Whisky on the Red Dot

FEATURE

Whisky on the Red Dot

New distilleries in Japan are on the rise. Of all these distilleries aiming to be the next signature Japanese brand, which will succeed the country’s current leading whiskey, Ichiro’s Malt?

Akkeshi Distillery, Akkeshi District, Hokkaido. Kenten Co.

An Ideal Land Reminiscent of the Sacred Island of Islay

About an hour drive from the center of Kushiro in Hokkaido lies the port town of Akkeshi facing the Pacific Ocean. The word spread about a whiskey distillery being established here in 2014 when Japanese whiskey was booming thanks to the NHK TV drama, “Massan”, about the early days of the Nikka Whiskey distilling company. Even more surprising, this is the first venture into the alcohol industry for the company running this distillery.

From the outset, there were whispered rumors and anxiety around Akkeshi Distillery, but they have abated as the distillery continues to meet the monumental expectations held by passionate whiskey fans who see Akkeshi as the potential new Holy Land of Japanese whiskey brands.

But this is odd. Akkeshi Distillery only just began operations last November. None of their products have even been officially released to market, so naturally there is no way for whiskey fans to taste the final product. Regardless, there is a lot of excitement about the future of this distillery. Why is that the case?

Completely encompassed by wetlands and the sea. The best climate and conditions.

One key to solving this mystery of the distillery’s popularity lies in the surrounding environment. Distillery Manager, Tatsuyuki Tatsuzaki explains.

“A chilly and wet climate is needed for making whiskey. Fixed temperature differences throughout the year are also essential. Here in Akkeshi, we’re surrounded by vast wetlands and the ocean is nearby. In the summer, temperatures reach about 25 degrees, but in the winter temperatures can drop to at least 10 below zero. These two important requirements are met, and the environment for making whiskey is ideal.”

Being blessed with this type of climate is truly rare. However, none of these conditions are limited to Akkeshi, so why be particular about making whiskey here? The reason for this lies with the image of whiskey that Akkeshi Distillery pursues.

The distillery is surrounded by wetlands. The design of the distillery name in large black letters on the exterior white wall is reminiscent of Scotland’s Islay island.

Distillery Manager, Tatsuzaki, formerly served as a quality control manager for a major dairy product manufacturer. He has an unusual resume for a whiskey craftsman.

The distillery is surrounded by wetlands. The design of the distillery name in large black letters on the exterior white wall is reminiscent of Scotland’s Islay island.

Distillery Manager, Tatsuzaki, formerly served as a quality control manager for a major dairy product manufacturer. He has an unusual resume for a whiskey craftsman.

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