Japanese Whisky is undergoing a remarkable renaissance. The growth of well established brands internationally as well as a buoyant domestic market, has led to a reassessment of the opportunities for Japanese Whisky.
Many traditional spirit producers which were previously active in small scale whisky production as an adjunct to their other beverage businesses, have re-looked at the category, and have re-opened distilleries or have started to produce Japanese Whisky in their existing facilities. In a little over two years, the number of distilleries in Japan has doubled.
Japanese Whisky is entering a golden age, with a large number of new players bringing dynamism to the category. The release and acceptance of a new set of regulations(JSLMA Japanese Whisky Standard) for what can be called Japanese Whisky will provide consumers with greater confidence. They will know that when they buy Japanese Whisky in the future they are buying whisky produced and bottled in Japan.
MacCormaics has secured the distribution rights for Ireland for a range of up and coming Japanese distilleries. Some of the distilleries are new, whilst others have been redeveloped and are now producing new whiskies. All are producing Japanese Whiskies as defined by the new rules.
The new range is available now. We expect this range to be quite dynamic, when more brands come on stream as the category evolves and we look forward to discussing these developments with you.
The Asaka Distillery is part of Sasanokawa Shuzo is the oldest brewery in the Tohoku region of north eastern Japan. Specialist in traditional Japanese drinks, and in particular sake, Sasanokawa Shuzo started their whisky adventure in 1946. In 2015 they established the Asaka distillery. The distillery is small but has acquired equipment to match its long term ambitions. The 390m² distillery houses two Japanese-made pot stills, as well as a 790m²cellar where the whiskies are aged in bourbon barrels for at least 3 years. The majority of the production is non peated, with very limited peated mash runs. The scale is “one day one cask” -filling 200 to 250 casks per year. Yamazakura is their blended whisky.
The Eigashima Distillery is situated by the inland sea in a small fishing village, and benefits from a mild maritime climate. Although Eighashima Shuzo was founded in 1888 and granted a license to produce whisky in 1919, they really only started production in 1984. The Distillery, better known as “White Oak”, only produces whisky one /two months in the year.
They produce both Grain and Malt whiskies –
the latter in old pot stills. Their Single Japanese Malt range is Akashi, which has lovely Sherry influences.
Kamezo Miyashita and Motosaburo Miyashita are the two brothers from a family steeped in brewing and sake production. It was from this very expertise that they started to produce Japanese Whisky. In 2011, they unveiled their very first whisky: Okayama Single Malt. The distillery takes its water exclusively from Asahikawa Spring, renowned for its pure, crystalline waters and located just a few hundred yards from the distillery.
They use three types of barrels to age their whiskies, including: the extremely rare Mizunara, used Brandy and Sherry casks.
Togouchi is a high-end & artisanal Japanese Whisky brand produced by Sakurao Brewery & Distillery, located in Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima prefecture. They started making whisky in 1990 when they created the Togouchi Brand. In 2018, a new distillery was established to meet bigger production needs: the Sakurao Distillery.
They make both malt and grain whiskies, and have made a commitment to have all their whiskies compliant with the new JSLMA Japanese whisky standard. They released their first cask strength range and single malt compliant with the new rules.
They have a unique location for ageing their whiskies – an old railway tunnel, which keeps the whiskies at 14 degrees and slows the maturation. This is where they age the Togouchi branded whiskies