Whisky on the Red Dot #04

FEATURE

Keeping the Strength of Local Lumber Alive

Bringing Shizuoka Quality to the World Stage

Mr. Nakamura’s unique vision of creating a world-class distillery that would attract whisky aficionados from around the globe would require an architect with a truly cosmopolitan worldview. He decided to entrust Shizuoka-based Seattle native Derrek Buston with bringing this ambitious dream to life.

They stayed true to their policy of using only locally sourced materials during construction, relying primarily on the Japanese cypress that is indigenous to the area, in the process supporting the burgeoning forestry industry in the region.

This distinctive distillery faced two unique challenges at this point.

The first challenge they faced was in finding the best locally sourced wood for the washbacks, the tubs the mash is fermented in. Since lumber naturally hosts native yeast cultures, and that yeast affects the fermentation process, the wood they chose for the washbacks would be one of the critical factors in determining the flavor and unique character of the spirits they produced. They finally selected Japanese Cedar in order to imbue the whisky with just the right balance of taste and body.

The other challenge lay in finding firewood for the distillery’s one direct firewood-burning still, forged specially for them by Forsyths of Scotland.

Mr. Nakamura cites precedent for this unique approach, “Firewood is abundant around here, and there are still a few liquor makers, particularly distillers of brandy or Okinawan awamori, that use direct wood fire in their distillation process, a carryover from the days before coal use became widespread.”

Be that as it may, Mr. Nakamura’s project may mark the first time in the modern era for a whisky distillery to use a direct wood fire still.

“When we were starting out,” he continues, “we began to get discouraged because we were so plagued with problems,” but they persisted, overcame those obstacles, and their method has proven itself successful.

They have also inherited part of the legendary legacy of the Japanese whisky tradition in the form of equipment from the renowned Karuizawa Distillery. They had the antique stills lovingly restored and have put them happily back to work doing what they were meant to do, distilling top-quality spirits. The torch has been passed on to the next generation.

Still in their first year of production, the distillery has introduced imported Scottish peat malt, and Sachicho Golden, a domestic barley, to the process. The spirits are distilled according to type in the distillery’s three pot stills and matured in bourbon barrels.

From the outset, Mr. Nakamura and Mr. Buston shared the vision of designing the Shizuoka Distillery to showcase the whisky making process to visitors, who will undoubtedly be moved by how intimately they will be able to observe every aspect of the process. The Distillery began taking reservations for guided tours at the start of the new year, and they are currently in the process of constructing their visitor center.

“Our ambition is to create a whisky that we never tire of drinking, a whisky that conveys the full, rich flavor of this area.”

Mr. Nakamura then proudly announces that Single Malt Shizuoka is poised to take the whiskey world by storm starting in the summer of two thousand twenty.

Words: Yoshitaka Nishida
Photography: Yasuyuki Emori

The brand new spirit safe has just successfully completed its first year’s work. Each of the immature whiskies has its own unique character, resulting from the individual qualities of each the distillery’s three pot stills, the variety of barley used in its production, and the type of wood in which it was fermented.

A rare Porteus malt mill, salvaged from the old Karuizawa Distillery. Manufactured in Germany, and obsequious at distilleries in Scotland, the company ceased production in the early twentieth century.

The brand new spirit safe has just successfully completed its first year’s work. Each of the immature whiskies has its own unique character, resulting from the individual qualities of each the distillery’s three pot stills, the variety of barley used in its production, and the type of wood in which it was fermented.

A rare Porteus malt mill, salvaged from the old Karuizawa Distillery. Manufactured in Germany, and obsequious at distilleries in Scotland, the company ceased production in the early twentieth century.

The walls, ceiling, and scaffolding were all crafted from locally grown Japanese cypress. The large windows allow onlookers to observe the fermentation process. Three of the washbacks are made of Oregon pine and one is made of cedar.

アセット 1