As Japanese whisky makers enjoy their time in the worldwide spotlight, more and more people are waking up to the reality that Japanese consumers may also know a thing or two about the ways to drink Japanese whisky. Of course there's the izakaya staple whisky highball, but if you dig a bit deeper, you'll discover there are plenty more interesting ways that Japan drinks their country's whisky.
A common theme you'll find about all these choices: one way or another, you add water to the whisky! Japan generally has no hang-ups about putting water in whisky. If you want to drink Japanese whisky like a local, I suggest you give these a try.
In this 10-part series, we dive into each different serving style.
For #5 we delve into the world of whisky dilution with the "Twice Up." Unfortunately in English this naming adds even more confusion to serving drinks neat vs up vs straight up, but surely can deal with it.
Whisky connoisseurs may or may not dilute their whiskies when sampling. If they do add water, it's usually just a few drops or a spoonful. You may have heard of "drowning" whisky as well. On the other hand, this landmark 2017 study looked into the science of whisky dilution, and concluded that dilution to 45% abv or 27% abv "improves [whisky's] taste by increasing the propensity of taste compounds at the liquid-air interface." So there's valid reasoning behind adding water to even 40% abv whiskies.
Japan has of course taken this to the extreme with the "Twice Up," which refers to a 1:1 ratio of whisky to water. Many bartenders and whisky aficionados in Japan swear by this ratio, claiming that it's the best way to capture the subtle aromas and flavors of a whisky. Japanese whiskies tend to be more delicate, after all. Suntory themselves recommend the Twice Up as one way to enjoy Yamazaki, bottled at 43% abv. As there's no ice, you don't risk any further dilution or degradation of aromas by over-cooling.
If possible, it's best to use water from the same source that was used to make the whisky. But that's often not possible! Japanese water is usually soft, so if you can get your hands on any soft mineral water, that at least gets you closer.
Since your whisky is stored at room temperature (right?), use room temperature water as well. If you are concerned about drowning your whisky, feel free to start with less water and add more as you go.
Whiskey Richard is the founder of nomunication.jp, and has been saying he has lived in Japan for ten years for the past four years. He enjoys drinking basically anything except straight-up Campari.