A guide to pairing Japanese whisky and food

April 05, 2023
 / 3 mins

Japanese whisky paired with the perfect dish is a divine experience. Before we dive into the wonderful world of pairing, let’s go over the basics. 
As a rule of thumb, the aim of the game is for the whisky and the food to either enhance each other’s flavours or contrast each other.  
Here’s some other tips to keep in mind.  

  • Pair light, fruity whiskies with subtle seafood and cheese. Think sashimi, sushi and salmon. 

  • Pair a heftier whisky with protein, starchy veggies and flavoursome cheeses. Think lamb, beef, pork, root vegetables and cheddar.  

  • Pair a big bold whisky with a big bold dish. Think Smoked food, duck and blue cheese.  

Japanese whisky flavour profile 
Japanese whisky tends to be beautifully balanced with light, fruity, floral and complex oak notes. “Japanese whisky was made for the Japanese. So naturally, it follows the traditional palate of lighter, more delicate and complex flavours found in Japanese cuisine,” says our Whisky Specialist, Jonnie Edwards. 
Here’s a few more factors that contribute to Japanese whisky’s flavour profile:  

  •  Japan’s distinct seasons affect the maturation process: cold winters slow down the ageing process while humid summers speed up the process.   

  • They also use a variety of casks, the most well-known is the Mizunara cask, Japanese oak, indigenous to the country.   

  • The Japanese also use different production methods. For example, bamboo filtration is sometimes used instead of charcoal filtration.   

  • Japan’s distilleries are also at a higher altitude. This means the water has a lower boiling point. This allows for a bigger scope of aromas and flavour profiles in the whisky.   

Japanese distilleries often draw their water from mountain springs, and this mineral-rich water can contribute to the characteristic sweetness of Japanese whisky. 
What to pair with Japanese whisky 
The very best foods to team up with Japanese whisky are Asian dishes and noodle soups like ramen as well as grilled meats, sushi, creamy dishes and curries and light seafood like sashimi and grilled fish, delicate cheese and chocolate. 

Speaking of recommendations, Jota Tanaka, Fuji Gotemba Distillery’s Master Blender suggests pairing our Fuji Japanese Whisky with fresh sashimi or fish carpaccio. "I would also recommend root vegetables like potato and lotus root," he says. And for the sweet tooths out there, Jota also suggests Tiramasu and apple tart. 
Like most things with whisky, what tastes best is what you like. As Jota says, "Pairing is a matter of preference.” if you’ve got any recommendations, we’d love to hear them. 

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