A Journey to the Best Whisky Bars in Tokyo
Down narrow streets, half-hidden behind blinking signboards, in basements, and at the top of high rises — we’re here to help you find the best whisky bars in Tokyo.
In Japan, the production of whisky (spelled without the “e,” following the Scottish spelling style) first began in 1870 and production for sale in 1924. Yet, within this comparatively short amount of time, Japanese whisky makers have earned a name for themselves, particularly within the last two decades.
Japan’s single malt Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 was named the “World Whisky of the Year” by world-renowned whisky reviewer Jim Murray. And even back in 2001, Japanese whisky makers had begun to sweep awards in blind taste-testing events, such as at the World Whiskies Awards, a competition evaluating whiskeys entered from around the globe.
With prestigious accolades to claim as their own, Japanese whisky is now the second-most exported alcoholic beverage behind sake, garnering $130 million in 2019.
Long story short: You are in the right country if your favorite drink is whisky.
With plenty to get excited about and so much to choose from, here is a list to inspire your next happy hour or late-night excursion.
As the name promises, Tokyo Whisky Library has an extensive collection of whiskies—1200!—from which to choose. A 1-minute walk from Omotesando Station, the bar’s atmosphere and whisky-focused décor will delight any whisky-loving soul. This classic choice should be your first stop in your pursuit of the best whisky bar in Tokyo. Reservations are accepted, and the place fills up fast, so if you want to guarantee your seat, make sure to book in advance.
Access: Omotesando Station, Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Hanzomon Line, Chiyoda Line, Exit B3
Famous for its rare and hard-to-find Japanese whisky collection, Bar Zoetrope is a cozy yet well-known destination for whisky lovers in the greater Tokyo area and nationwide, too. The interior fits six counter seats and three tables. Outside of the beautiful collection of whisky behind the counter, black-and-white 1920s films play silently against one wall. If you ever find yourself in Nishi-Shinjuku, drop-in, and you might get lucky with an empty seat.
Access: Shinjuku Station, West Exit D5
CASK Strength, an iconic whisky bar often featured in Japanese TV and film, is positioned in downtown Roppongi and has a sophisticated selection of whiskies from around the world lining their shelves. This underground bar has a broader selection of international whiskies compared to their Japanese list. Still, it is a worthy place to catch your breath after a long workday. Cover charge: ¥1,000. If you like the feel of this place, check out their sister store, Mizunara Cask, just down the road.
Access: Roppongi Station, Hibiya Line, Exit 3
Don’t let the exterior fool you. This establishment is less known but assuredly delightful. The owner is knowledgeable, and the bites are perfectly paired with your whisky drink. If you want a good conversation with a learned whisky master, this is the place to go. Located down a backstreet and slightly less upscale than other picks on this list, save this location for a surprisingly satisfying whisky bar stop when in Kinshicho.
Access: Kinshicho Station, Sobu Chuo Line, North Exit
Founded in 1960, Bar Nemo is a quietly stylish bar on a shopping street in the bustling Asakusa district. Aside from an excellent array of whisky choices, they also serve plates of spiny lobster, blowfish, and venison. Classic cocktails are on the menu, too. The temperature is set low inside the bar to maintain optimal temperatures for whisky preservation, but they provide blankets for people who feel chilled. The bar seats 20 people. You can make reservations via their HotPepper page. The form is in Japanese, so if you want, you can have one of our TokyoMate Assistants do that for you.
Access: Asakusa Station, Tsukuba Express, A1 Exit
If you want to explore some whisky cocktails, Bar BenFiddich is a safe bet, with its frequent appearances in Asia’s 50 Best Bars listings. The old-world atmosphere is reason enough to add this to your list of places to check out when in Shinjuku, but don’t leave without trying a whisky cocktail, which they are quite skilled at making. A popular drinking destination, you will want to make a reservation before heading here, or be prepared to wait.
Access: Shinjuku Station, Exit 8
If you stumbled onto this place by accident, you got lucky. Situated on a tiny back street behind Shibuya Mark City and up three flights of stairs, Bar Caol Ila features whiskies from the Scottish Caol Ila whisky distillery and many other regions in Scotland. It is a gratifying stop if you need a quick break from the Shibuya crowds. Or if you want to explore some exclusive scotch whiskies and increasingly hard-to-find years and bottles.
Access: Shibuya Station, West Exit of Inokashira Line
Note: When planning your outings, be sure to check each venue’s official website for the details of their COVID-19 prevention strategies and be mindful of the guidelines that each establishment has enacted for your safety and the safety of others.
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