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Turning Japanese

Whiskey with water is worth a shot

Japanese whiskey may have been inspired by Scotland, but it's no knock-off.

Instead, whiskey in Japan is bolstered by a distinctive cultural practice that is starting to gain traction Stateside. The whiskey, which has an incense-like aroma from the use of Japanese oak during the aging process, is designed to be consumed with water. Lots of it.

Whiskey snobs might prickle at the idea of watering down their booze, but the Japanese insist that the process of adding water (called mizuwari) or carbonated soda for a classic Highball ensures the liquor is far more palatable when drunk with food.

Until recently, our Japanese offerings have been limited to only a few brands: Hibiki, Yamazaki and Hakushu.

But with the arrival of Nikka, one of Japan's most lauded labels, now is the perfect time to explore this drinking genre. The two expressions, a 12-year-old Taketsuru Pure Malt and a 15-year-old Yoichi Single Malt, have ranked among the finest Scotches and have a price to show for it: The bottles start at upward of $60 for 750 ml.

All the more reason to stretch your dram with a little bit of water.

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