Whisky Review: Tenjaku Japanese Whisky

, | October 12, 2022

Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Tenjaku. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

The artful characters on a bottle of Tenjaku Japanese Whisky  mean ‘skylark’ or hibari. The idea is meant to conjure the flavor of the spirit within – pure and clear, like the song of this small brown bird.

More specifically, the hibari is the Eurasian skylark, Alauda arvensis. Its wide range makes it a fitting symbol for those in the East and West. This species makes a nest in a depression in open ground. The chicks then leave the nest many days before they can fly, making their survival an even more rare and beautiful thing. 

This hibari-invoking whisky is made in Fuefuki, in the Kofu Basin of the Yamanashi Prefecture. The Kofu is a fertile valley, hemmed by the Misaka and Chichibu mountain ranges, with a view of Mount Fuji. It produces Japan’s best peaches and wine grapes. The mineral-rich water for Tenjaku comes from volcanic-rock aquifers 250 meters (about 820 feet) below the surrounding mountains.

Master Distiller Kenji Watanabe has honed his palate in the winemaking and whisky industries since the 1990’s. He poignantly put his dedication into words: “Be generous with time for your craft.” 

For Tenjaku Japanese Whisky, Watanabe sourced unprocessed whisky and double pot-distilled the liquid before aging it in Kentucky bourbon barrels. He then created the final blend from three-year, five-year, and six-year whiskies. 

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In addition to the blended whiskey, Tenjaku are also producing a pure malt whisky.

Tenjaku Japanese Whisky review

Tenjaku Japanese Whisky (image via Cindy Caparelli/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: Tenjaku Japanese Whisky

Vital Stats: Tenjaku Japanese Whisky is 40 proof, made from 86% corn and 14% barley and aged three years in bourbon barrels. Find a 750mL bottle for $40 in select US markets.

Appearance: This liquid is a pale golden amber that coats the glass and forms a ridge of fine tears before becoming broad legs.

Nose: Aromas of raw grain and old wood come through first, with something dark and funky underneath – amber perfume and burnt sugar.

Palate: On the palate, this whisky has a smooth and subtle gentle cereal sweetness. Caramel tones predominate, with leather and toasted rice coming through on the mid palate. An herbal bitterness hits on the back of the tongue.

Whisky Review: Tenjaku Japanese Whisky
3.5

Summary

This is a pleasant, balanced sipper. The pure and clear flavor goals of the brand are well covered. Dare I say it’s a peaceful whisky? The bourbon barreling gives it just enough richness to keep it interesting. At this price point it looks like a good buy for fans of the Japanese style.

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Cindy Capparelli

In 2014 I founded Portland Bitters Project with the vision to create the best bitters on the market. Now our bitters are enjoyed around the country and internationally to make expressive, delicious cocktails. I teach at two Portland colleges and visit private groups, distilleries and maker's spaces to spread the...