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Japanese whisky faces stricter labelling rules

The Japan Spirits and Liqueurs Makers Association has issued new guidelines on the production and labelling of Japanese whisky to offer greater transparency across the category.

Japanese whisky will come under the protection of new rules to help create a more transparent category

The new standards for labelling Japanese whisky aim to ‘protect the interests of consumers, ensure fair competition among businesses and improve quality’, the Japan Spirits and Liqueurs Makers Association said.

The new production standards stipulate that malt must always be used in the making of Japanese whisky, but other grains can also be used. Water used in Japanese whisky making must come from Japan.

Saccharification (conversion of starch into sugars during the mashing process), fermentation and distillation should be done at a distillery in Japan. Distillation must be to no more than 95% ABV.

Maturation should take place in wooden barrels with a maximum capacity of 700 litres. Japanese whisky must be matured in Japan for at least three years.

Bottling must take place in Japan at a minimum strength of 40% ABV. Caramel colouring can be used.

To be labelled ‘Japanese whisky’, all of the above terms and conditions must be met.

Furthermore, a product’s name, labelling and marketing should not imply that it is Japanese whisky. This includes the use of place names, such as cities, areas, scenic spots, mountains, rivers, the national flag, and more.

Members of the Japan Spirits and Liqueurs Makers Association will begin working to the new standards from 1 April 2021.

Producers have until 31 March 2024 to adhere to the new regulations.

The Spirits Business has previously reported on Japanese whisky’s practice of blending imported liquid from other parts of the world, which has raised questions about brands’ claims of authenticity.

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