Japan is a fairly young marketplace for whisky exploration but it has quickly risen to the top of popularity contests with whisky critics and experts the world over. It all started in 1923 with a Japanese man whom studied distilling of whisky in Scotland. This man was Masataka Taketsuru who then went on to open (alongside his partner Shinjiro Torii) and be the master distiller at Yamazaki - the first distillery in Japan. Torii quickly leaped on the success of their first whisky release in 1929 and built Suntory - now one of the most important and famous drinks producers in the world.
Taketsuru then left the company after a decade to found his own distillery which allowed him to focus on the quality side of things. This distillery turned into the now famous Nikka distillery. A few other distilleries have popped up, and many closed, over time leaving Suntory and Nikka to be the two leading players in the Japanese whisky marketplace.
Blended malt whiskies dominate the production in Japan. These blends are the result of hundreds of single batch whiskies all of which are made by the independent distilleries. This is quite different to Scotland where bottlers/brands will source whisky from hundreds of different distilleries in order to get a large whisky palette encompassing of peated and non-peated whiskies of varying aromatic profiles. Instead, each distillery must produce a large range of whisky them selves.
Japanese whisky will be aged in a wide variety of oak casks which will impart a wide range of aromatics into the final whiskies. Popular casks are ex-plum liqueur or Japanese scented oak casks, though classic French and ex-Sherry casks are commonplace. Generally the typical Japanese whisky will be based on the more lighter, delicate and floral side of whisky - being rare to see much or any peat.