The Japan Spirits and Liqueurs Makers Association announces rules and regulations to govern Japanese whisky. By Holly Graham.

The Japanese whisky industry has, until now, lacked rules and regulations on what can be classified as a Japanese whisky, despite the first whisky distillery opening in 1923. The first Japanese laws around whisky were established in the 1950s, and had not changed much since then.

The difference between a legitimate, fully Japanese-made whisky and a bottle labelled as Japanese whisky has been hard to determine, especially as many companies import spirit from outside of Japan, but age them in the country.

The huge demand for Japanese whisky over the past few years has meant several misleading products have snuck through, meaning a huge demand for regulations from the industry. As of April 1, 2021, the new Japanese whisky regulations by the Japan Spirits and Liqueurs Makers Association should prevent any misleading products hitting the market. 

According to the Japan Spirits and Liqueurs Makers Association, the definition of Japanese whisky is as below:

To be labelled a “Japanese whisky”, producers must abide by the regulations outlined above, and labelling rules are also stipulated. If producers cannot meet the above regulations, they cannot call their product a Japanese, Nihon or Japan whisky. They also cannot label and market their products using the names of people that evoke Japan; names of Japanese cities, regions, and famous places as well as mountains and rivers; the Japanese flag or a Japanese era name or use any labelling that makes it seem like the whisky satisfies the Japanese whisky production requirements.

The regulations will come into effect from April 1, 2021, but producers have been given until March 31, 2024 to adhere to the regulations. We suspect some producers will change how their whiskies are made to meet the new criteria, while others may discontinue or change their name, labels and marketing to remove any reference to Japan and simply call their product whisky. Here’s to a dawning of a new whisky era in Japan!