Your mind might immediately go to sake when you think of Japanese liquor. However, the rich distilling culture in Japan includes a wide range of beverages. For example, Japanese vodkas have a distinctive flavor and style.
Any vodka fan would be remiss not to try Japanese vodka. Japanese vodkas are known for having light and sweet flavors.
Many Japanese vodkas are also smoother and creamier than other vodka varieties.
Folks who aren’t international vodka experts might be unsure where to start. To help, we’ve put together a guide on the Japanese vodka brands worth trying.
Read on to learn more about the best Japanese vodka on the market.
AO Vodka is a classy Japanese vodka made with rice. As a rice-based vodka, AO Vodka is incredibly light and smooth.
Unlike cheaper vodkas, this vodka is subtle and complex—if you like to drink vodka neat, AO Vodka is an excellent option.
Key tasting notes include coconut and mint. In many ways, this rice vodka is like a breath of crisp, fresh air.
If green were a flavor, it would be AO Vodka. Drinkers who pay attention will also notice a hint of sweet rice as they swallow, evidence of the beverage’s pure ingredients.
Kissui Vodka is a premium Japanese vodka. This vodka’s main marketing claim is that it’s made from one rice ingredient, allowing for ultimate purity and authenticity.
Kissui Vodka is also processed with natural spring water, which gives the drink an extra fresh and well-balanced feeling.
Since it’s so smooth, you can drink this vodka neat or on ice. If you prefer cocktails, I recommend trying Kissui Vodka in a simple martini.
You won’t need to water down Kissui Vodka with excessive flavors, so a traditional martini is ideal for fully appreciating the beverage’s flavors.
Nikka Coffey Vodka
Nikka Coffey Vodka is a creamy vodka made from barley and corn.
The Nikka brand has been in Japan for nearly 100 years, originally as a Japanese whisky company.
Nikka Coffey Vodka is a relatively new innovation for the brand, having been released in 2017.
This rich, sweet vodka gets its name from the Coffey still, a whisky-distilling container designed in the nineteenth century.
Nikka’s Coffey line pays homage to its founder (Masataka Taketsuru), learning how to make whisky in Coffey stills back in the early 1900s.
If you want to try Nikka Coffey Vodka, I recommend trying a small amount over ice—although this vodka is smooth, it’s also quite rich, and a little bit can go a long way.
Okayama Craft Vodka Akari Hikari
Okayama Craft Vodka Akari Hikari stands out with its thin, cubic bottle shape.
This Okayama vodka is made with barley, and, as the label on the bottle proclaims, it is “crystal light.”
Okayama Craft Vodka is quite aromatic and full-bodied. The drink is fresh and crisp, but the hefty bouquet of flavors can make this vodka feel rather velvety as well.
In terms of quality, the distilled barley mixture is filtered through charcoal to produce the purest vodka possible.
For sampling this vodka, try it with soda or in a cocktail—Okayama Craft Vodka tastes best when paired with a simple mixer.
Fujimi Vodka is another popular Japanese vodka brand. Fujimi Vodka is slightly different from the other vodkas on the list: it’s made with Japanese molasses.
Most people associate molasses with rum, but the sugary mixture is also sometimes used to produce vodka.
Due to the molasses, Fujimi Vodka has an unusually sweet flavor, bordering on the sweetness of a white rum.
In addition to sugar, this vodka also tastes somewhat like licorice. The aromatics of this vodka are fresh and minimal, with a smooth sipping sensation thanks to a filtering process that uses both charcoal and sand.
Suntory Haku Vodka
Haku Vodka from the House of Suntory is a high-end Japanese vodka that will satisfy any vodka fan.
Haku Vodka is made with white rice and has an incredibly soft and round flavor palate.
The House of Suntory is an old Japanese brand that started as a wine and whisky distillery but quickly grew into a major company that produces all kinds of spirits, including vodka and gin.
Part of Haku’s distinct flavor comes from the filtration process, which involves bamboo charcoal.
By using bamboo, Suntory can impart additional minerals and flavor elements to the vodka, producing a truly authentic Japanese product.
If you want to indulge in top-shelf Japanese vodka, check out Wa Vodka. Wa Vodka is made with sake, producing a liquor that has a light, delicate flavor profile.
Produced by the Meiri Shuru Distillery in Mito City, this vodka has an incredibly fresh taste thanks to the region’s natural spring water.
I suggest drinking Wa Vodka straight or on the rocks since its unique qualities should be appreciated on their own.
However, Wa Vodka has a creamy mouthfeel that is well-suited for a wide range of martinis and other vodka cocktails, especially mixed drinks that utilize fruit flavors.
Operated by the Sekiguchi Corporation in Kyoto, Buddha Zen’s vodka is inspired by the eponymous Zen belief system.
They create their vodka according to Buddhist principles, using ingredients that symbolize the Buddhist ascension beyond the world of human desires.
The vodka is composed of fermented lotus root mash, and after the distillation process, it passes through five “Zen Stones.”
As a result, the drink has a remarkably clean flavor—and it might just give you a taste of spiritual release.
The lotus-based ingredients make Buddha Zen vodka an especially good choice when you’re drinking it with Asian-inspired flavors.
You might, for example, pair it with a sushi roll, bok choy, ramen, or katsudon.
- AO Vodka
- Kissui Vodka
- Nikka Coffey Vodka
- Okayama Craft Vodka Akari Hikari
- Suntory Haku Vodka
- Wa Vodka
- Buddha Zen
Which Vodka is Your Favorite?
Try these Japanese vodkas and tell us what you think in the comments! Pair them with your favorite Japanese food or enjoy them on their own.
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