Japan is the second-largest producer of single-malt whiskey in the world after Scotland. Still, the island nation’s whisky (spelled without the e, just like Scotland’s) remains unknown to many.

Esquire spirits columnist and cocktail historian David Wondrich says that because of increasing attention being given to quality and innovation, Japanese whisky is going to show up on the radar more. “[The Japanese] are beginning to perfect their own specific style, and it’s very tasty and cool,” he says.

If you like single-malt Scotch, Japan’s whiskies offer new brands and flavors to check out. To make it easier, we’ve put together a primer.

Aaron Gilbreath is a native Arizonan whose ideal diet consists wholly of refried beans, Texas barbecue brisket, alder-smoked Copper River salmon, and sweet tea. He has written for Men’s Journal, US Airways, High Country News, Poets & Writers, Texas Highways, and High Desert Journal.

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