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What Makes a Great Whisky? Fuji Whisky’s Master Blender Has the Answer

In Partnership with Fuji Whisky

What’s the secret to great whisky? This is a question that the Man of Many team has devoted a great deal of time and resources to over the years (it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it). Answers vary depending on who you ask, but if there’s one man whose opinion we trust on the matter, it’s Fuji Whisky’s master blender Jota Tanaka. 

On a recent visit to Sydney to help launch an outstanding new release from the world-class Fuji-Gotemba Distillery—more on that in a moment—Tanaka was kind enough to share his thoughts on this very question.

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Fuji Single Malt | Image: Fuji Whisky

A Gift From Mount Fuji

“What makes a good whisky? The environment, Mother Nature, and the water source. Philosophy and also, of course, method,” he reveals. “So it’s not easy to simplify, but first is the environment; that’s what makes Fuji Whisky unique.”

The environment surrounding the Fuji-Gotemba Distillery is undeniably special. Located at the foot of Mount Fuji—a symbol of faith and a wellspring of artistic inspiration throughout Japanese history—the distillery relies on the mountain’s provision of snowmelt water to act as the foundation for the whisky to which Tanaka and his team have devoted themselves. 

“Without Mother Nature and Mount Fuji, we believe we cannot create what we do,” Tanaka tells us. “That’s why on every bottle, it says on the label that it’s a gift from Mount Fuji.”

And what a gift it is! Fuji Whisky’s offering has always managed to stand apart, and the arrival of the new Fuji Single Malt Japanese Whisky—joining the Fuji Single Grain Japanese Whiskey and Fuji Single Blended Japanese Whisky—just reinforces this. 

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Jota Tanaka | Image: Fuji Whisky

A Worldly Whisky

The Fuji Whisky distillery actually produces four different types of whisky: one malt whisky using traditional pot stills and three different kinds of grain whisky. The first of these grain whiskies uses the “kettle and column” system, which is the Canadian style; the second deploys the “beer column and doubler” system, which is the American/Bourbon style; and the third uses the “multi-column” stills, resulting in the Scottish style. So it would be fair to say Fuji Whisky takes a worldly approach to its craft. 

“We are so unique because we classify as a global style,” the master blender clarifies. “In general, Japanese whisky is known as a Scottish style because the founder or master blender went to Scotland to learn whisky making. Fifty years ago, our company was established as a joint venture with Kirin Brewery Co, Chivas Brothers, and J.E. Seagram & Sons, so from the beginning, we were making not only the Scottish style, but the Canadian style of whisky, as well as the bourbon style, which is American. So, we make a variety of whiskies that blend together. That’s why we say our whisky is a kind of global style, not only specific to the Scottish style.”

Unlike most other distillers around the world, Fuji’s distillery undertakes all the production processes from mashing to bottling of both malt and grain whiskies on-site. So where does the aforementioned Fuji Single Malt Japanese Whisky fit into Fuji’s particular approach to whisky mastery?

“First, we launched the Single Grain, then the Single Blended, then the Single Malt. We describe these as our core ranges, and after launching Single Malt, that is now complete,” says Tanaka. “So this is what we can explain to the people. What is the uniqueness of Fuji? We’re making malt whisky and grain whisky, then blended together in perfect balance, which is Single Blended. Nobody else can make Single Blended. Single Malt then completes our whole range, and with its fruit-forward flavour profile, it’s a unique comparison with others.”

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Fuji Single Malt | Image: Fuji Whisky

A Flavourful Masterclass

With the Fuji Single Malt Japanese Whisky acting as the piece that completes Fuji Whisky’s singular offering to the world, all that’s left is to try it for ourselves. Crafted through a fusion of ex-bourbon, beer-aged, and red wine casks, it certainly has a singular flavour profile that speaks to the skill of Tanaka and his team. 

Opening with enticing aromas of ripe apples and Crème Brûlée, it then delivers an exquisite palate of delicious ripe white peaches and fruit tart flavours, followed by a sweet, complex, and delightfully long finish. Tanaka and his team have delivered a whisky that’s an absolute must-try, regardless of your preferred whisky style.

To learn more about his unique approach to the craft of whisky, watch our interview with Jota Tanaka above. To discover more about the Fuji Single Malt Japanese Whisky, click the link below.