Story of Japanese Craft Whisky Distillery

Karuizawa Japanese craft whisky distillery


To know real Japanese whisky and real Japanese whisky distillery


 Fortunately Japanese Whisky has became very popular for last 10 years although there are some "Japanese Whisky" like whisky just bottled in Japan from imported bulk, single grain whisky made from rice, whisky containing neutral spirits or whisky distilled by stainless pot still.

 So we focus only on real Japanese whisky distillery in Japan and would like to guide Japanese whisky.

Yuza Akke Saburomaru Japanese craft whisky distillery

Real Japanese whisky distillery

These distilleries are making whisky by their own pot still.

Real Japanese whisky and fake Japanese whisky

Is it Japanese whisky?

There are so many "Japanese whisky" by bottling import bulk whisky. There are also some others type which is not sure to be called as Japanese whisky. 

Japanese whisky type and category

Whisky category

Whisky is categorized by mainly material, aged cask and blending.  

Japanese whisky process, Pot still Zemon column still, Nikka coffey, Mizunara cask

Whisky making process

Whisky is made from malt with/without other grain by mashing, fermentation and distillation principle

International competition awards by Japanese whisky

International competition awards is one of the main reason why  Japanese whisky became popular. Japanese whisky distillery focus on WWA and ISC.

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Daily update till end of April

Molding pot still ZEMON

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Zemon mold pot still developed by Saburomaru distillery for Japanese craft whisky.

 Zemon is 1st molding whisky pot still in the world. Actually it is not pure copper but copper base alloy containing a little tin so they built micro prototype and checked removing sulfur performance and other effect in advance. In fact it remove sulfur as like standard copper pot still and make mild new pot as like tin glass during distillation.

 Indeed Zemon is well technical designed because it's module concept so partial replacement is possible like different angle pot still lyne arm or different shape pot still neck. Pot still wall has more thickness than normal pot still, it mean longer life than normal pot still.

  Zemon was developed together with Oigo Seisakusyo, large bell manufacture in local for Buddhist temple. Oigo has 400 years history and most major company for large bell for Buddhist temple in Japan.

Karuizawa club

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2 Karuizawa Club whisky (Karuizawa distillery and Shinshu distillery)

 There are Karuizawa club whisky bottle today. It is easy to misunderstand that it is whisky by Karuizawa distillery. In fact, it half correct and half increccet.

  Karuizawa club is PB of local liquor shop chain "Sake no super Takagi" and it was originally produced by Karuizawa distillery. However it was not single malt but pure malt, which means  blended of import bulk malt whisky with or without their own distilled malt whisky.

After Karuizawa distillery stopped production, Shinshu was producing it. But it is not pure malt but blended whisky. Contents might be same with Mars 3&7 and made mainly from import bulk whisky.

What Sarorun Kamuy mean?

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Sarorun Kamuy Single malt by Akkeshi distillery

 Highly expected new Japanese whisky distillery Akkeshi released thier 1st single malt whisky in the beginning of 2020. Its name is Sarorun Kamuy but what does it mean?
 It is Ainu ethnic language. Ainu is minor ethinic in Hokkaido, north main island of Japan and Akkeshi distillery is located in eastern Hokkaido altough Nikka Yoichi distillery is located.
 Sarorun means crane and Kamuy means god because they had faith in aminism and thought that God dwells in all things of nature including animal.
If you would like to know some more about Ainu, I recommend to read manga Golden Kamuy.

Yoichi distillery pot still

Coal power direct heating

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Yoichi distillery pot still by coal type direct fire with rice straw rope Shinto symbol

Yoichi distillery is only one distillery using coal power direct heating pot still in the world today. It's quite old fashion style and almost all pot stills in the owrld were replaced to steam power indirect heating type after 1960s. There are a few distilleries using direct heating type but those pot stills are gas power.

Coal power drect heating is most difficult pot still to contron but it can create powerful and rich peated flavor whisky.

In add, their pot stills have thick rice straw rope on the neck which is sanctuary barrier symbol of Shinto, Japanese traditional animism. Pot stills in Miyagikyo distillery also have it. 

Togouchi whisky

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Togouchi whisky and Togouchi cellar

 Chugoku Jozo restarted whisky business by Togouchi brand whisky in 2015 although their Sakurao distillery was founded in 2017. So actually Togouchi whisky is made from import bulk but aged in cask in thier aging cellar in Japan.

Togouchi is thier aging cellar's name which was oroginally test tunnel for railway tunnel construction.

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Missing beard man on Black Nikka bottle (2020/04/01)

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 Black Nikka is main product of Nikka for volume zone market. Its label has beard man but he is missing from end of March. Actually it is collaboration campaign with famous Anime "Lupin 3rd". 

Shizuoka distillery release 1st  single malt whisky (2020/02/10)

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 Shizuoka distillery released their 1st 3Y single malt whisky. Mr. Nakamura, president comments that whisky is elegant and light taste.
 20 casks(200L) are ready on 22nd Jan 2020.

Suntory release Yamazaki 55Y (2020/01/31)

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 Suntory release only 100 bottles of Yamazaki 55Y. It is 3 million JPY per bottle. They released 50 bottles of Yamazaki 50Y in 2005, 50 bottles in 2007, and 150 bottles in 2011. It was 1 million JPY per bottle.   

Suntory scopes Indian market (2020/01/19)

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  Suntory focus on Indian market and starts new brand "Oaksmith" for it. They targets 1 million case in 2022 and plan to start local production in 5 years.

Nikka terminates aged statement Taketsuru (2020/01/13)

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Due to shortage of long aged cask stock, Nikka terminates aged statement pure malt whisky "Taketsuru" bottle (17Y/21Y/25Y) in March 2020 and continue to supply only non aged statement "Taketsuru" bottle. Nikka also has already terminated aged statement single malt whisky "Yoichi" and "Miyagikyo" and limit only to non aged statement one to supply.
Suntory also terminated aged statement single malt whisky "Yamazaki" and "Hakushu" in 2018.