and smooth. 

Nikka Days Blended Whisky

The Whiskey: Blended
The Distillery: ABV: 40%
Price: $44.99

Recently introduced to the United States market, Nikka Days is a great option both for beginners and whisky enthusiasts who prefer the smoother side of things. Because of its easy-drinking profile, Nikka Days is a great addition to a highball or mixed cocktail but also bolds well for someone trying to make the transition to sipping neat. 

Tasting Notes:
If you’re not a fan of peat, you’ll be happy to know that its aromas are absent of peat-like scents. Overall, Nikka Days is a rich but sweet-bodied whisky. 

Matsui Shuzo Blended Japanese Whisky

The Whiskey: Blended
The Distillery: ABV: 48%
Price: $47.99

Known as both a brewery and a distillery, Matsui Shuzo rivals Kiuchi No Shizuku Nest Whisky with its unique tasting notes. With its higher price compared to others, it can certainly be more difficult to justify its investment, especially for beginners just wanting to be introduced to the Japanese whisky market. 

Not to mention its higher ABV of 48%, it might be relevant only to a smaller market of enthusiasts. Nonetheless, a unique option to try if that’s what floats your boat…

Tasting Notes:
lingering hints of black pepper and grain, yet sweet and savory to finish, this product is great for mixing highballs.

There you have the list of, in my opinion, the best Japanese whisky under $50.  

If you like Scotch, you’ll sure enjoy Japanese whisky.  How many on this list of the best Japanese whiskey under $50 have you had?

Related: Best Rye Whiskey Under $50

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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