Japanese Whisky Distilleries to Open in 2018

For Japanese whisky fans the world over, 2018 is off to a running start. New distilleries in the works are already gaining attention and inspiring thirsts. With the inception of the Akkeshi and Nagahama distilleries, 2016 was a great year for Japan’s craft whisky scene. As 2017 has come to be known as the year of Japanese gin, whisky took somewhat of a back seat, as many sake and shochu producers tried their hand at gin-making.

While Japanese gin is showing no signs of stopping, small whisky is back under the spotlight in 2018, with the announcement of several new distilleries aiming at Japanese single malt whisky production. Starting West in the warm, tropical Kagoshima area, up through the historical Hiroshima prefecture, all the way to Yamagata, the borders of Japan’s ji-whisky (small distillery) scene are set to be redefined in 2018.

Read on and, perhaps, revisit your whisky resolutions for the year. A trip to Japan may be in order!

Sakurao Distillery

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Togouchi whisky brand. Created by Chugoku Shuzo, the range comprises of imported whisky, partially matured, and bottled in Japan. Many fans don’t particularly like the fact that it’s foreign whisky masquerading as Japanese, but now, the company is taking a step towards authenticity.

With the new Sakurao distillery, Chugoku Shuzo is hoping to create Hiroshima’s first single malt whisky and craft gin. The distillery will be opening its doors this year.

The gin, comprising of botanicals local to the area, will debut this year. Apparently oyster shells, which are a staple in Hiroshima, will be used in the recipe. Yum…

For whisky, we’ll have to wait until 2021.

Kanosuke Distillery

from kanosuke.com

from kanosuke.com

Moving west and down to Kagoshima, we find the Kanosuke distillery, a new venture by Komasa Jyozo Co, the shochu maker founded in 1883.

As with the company’s shochu, current director Yoshitsugu Komasa, hopes to create smooth, mellow whisky expressions. After receiving the license to distil in November 2017, the team got started immediately. The 9,000 square meter site features two large steel buildings decicated to whisky making and storing.

Expect the first expression to drop in 2020 and the distillery will be opening its doors to visitors this spring, when the weather in Kagoshima is at its finest.

Chokaisan Distillery

Moving up north, to Yamagata, the Chokaisan distillery is underway.

Another shochu-maker turning to whisky production, Sawaka Kinryu states that Chokaisan will be the very first craft whisky distillery in the prefecture. According to the company’s announcement, the idea came about almost a decade ago, but only now have real steps been taken.

Utilizing the rich land, which faces the Sea of Japan, Sawaka Kinryu is hoping to create distinct Japanese single malt whisky through Yamagata’s natural resources. Distillation is expected to begin at the end of 2018, with the annual capacity estimated a 90,000 litres.

The site will, most likely, open to visitors in the beginning of 2019.

More on the horizon

The most exciting times are yet to come, as the new ventures above start to mould their brands and designs, whilst working on perfecting their recipes.

Including the new sites, Japan will now be home to over 20 active distilleries. As new producers enter the scene and demand for Japan’s whisky rise, so will the passionate competition which, led by Suntory and Nikka, put the country’s whisky at the top of the global market.