Japanese vs Scotch whisky - experts decide which is best including drams and cocktails to try

If you’ve ever wondered how Scotch whisky compares to Japanese whisky then a panel of experts have recently made a judgement.

Published 6th Jul 2024
Updated 6 th Jul 2024

In a whisky tasting experiment titled Judgement of Glasgow, experts such as whisky writer Dave Broom and head buyer of distribution company Speciality Drinks Dawn Davies, blind tasted a series of drams to decide the winner.

And it wasn’t a great night for Scotch as Japan came out on top of the inaugural Judgement of Glasgow.

This high-stakes event, held in Glasgow, saw some of the finest Scottish drams go head-to-head against their Japanese counterparts in a contest judged by some of the most respected whisky experts and bartenders in the industry.

The tasting saw the judges sample a series of drams across five different rounds, with the Japanese entries supplied by Sexy Fish, renowned for its large collection of premium Japanese whiskies in the Western world. Representing Scotland, the Pot Still Bar, owned by the Murphy family, contributed some the finest selections the country has to offer.

Scotch whisky vs Japanese whisky

The judging panel was made up of a carefully selected array of whiskey experts, comprising Dave Broom, Dawn Davis, Georgie Bell, Ryan ‘Mr Lyan’ Chetiyawardana and Tristan Stephenson.

The shock 3-2 victory to Japan was announced at a celebratory event at The Gate in Glasgow attended by many of Scotland’s leading spirits experts, with the results being discussed and debated over a few drams long into the night. 

Sexy Fish then took over the Gate bar for the evening, serving Barley and Hakushu 12yo highballs with Fever-Tree premium soda to delighted guests. 

Commenting on the results, Craig Harper from Fever-Tree Drinks who devised the event and chaired the judging panel, said: “It was extraordinary to get such an array of whisky royalty into one room sampling some of the very best whiskies that Scotland and Japan have to offer. To witness the care and attention they gave each dram was to witness true experts at work.

As with the Judgement of Paris in 1976 which signalled the potential changing of the guard between and French and American wine, these results show Japanese whisky can rightfully sit alongside Scottish whisky at the very top table”

In an impassioned speech, whisky writer Dave Broom spoke about distillery character, which can be found in Scotch and compared it to whisky essence, borne from the people and production, which, he said, can found in these Japanese drams. He also commented on the nature of competitions and how the night was an ‘honest comparison and examination'. 

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The Judgement of Glasgow results in full

First round - Malt under £100: 

  • Japan: Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve 
  • Scotland: Caol Ila 12yo 2012         

Result: Japan Win

Second round - Malt over £100: 

  • Japan: Chichibu #5253 7yo red Wine Cask 
  • Scotland: Benromach 21 Tokaji wood Finish 

Result: Japan Win

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Third round – Blend

  • Japan: Hibiki Harmony Master’s Secret
  • Scotland: Cutty Sark 25yo 

Result: Scotland Win

Fourth round - Wild Card: 

  • Japan: Hanyu #1386 Isetan 1991 Madeira Cask
  • Scotland: Whyte & Mackay 40yo

Result: Scotland Win

Fifth Round – Highball

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  • Japan: Hakashu 12yo & Fever-Tree Premium Soda Water
  • Scotland: Arbikie Rye & Fever-Tree Premium Soda Water

Result Japan Win

The Gate, Gallowgate, Glasgow, UK
The Gate, Gallowgate, Glasgow, UK, G4 0TP
Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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