Japan loves its whiskey. Unrestrained by strict rules that govern the production of bourbon and Scotch, Japanese distillers are known for meticulously crafting some of the most nuanced and smooth-tasting styles in the world. And better still, you can often find great Japanese whiskies here in the U.S. at better prices than their Scottish counterparts.
Whether you’re sipping these beauties neat, on the rocks, or in the classic “highball” style (topped off with soda water), L.A. is home to a number of bars with deep rosters of Japanese whiskies from renowned producers like Yamazaki, Nikka, and Hakushu. We asked Ann Soh Woods, the Los Angeles-based founder of Japanese rice whiskey distillery Kikori, to be our spirit guide in seeking out the best places to enjoy Japanese whiskey in L.A.
“Like walking into another era. You can’t go wrong at this cool hunting lodge–y bar in downtown. It’s been around longer than most, and they will make you a mean whiskey cocktail. Positioned in the rear of Seven Grand is the more intimate Bar Jackalope, where you can imagine yourself sitting in a moody bar in Japan. Pull together a killer flight of hard-to-find Japanese whiskies or enjoy a simple Japanese highball.”
“If you are looking for a decadent dining and drinking experience, order the ‘Cut and Whisky’ special. It’s a flight of top notch steaks—American Strip, Wagyu and A5 Kobe—along with Japanese whiskies to pair, including Kikori, and a Nikka selection. It is certainly a memorable meal.”
“Always an easy date night with my husband. This Little Tokyo bar has the essentials for him: great ambiance (head to the outdoor patio), TVs, and wasabi fries. They carry a solid line-up of Japanese whiskies, including all of the Japanese rice whiskies, many of them just released in the last year or so. Look out for their next bar, Sake Dojo, a Japanese bar focused on Japanese whiskies, sake, wines, and beer.”
“My friends and I often enjoy visiting the galleries in the Arts District area. We can exhaust a whole day hopping in and out of galleries, but we always find time for ‘apres art’ at ERB. Enter through the massive orange door and you will find a beautiful bar, authentic hospitality, and hearty bites. Since they opened, ERB has always carried a diverse selection of Japanese whiskies, including Japanese rice whiskies. The backlit shelves of the bar are filled with curated bottles of booze, and this thoughtfulness carries over into their cocktails.”
“This is truly an elevated bar experience you won’t forget. Look sharp–it is Beverly Hills–ease yourself in at the cozy bar, and the skilled bartenders will be attentive and friendly. No pretense here. They carry a comprehensive section of Japanese whiskies, including the Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016, priced at a mere $353 for a two-ounce pour !”
“In addition to the mouthwatering Japanese-Peruvian food, Nobu’s restaurants offer an impressive selection of Japanese whiskies, spirits, and sake. Well-versed in a variety of Japanese whiskies, the staff can steer you in the right direction or make an incredibly well-balanced cocktail. The Kikori Old-Fashioned cocktail is barrel-aged with Kikori, Luxardo cherry, demerara syrup, and bitters and is always a good idea. Get it while you can as it often sells out before the next batch is ready.”
“Located on a busy Santa Monica street, one may call this a dive bar. Perhaps that’s true, but it’s a dive bar with an extensive collection of Japanese whiskies, with new ones seemingly added every time I visit. It makes for a great way to comfortably try a wide selection, including a few rare ones I typically don’t see around town, like Suntory Single Cask 1999.”