World’s Most Admired Whiskies 2023 edition, Yamazaki ranked second, with Nikka, Hibiki, Chichibu and Hakushu also on the list.DRINKS INTERNATIONAL

Yamazaki DistilleryHakushu DistilleryNikka WhiskyChichibu Distillery (Ichiro's Malt)

Yamazaki was ranked second in the World’s Most Admired Whisky list, followed by Nikka, Hibiki, Chichibu and Hakushu.

The third edition of Drinks International’s annual Top 50 Most Admired Whiskies in the World was announced on 31 October 2023, and five Japanese whisky brands were selected, including Yamazaki.

The top-ranked whisky was the American whisky Michters.
In this issue, the Japanese whiskies selected for this prestigious ranking are explained, along with the selection criteria.


1. What is Drinks International?

Launched in 1967, Drinks International is the only magazine dedicated to the global spirits, wine and beer markets, providing readers of international beverage buyers with news on the latest developments and trends in the global beverage industry. Each issue features interesting features, business news, market reports and news analysis, making Drinks International a must-read for international beverage buyers.

In addition to the magazine and website, Drinks International also organises a range of events.

1-1. the Drinks International Travel Retail Excellence Awards

The Drinks International Travel Retail Excellence Awards were created to recognise the importance of the drinks sector in duty-free retail. It is the only travel retail award dedicated to drinks.
There are nine categories, welcoming entries from all sectors of the drinks industry, including spirits, wine, beer, suppliers and buyers.
The awards are organised around the annual TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes and the winners are announced at the Drinks International Travel Retail Party.

1-2. International Spirits Challenge.

The International Spirits Challenge is a global blind tasting competition. A prestigious jury of renowned spirits experts conducts blind tastings of spirits brands and selects the best spirits from each category, for which medals are awarded.
The ISC is used as a means for brands to raise their profile through excellent publicity and recognition throughout the drinks industry.

(image exhibit: International Spirits Challenge)

2. World’s Most Admired Whisky 2023

This is the third year that Drinks International has awarded the World’s Most Ad mired Whisky, which was launched in 2020.

To ensure that the results are not biased, an ‘elite voting academy’ of buyers, bar owners, writers, educators and other experts who are not affiliated with any brand has been formed to ensure overall consistency in the voting.

The top 50 brands announced in this year’s list show the world’s major whisky producers vying for position in the top half of the list, but the second half is marked by new entrants and re-entrants, which can be useful in understanding the latest whisky trends.

2-1. selection criteria and selection process

Buyers, bar owners, writers, educators and other professionals in the global whisky industry were asked to vote for their “most respected whisky brands” in order.

– Quality and consistency of the brand’s whisky
– Price/quality ratio of the brand portfolio as a whole.
– Brand strength and marketing power

In the voting, points were tallied to determine the final ranking, with 10 points awarded to the brand that won first place, 9 points for second place, 8 points for third place and so on.

Voters. Buyers, bar owners, writers, educators and other professionals
Voting period. August – September
Voting criteria – Quality and consistency of the brand’s whisky
– Price-to-quality ratio of the brand portfolio as a whole
– Brand and marketing strength
Polling points. 1st: 10 points; 2nd: 9 points; 3rd: 8 points.

2-2. top of the list: ‘Michters’

A whisky distillery founded in the mid-18th century in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania, USA; once bankrupt in 1989 due to lack of demand, but reborn in Kentucky in the 1990s, Michters has flourished and climbed the hierarchy of respected brands in the global liquor industry. .

2-3. whisky distilleries from around the world ranked

As noted earlier, most of the top half of this year’s ranking is dominated by major manufacturers, but many new entrants and re-entrants were ranked, particularly in the latter half of the list. In particular, there were many new distilleries in traditional whisky producing countries such as Scotland, Ireland and the USA, as well as countries that have newly started whisky production in recent years.

