New regulations on the Japanese whisky market

Recently, on our website, we described the current situation on the Japanese whisky market, pointing out that the lack of regulation may seriously damage the reputation of this increasingly popular drink. It seems that this precarious situation has ended as the Japan Spirits & Liqueurs Makers Association announced a new, comprehensive set of rules and industry regulations designed to protect the status of "Japanese whisky".

Over the past decade, Japanese whisky has grown from a niche product to one of the most coveted exclusive alcoholic beverages in the world. A major challenge in this market was the almost complete lack of regulation of what can and cannot be described as "Japanese whisky". As a result, much of the Japanese whisky was nothing more than whisky imported from Scotland or Canada and bottled in the country of the Rising Sun and then sold as Japanese whisky. And now this situation is about to change.

The Japan Spirits & Liqueurs Makers Association recently announced a new set of rules clearly defining the status of 'Japanese whisky'.

From April 1, 2021, new rules will apply that must be met by the manufacturers to be able to label their product as "Japanese whisky":

·        The only raw ingredients allowed for production are malted grains, other cereal grains and water extracted in Japan. Malted grains should always be used.

·        Fermentation, distillation and saccharification must take place in a distillery in Japan. ABV must not exceed 95%.

·        For maturation of the distilled product, wooden casks with a maximum capacity of 700 liters must be used, and the product must be aged in Japan for at least 3 years.

·        Bottling must be done in Japan and whisky must be at least 40% ABV.

·        Plain caramel colouring may be added.

The new regulations are not legally binding, as is the case in Scotland, but they are a strong signal from the industry and are likely to lead to significant changes and bring Japan closer to the standards that apply in other whisky producing countries.

Japan can be an example for other countries, which develop whisky production, such as India. The strength of Scotch whisky is, among other things, the fact that the SWA has very detailed regulations and controls, thanks to which consumers and collectors always know that they are buying a product of a certain quality and tradition.

Whisky Exchange, the world's largest online whisky seller, already plans to change the category of products it sells to "Whisky from Japan". This category will include the subcategories "Japanese whisky" (which meet the new requirements) and "Whisky" (other whisky from Japan).

This is certainly good news for consumers, who will be able to expect greater transparency from producers regarding the contents of the bottles they buy.


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