Whisky on the Red Dot #05

FEATURE

Whisky on the Red Dot #05

250 Year Old Brewery Explores New Frontiers

A Meeting Rekindles a Passion for Whiskey

Lake Inawashiro, at the base of picturesque Mt. Bandai in Fukushima prefecture, has another, more poetic name. Locals sometimes call it Tenkyouko, The Mirror of Heaven, for its serene beauty, crystal clarity, and the brilliance with which it catches the sunlight.

It was in these environs, in Koriyama City just to the east of the lake, that the Sasanokawa Brewery set up operations in seventeen sixty-five, rapidly establishing an enduring reputation as one of the prefecture’s most prestigious sake producers, a reputation they maintain down to this day.

In more recent years, their Sasanokawa-daiginjo brand sake has earned an international reputation among sake aficionados, even taking home a Monde Selection Gold Quality Award.

If one had been present at the company’s two hundred and fiftieth-anniversary celebration in two thousand fifteen one would most certainly have been stricken by the juxtaposition of modern Western whisky distillation equipment with the classical Japanese setting; the gleaming copper pot stills standing out in eccentric contrast to the facility’s age-worn white walls and weathered timberwork ceiling, as if this unique blending of disparate elements were somehow alluding to a secret promise contained within this new distillery freshly grown out of rich tradition.
At the end of last year, the Sasanokawa Brewery proudly unveiled their new whiskey brand, the Asaka Distillery, but this isn’t their first foray into the whiskey business.

The Sasanokawa Brewery first got their license to distill whiskey in nineteen forty-six, just after the end of the Second World War, and soon after, they launched their beloved Cherry Whisky, which gained great renown in Japan during the domestic whisky boom of the nineteen-eighties, but it took a historic meeting between Sasanokawa Brewery’s then-president Tetsuzo Yamaguchi and legendary craft whisky pioneer Ichiro Akuto of Venture Whisky, to take the brewery on this bold new trajectory.

Akuto’s Hanyu Distillery had become insolvent and the business was in immanent peril, and it was at this meeting that Yamaguchi was moved to step in and agree to store Akuto’s entire remaining stock of whiskey. Reflecting on this game-changing confluence of events, Mr. Yamaguchi says, “If I hadn’t met Mr. Akuto and witnessed his passion for whiskey first hand, Asaka Distillery would certainly not have come into existence.”

The sun rises behind the Sasanokawa sign emblazoned on the green building within which their column stills are in continuous operation.

The building that now houses the distillery had long been used as a sake warehouse. The two pot stills, standing in gleaming contrast to the old timber ceiling, were forged by Miyake Seisakusho, famous manufacturers of some the highest quality stills in the country.

The sun rises behind the Sasanokawa sign emblazoned on the green building within which their column stills are in continuous operation.

The building that now houses the distillery had long been used as a sake warehouse. The two pot stills, standing in gleaming contrast to the old timber ceiling, were forged by Miyake Seisakusho, famous manufacturers of some the highest quality stills in the country.

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