What is Japanese whisky? Despite its meteoric rise on the global connoisseur market, until this week that question was more complicated to answer than you might expect.

Unlike bourbon and Scotch — born of the United States and Scotland, respectively — the preferred brown spirit of Japan carried no actual denomination of origin. As long as the liquor was bottled within the country, it could be sourced from anywhere on the planet.

"To say that whisky-making regulations in Japan are loose is a major understatement,” Stefan van Eycken, author of "Whisky Rising: The Definitive Guide to the Finest Whiskies and Distillers of Japan," told Bloomberg in 2019. "If they were any looser, you’d be able to sell tap water as Japanese whisky.”