WhiskyNet Insight: Trip to Japan – The Japanese Art of Whisky Making

  • 25 Oct 2022 7:40 PM
WhiskyNet Insight: Trip to Japan – The Japanese Art of Whisky Making
This October come and join us on a virtual trip to Japan, where whisky making is started in a few shochu and sake breweries, which started to produce whisky as well

However, the well-known history of Japanese whisky started with Masataka Taketsuru (the founder of Nikka Whisky). Nevertheless, there are other Japanese whisky brands which worth to talk about.

Akashi, the “ji-whisky”

Akashi adheres to the philosophy of the Eigashima Distillery. Today, it offers a line of complementary craft whiskies, called "ji-whiskies" in Japan, made up of two blended whisky and five single malts. Each of these whiskies is aged or finished to perfection in various types of exclusive casks. With this line, Akashi incorporates the expertise of an entire generation of local artisans accustomed to producing more traditional Japanese spirits.

Akashi whiskies, or "ji-whiskies" can best be described as Japanese whiskies produced in small quantities in the heart of a local, traditional, craft distillery. Made mostly by hand by local artisans, these precious Akashi spirits are enhanced by the time-honoured expertise of the Eigashima Distillery and marked by their rare and refined character.

Akashi Meisei whisky

A blended Japanese whisky from Eigashima Distillery (formerly White Oak Distillery), said to be made with 45% American oak matured single malt. Meïsei translates roughly as 'celebrity' in Japanese.

Eigashima Distillery

Located in the small town of Akashi on the coast of the Seto Inland Sea, Eigashima (owner of the distillery) has been making traditional Japanese alcohols like sake and shochu since 1888. Intrigued by the projects and experiments of other Japanese distilleries, they began making plans for whisky distillation as early as 1919. Eigashima eventually became the first distillery in Japan to obtain a license for distilling whisky.

Equipped with time-honoured know-how, these artisans are able to make one-of-a-kind products that have little in common with regular Scotch whiskies. The climate also makes a difference, with temperatures that fluctuate widely between the summer and winter, thus speeding up the aging process. With Japanese whiskies now all the rage, we look forward to discovering the new expressions of this distillery.

Togouchi, the Japanese art of blending

Togouchi's range of whiskies are carefully handled by Funada San, who has managed casking at Sakura Brewery & Distillery since 1976. Now an expert in cellar aging, Sakurao Distillery has secured a 2% evaporation rate in its cellars, which are buried several hundred meters underground at the foot of the Osorakan mountain.

The surrounding mountains are particularly generous to the Togouchi brand, which draws its water from the Oze river. These unique characteristics set the brand apart and allow it to produce an elegant, fruity, and precision-crafted range of whiskies.

Togouchi whiskies are all aged in a unique place: a 361-meter-long underground cellar, buried at the foot of the Osorakan mountain near the valley of Sandankyo. It offers the ideal conditions for maturation thanks to a constant temperature of 14°C and 80% humidity.

This allows for the slow extraction of aromas from the barrel and results in the elegance and crystal colours of Togouchi whiskies.

Sakurao Distillery

Inaugurated in 2018 in the town of Hatsukaichi, on the coast of the Seto Inland Sea, Sakurao Distillery takes the next step in disseminating its expertise by presenting its first range of single malts. Thanks to the experience of a team of proven Japanese craft distillers, all of whom come from the region of Hiroshima, the distillery makes its mark as a key player in the market with authentic, masterful products influenced by an unusual environment.

In addition to its brand new, innovative facilities, the distillery never hesitates to repurpose its equipment or to make expert technical adjustments to obtain precise aromatic profiles. The art of distillation is masterfully handled by Miki Wahara, the first woman to hold the position of distillation manager at Sakurao. All these factors contribute to a unique range of elegant, fruity whiskies that are distilled, aged, and bottled in Japan.

Togouchi premium blended whisky

Togouchi is a blended Japanese whisky which is matured in a tunnel – that was originally built for a railway but never used – rather than a warehouse. The name comes from where the tunnel is located, in the town of Togouchi. This is their no-age-statement expression.

Akashi and Togouchi whiskys can be purchased in the webshop of WhiskyNet.

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