METHOD & MADNESS (Ireland) in 12th place, NC’NEAN (Scotland) in 21st place, KYRÖ (Finland ) in 24th place, THE OXFORD ARTISAN DISTILLERY (UK) in 34th place, 40th place and STAUNING (DENMARK), 43rd NAKED MALT (Scotland ), 44th RAASAY (Scotland ), 45th AMRUT (India), 48th WATERFORD (Ireland).

3. Five Japanese whisky brands have achieved great success.

Now let’s get down to business and look at the ranking of Japanese whiskies.

To our surprise, five brands from Japan made the top 50 list. Yamazaki was ranked second in the world, which is great news after Yamazaki 25 Year Old won the world’s highest award at the recent International Spirits Challenge.

“Yamazaki Aged 25 Years” and “Hi...
Suntory's "Yamazaki Aged 25 Years" won the "Supreme Champion Spirit" award, the highest award in all...

3-1. 2nd “Yamazaki”.

The Yamazaki distillery, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, came in an impressive second place.
This year, Yamazaki has once again been highly acclaimed in various media and competitions at home and abroad.

Yamazaki Distillery is Suntory’s flagship distillery, led by master blender Shinji Fukuyo.

Yamazaki was awarded first place in the inaugural ranking and has never missed the top three since. Today, Yamazaki has achieved a hat-trick of successes as the top Japanese whisky brand.
It has become the most admired whisky in the Japanese whisky industry.
Brand owner Suntory is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2023, and Yamazaki Mizunara 18 Year Old was launched as part of the celebrations.
The annually released Mizunara cask-matured whisky is one of the rarest and most valuable whiskies and is an ultra-premium product at the top end of the portfolio.
Yamazaki was Japan’s first malt distillery, founded by Shinjiro Torii in the early 20th century. Today it is Suntory’s flagship distillery and is led by Master Blender Shinji Fukuyo, one of the most respected members of the industry and a key figure on the International Spirits Challenge judging panel. Mr Fukuyo is the third person to hold this prestigious position. He has shown great dedication to maintaining Suntory’s reputation.

(cited in World’s Most Admired Whisky 2023)


3-2. 7th “Nikka”.

Up one rank from last year, ‘Nikka’ is ranked in seventh place.
In Japan, ‘Yoichi’, ‘Miyagikyo’ and ‘Taketsuru’ are well-known, but the most popular Nikka whisky in the world is actually ‘From the Barrel’.

Nikka Whisky From the Barrel has been placed in most of The World’s
50 Best Bars”, where it is placed in most of the 50 Best Bars.

Nikka has continued to climb the rankings over the last year and is now aiming for a top finish.In 1918, Masataka Taketsuru went to Scotland to study at the University of Glasgow.After returning to Japan in 1920, he was hired by Shinjiro Torii to build the Yamazaki distillery, before establishing his own distillery in Yoichi, Hokkaido, In 1940, he launched Nikka’s first product. Today, Nikka is one of the most respected whiskies in the world. Its Nikka Whisky from the Barrel can be found in most of the ‘World’s 50 Best Bars’, and in Drinks International’s annual brand report, it ranks high on both the best-sellers list and the top trends list. The blended whisky was first launched in 1985 and more than 100 batches of malt and grain whiskies were used in its production. Alongside its best-selling products, Nikka The Grain Whisky was awarded a gold medal at the International Spirits Challenge 2023, proving the brand’s ever-expanding portfolio.

(Citation: World’s Most Admired Whisky 2023)

(Image Exhibit: World’s Most Admired Whisky 2023)

[Review] Nikka From the Barrel
"From the Barrel" is a blend of aged malt and grain unrained sake, then packed again and re-stored for several...
[Review] Nikka The Grain
"Nikka The Grain" will be released as the third product in the "NIKKA DISCOVERY Series" starting in ...

3-3. 10th ‘Hibiki’.

