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Hakata Japanese Whiskies Make Their U.S. Debut

The vaunted Japanese whisky line, Hakata, has made is way across the Pacific Ocean and made its debut in the U.S. market this month.

Hakata, distilled and matured in Fukuoka, Japan, comes from the Hikari Distillery, which dates back to 1912.

A statement from the whisky maker noted that its signature style is distilled from 100 percent barley and aged in sherry casks. The Hakata range includes Hakata 10-Year-Old Whisky, Hakata 12-Year-Old Whisky, Hakata 16-Year-Old Whisky and the flagship Hakata 18-Year-Old Whisky.

Hakata Whiskies
The vaunted Japanese whisky line, Hakata, has made is way across the Pacific Ocean and made its debut in the U.S. market this month. (image via Impex)

Making its U.S. debut possible is importers ImpEx Beverages, and the goal of bringing the high-end whisky to this market, according to the press release, was to “showcase the distilling prowess of Japanese producers.”

Hakata’s whisky is distilled and matured in Japan, and as they use the barley exclusively, a fraction of that grain is fermented with Koji, which provides healthy enzymes for fermentation. That, in turn, gives the whisky a savory, Umami-enhanced palate.

Koji has been a long-time source for that Umami flavor, as it’s been employed in soy sauce, sake, and miso for more than 500 years.

Hakata whiskies are aged in sherry casks in both traditional and open-air warehouses, which the distiller notes allows the aging spirits to benefit from the unique environmental elements in Japan’s Fukuoka region.

The barrels are exposed to a humid, summertime climate and cold winter temperatures, and these techniques combine for a traditional whisky flavor profile, with a freshness.

The distiller’s notes for the current Hakata lineup:

  • Hakata 18-Year-Old Whisky (SRP: $190– awarded 94 points – is some of the most prized liquid hailing from the Japanese distillery. Glorious and decadent, it showcases notes of cola, dark cherry, roses, and the profound influence of sherry on the nose. On the palate, it exhibits smooth waves of savory umami, graham cracker, dates and a tart cherry. It concludes with an oak finish, complemented by notes of fresh berries and smooth vanilla.
  • The refined Hakata 16-Year-Old Whisky (SRP: $150) was honored with an outstanding 96 points by Whisky Advocate – a score achieved by only seven other whiskies in the past decade, is the embodiment of a well-rounded whisky. Characterized by notes of caramelized coconut, white peach, powdered sugar and a touch of char, it’s decorated with a profound scent of oak on the nose. On the palate, it delivers a hint of creamy, creme brûlée, unripe pear, roasted almonds, and white raisins.
  • Awarded 95 points, Hakata 12-Year-Old Whisky (SRP: $100is truly oak and umami defined – an enchanting, balanced whisky which on the nose delivers notes of champagne, dried plums, and sweet dates. On the palate, stewed fruit, caramelized orchard fruit, and apple cider with Sherry are demonstrated, finishing with a sweet, but slightly citrus salute. With a drawn-out finish and flush with minerality, this liquid gem is sweet, tangy, and enlightened by umami – a measured triumph of harmony and spice.
  • Hakata 10-Year-Old Whisky (SRP: $80), awarded 93 points, demonstrates the full flavor and authentic, spirit-forward character that the brand is known for. Oaky and earthy, on the nose it also presents notes of lemon meringue and strawberry preserves. Ripe with rich sherry, walnuts, and sweet raspberries on the palate and culminates with notes of vanilla Oak, sherry, raisin, and orange peel.

“The domestic market for world whiskies is unprecedented right now, and we are excited to bring Hakata’s otherworldly flavor profile to an American audience,” said Chris Uhde, ImpEx Beverages vice president. “Whisky from Japan is a formidable and well-respected category in the overall whisky scene, and our hope is that Hakata finds its rightful seat at the table.”

You can find the 700 ml bottles now online at, and at select retailers, bars and restaurants across the U.S.

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Gary Carter

Gary Carter has been at the helm of metro newspapers, magazines, and television news programs as well as a radio host and marketing manager. He is a writer/editor/photographer/designer by trade, with more than 30 years experience in the publishing and marketing field. Gary enjoys working to build something great, whether that be a novel project, a start-up, an organization, a fresh-face to the journalistic world, or even something as simple as a short story. A native Texan and a Pacific Northwest convert, he is a whiskey enthusiast who cut his teeth on it ... literally!

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