Whisky on the Red Dot #03

FEATURE

Whisky on the Red Dot #03

Distilling Ancient Tradition, Staying True to Local Spirit

The First Distillery in Shizuoka, A Whiskey Lover’s Dream Come True.

The rise to global prominence of the craft liquor movement, with connoisseurs using novel techniques to reinvent traditional beverages, was undoubtedly an unexpected eye-opener for the liquor industry, despite the fact that every hardcore whisky lover has most likely, at least once, daydreamed of what it would be like to distill and imbibe the ultimate whisky. These whisky purists, once largely indifferent to the distilling process, are now able to realize this dream, thanks to Taiko Nakamura, Managing Director of Gaiaflow.
If one was to take the scenic forty minute drive from JR Shizuoka station up the gentle winding slope that runs along the Abegawa River and follow the road as it branches off parallel to one of the river’s tributaries, one would encounter a brilliant, pristine distillery impressively nestled among the mountains, woods and tea fields on a rustic twenty-thousand square meter property. Mr. Nakamura personally selected this site as the ideal location on which to establish his distillery, with construction being completed just last August, and operations starting soon after in November.
Mr. Nakamura is the third generation heir to his family’s precision parts manufacturing company, but during a trip to the Scotish Isle of Islay in two thousand twelve he had the chance to observe whiskey being made at the Kilchoman Distillery, an experience that altered the course of his destiny, inspiring him to pursue the dream of creating his own craft whisky brand.
“Even though it had just been established in two thousand and five, Kilchoman already had quite a reputation in Japan by then, because of how small and low-tech their operation was,” He reminisces, “If you ever have the chance to visit their facilities, you’ll be surprised. I thought that if they could craft a quality whisky using only what they had available locally there, I should be able to do it here too.”
Mr. Nakamura was so inspired, in fact, that immediately upon his return to Japan he consulted with Venture Whisky’s legendary founder Ichiro Akuto, who advised him to jump right into the industry, advice he followed by visiting distilleries and importing quality whiskies, not only from Scotland but also from as far afield as Taiwan and Sweden as well. At the same time, the search was on for the ideal site on which to set up his own distillery, and, after scouring the country he landed on the current site, then owned by Shizuoka City, in two thousand fourteen.

Taiko Nakamura and architect Derrek Buston. A restored Karuizawa Distillery pot still is on display in the aging room. The skylight allows summer sunshine to raise the temperature of the room, naturally accelerating the aging process.

Taiko Nakamura and architect Derrek Buston. A restored Karuizawa Distillery pot still is on display in the aging room. The skylight allows summer sunshine to raise the temperature of the room, naturally accelerating the aging process.

Tamagawa Kicori Inc., a collective of conscientious younger people who have moved into the area from other prefectures in order to address the issue of population decline in the small mountain towns in the district, provide the wood that fires the still at the distillery. This sense of community is integral to the philosophy of the distillery, with one of its core tenets being to utilize locally available resources to the fullest degree possible.

The plant acquired this beautiful pot still from the now-defunct legendary Karuizawa Distillery. The still, boasting a three thousand five hundred liter capacity, has been meticulously restored to its original glory, right down to the length and angle of its lyne arm.

This unique wood-burning direct-fired wash still, with its bulging shape and five thousand liter capacity, is the only one of its kind anywhere in the world. The stove section was custom created by a pizza oven maker in Japan. The still uses steam to help bring the unrefined alcohol to a boil, reaching temperatures of up to eight hundred degrees.

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