SPIRIT TASTING: Fuji, Single Grain Japanese Whiskey, Japan ($95)
by Andrew Chalk
Japanese whisky is fascinating to me. Before I sipped my first glass I expected it to be unlike any other (Scottish, Irish, American, etc.) given Japan’s almost autarkic culinary culture. That first glass was a complete surprise. The single malt was indistinguishable from a Scotch. Afterwards, I discovered that it was what I should have expected. Japanese distillers trained in Scotland as far back as the mid-nineteenth centuries. Which leaves only the puzzle of why the deep-fried Mars bar did not make its way to Japan.
I digress. FUJI single-grain does not closely resemble Scotch but rather a conglomeration of Scotch, US Rye whiskey, and Canadian whiskey. They use malted barley, rye and corn, so the combination is an interesting idea.
My takeaway from a recent tasting led by FUJI master blender Jota Tanaka is that this is a distinctive whisky worthy of a place in your liquor cabinet.
Below, more detail from the distillery….
FUJI Whisky is named after the most iconic landmark in Japan, Mt. Fuji, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, cultural inspiration, and the location of the brand’s home, the Mt. Fuji Distillery. Based just 7.5 miles from the mountain’s peak and surrounded by pure forest, Mt. Fuji Distillery was established in 1973 to bring the best of Japanese craftsmanship and global technology and styles under one roof. In late 2021, the brand launched in the United States, marking the first exports to the US in the decade’s long history of the distillery, debuting the FUJI Single Grain Whisky nationwide.
The FUJI Single Grain Whiskey (SRP: $94.99) is a blend of three different grain whiskeys, each distilled using three different production methods from America, Scotland, and Canada, but all are crafted and blended at the Mt. Fuji Distillery. Each distillate possesses its own unique flavor profile; the American method offers a more heavy, rich, floral fruity style; while the Canadian type is medium, luscious, and delicately fruity; the Scotch process imparts a lighter, softer, yet compelling quality it is known for. This results in a delicately fruity whiskey that is both mellow and multi-layered in profile.
One of the only whiskies in the world to use the mountain’s snowmelt in its production, it takes 50-years for this precious material to make it from Mt. Fuji’s peak to the depths of the underground aquifer below the distillery. This results in a uniquely clear, pristine, and soft water that is the foundation for FUJI’s distinctive whisky expressions, which Fuji Whisky Master Blender Jota Tanaka refers to it as the “precious gift from Mt. Fuji.”
Tanaka was recently inducted into the World Whisky Awards Hall of Fame and with 30 years of experience in the industry both in Japan and the U.S., he is only the second Master Blender in Mt. Fuji Distillery’s 48-year history. In addition to Tanaka, Mt. Fuji Distillery has a long history of awards and accolades and is considered the leader in Japanese Grain Whiskey. Recent awards include the 2020 Trophy at the International Spirits Challenge, Worlds Best Grain & Gold at the 2020 World Whiskies Awards, adding richly to the distillery pedigree that includes winning the World Whiskies Awards “World Best Grain” four times in five years.
FUJI Single Grain Whiskey is best enjoyed in our bespoke Kimura tasting glass, or a Sauvignon Blanc white wine glass, with a gentle few drops of water to elevate the aromatics.