Second brand from Suntory. Up five places from last year, Hibiki is ranked 10th.
Yamazaki, of course, is well recognised worldwide and its concept is “a whisky that brings together the four seasons of Japan, the delicate sensibilities of the Japanese people and the skills of Japanese artisans”. The brand is also popular worldwide as a symbolic whisky of Japan.

Hibiki Harmony is one of the most recognised Japanese whiskies on the market.

Launched by Suntory in 1989 to celebrate its 90th anniversary, Hibiki has become one of Japan’s most admired blended whiskies.When the brand was created in 1987, master blender Keizo Saji was determined to create a whisky that would showcase Suntory’s refined craftsmanship. Chief blender Koichi Inatomi tasted one million barrels of Suntory whisky and discovered a recipe for a harmony blend containing 30 different malt whiskies and mellow grain whiskies.
Today, Hibiki Harmony is one of the best-known Japanese whiskies on the market and is a permanent fixture on the shelves of top bars around the world.

(Citation: World’s Most Admired Whisky 2023)

(Image credit: World’s Most Admired Wh isky 2023)


This special "HIBIKI" is a blend of a wide variety of unblended whisky that has been aged well over the course...

3-4. 16th ‘Chichibu’.

Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu Distillery ranks 16th on the list.
A craft distillery, Chichibu Distillery has a passionate fanbase despite its low production and small domestic and international distribution.

Founded in 2004 by Ichiro Hido, the Chichibu distillery has developed a cult following in the whisky industry for its rare and unusual bottlings, which are more like collectors’ items than bottles of whisky In 2008, Chichibu built its first new distillery since the 1970s, and over the next 15 years the brand’s reputation has soared. Hido is one of the most forward-thinking members of the Japanese whisky industry, taking a different approach to making Japanese whisky, malting barley in the UK and producing his own barrels In 2019, he was awarded the International Spirits Challenge’s Master Blender of the Year and will continue to be a key player in the brand for many years to come.

(cited in World’s Most Admired Whisky 2023)

(Image Exhibit: World’s Most Admired Whisky 2023)

429 Too Many Requests

3-5. 28th “Hakushu”.

After being left off the list last time, Hakushu is back on the list, this time as No. 28.
As befits Suntory’s 100th anniversary, all three major brands – Yamazaki, Hibiki and Hakushu – are ranked in the top 50.

In 1973, Keizo Saji, son of Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii and the company’s second master blender, established the Hakushu distillery at an altitude of 700 metres at the foot of Mount Kai Komagatake.
When completed, it was Suntory’s second distillery and remains one of the best distilleries in the world.
The site was chosen for its cool, humid climate surrounded by the vast highland forests of Hakushu and the clear waters of the Oshira River, which provided extremely good conditions for the distillery to make whisky, clearly different from Yamazaki.
This year, the House of Suntory celebrates a century of whisky making. To mark this milestone, Hakushu has announced two limited edition releases: an 18-year-old peated malt and a special bottling of its flagship 12-year-old.

(Citation: World’s Most Admired Whisky 2023)

4. Summary.

In this edition of World’s Most Admired Whisky 2023, five Japanese whisky brands made it into the top 50.
In particular, Suntory, which celebrates its 100th anniversary of whisky making this year, accounted for three of the five brands, demonstrating its overwhelming global recognition.

However, Drinks International had not yet established a category for ‘Japanese whisky’ and classified it as ‘World whisky’.
In addition to the success of major producers, the increase in the number of new whisky distilleries (craft whisky distilleries) in recent years will further secure the position of Japanese whisky worldwide in the future, and the day when a new category of ‘Japanese Whisky’ is established may not be far off.

櫻井 和人

Born in Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture
He loves all kinds of luxury goods, and was so impressed by the diversity of craft gin that he decided to become a bartender at the age of 30.
While working as a bartender, he visited BAR Shinkai and joined BAR Shinkai to learn more about the wide variety of Japanese craft whiskeys.
He is now working hard both on site and on the web so that more and more people can enjoy the pleasure of experiencing the best of the finest.

櫻井 和人をフォローする