Of the many things that Scotland has bequeathed to the world — golf, kilts and the baffling culinary phenomenon of fried Mars bars — my favorite by far is whisky. I have an enduring fondness for peaty and powerful Scotch whiskies from Islay and the Islands (as anyone foolish enough to leave me alone with a bottle of Talisker or Laphroaig can attest), but I wasn't terribly surprised to hear that a Japanese single malt had topped the rankings in "Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2015" earlier this month.

Whisky expert Murray, who compiled the guide, was effusive in his praise for the Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 from beverage giant Suntory, hailing it as a spirit of "near indescribable genius." I'm sure the news stung a bit, especially after Murray accused some Scottish distillers of taking their "eye off the ball" in recent days.

Although it was the first time for a Japanese producer to grab the top award in the "Whisky Bible," whiskies from Japan have been scooping up accolades at international competitions for years. The Japanese have a reputation for being enthusiastic if not always early adopters of technology and ideas, so relentless in their pursuit of authenticity and perfection that they often end up improving on the original (one salient example: cars).