It is definitely an exciting time to be a Japanese Whisky enthusiast here in the US. Up until the past 1-2 years it has been a painfully slow trickle of Japanese whiskies arriving on our shores. Suntory established the beachhead for this recent single malt explosion with their Yamazaki 12 and 18. They slowly released additional expressions and now we have a decent amount of their standard lineup available here. We are now also able to purchase a solid number of Nikka’s whiskies: expressions from both of their distilleries Yoichi and Miyagikyou as well as some of their Pure Malts. Chichibu is also knocking. One label has already been approved by the TTB and Akuto San has started holding tasting seminars to introduce his whiskies to US customers.
Although not at the pace that we have seen, I did expect that these brands would eventually make it to the US. However, this latest Japanese whisky distillery looking at entering the US market took me by surprise. White Oak, sometimes referred to as Eigashima, located in Akashi City, Hyogo Prefecture, is primarily a sake and shochu producer. While they have been releasing more single malt and blended whisky expressions lately, I did not expect this distillery to try to tackle the US market. It appears that White Oak is poised to launch two expression here in the near future. A single malt that has been aged 3 years and that comes in at 46%ABV and a blended whisky (no age statement) that comes in at 40% ABV. There is currently no indication as to what the price point might be for these whiskies, but they should be fairly affordable – lower than the other Japanese whiskies already available here – if their pricing remains similar to what it is in the Japan domestic market. Perhaps what I am most curious about, other than flavor profile, is the shape of the bottle they decide to use. In Japan, White Oak is easily recognizable by the 500ml bottle that they use. As we all know, White Oak will not be able to continue to use this size bottle in the US.
It is always great to have more Japanese whisky options here but to be honest I have always been pretty lukewarm to White Oak expressions. See our reviews of two White Oak expressions here. Here’s to hoping these two new releases will be solid expressions that we can enjoy. Maybe even at an affordable price, but given the whisky market these days that might be asking for too much.