Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Japanese Whisky trail

Visiting distilleries in Japan involves a lot of train rides. So far I am on 7/8 distilleries and have a total of around 50 different train rides including 1 subway ride

Japanese laws don't allow distilleries public tours in production areas, but to facilitate tours there is shielded areas with fenches or glass windows that lets the public around a distillery. Only one distillery so far didn't allow photographs (Fuji-Gotemba)


In reality there is 8 working malt whisky distilleries in Japan (excluding Monde, which maybe should be added as well)

The distillery scene is dominated by three large operators, owned by the three of the major breweries dominating Japan

Nikka (Asahi) has Miyagikyo and Yoichi
Suntory has Hakushu and Yamazaki
Kirin owns Fuji-Gotemba

Beside this there is two smaller distilleries, Shinsu (Mars) and White Oak which had a somewhat on and off production resulting in very uneven age of their stock and Chichibu which is a new small distillery, in prodution for nearly 5 years. Chichibu is owned by Ichiro who is behind the Hanyo bottlings card series. Ichiro's family used to own the Hanyu distillery

In general the tours are very generous with the drams, but this generosity excludes drivers who are allowed only orange juice :-)

Approx. a third of the malts to try at the Yamazaki bar

Beside the 2-3 samples you get to taste, all distilleries so far had a bar where you can  try a range of very exciting stuff for a cheap price. So far this has always included all current bottlings available (within sense) and also sometimes components of these and single cask samples. I wish distilleries in other parts of the world had similar setups, as when visiting distilleries this is the kind of things you really want to do. I do for sure. This makes the Japanese whisky trails one of the best ones out there,but you have to be a little bit hardcore as there is quite some travels in trains and taxis included. Most of the distilleries are located in scenic mountain areas so there is something to watch while heading out there

Big thanks to Niels Viveen from Holland, a Japan and japanese whisky expert for organising this

Expect more reports coming soon from some or most of the distilleries. So far my Yoichi visit can be found HERE : A VISIT TO YOICHI

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