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Learn about the Hakushu Distillery
Literally towering above its competitors, Hakushu is the highest operational distillery in Japan, with an altitude of more than 2000 feet above sea level. Rather like its Scottish counterpart, Dalwhinnie (the highest distillery in Scotland), whose altitude is said by some to play a huge part in the character and style of its spirits, Hakushu produces a wonderfully balanced malt of the highest quality.
The water source bears almost as much importance as the altitude, with the distillery drawing its reserves from the foot of Mount Kai Komagatake, a horse-shaped peak in the Kai province. The water is softer and has a much lower mineral content than the waters used in other Japanese distilleries, which perhaps adds to the significantly different style of spirits produced here. The impressive twin towers of the distillery’s Visitor Centre and Museum of Distillation pay homage to the time when the site played home to two separate distilleries that later joined forces in 1981. Perhaps the walkway between the two signifies the meeting of minds and styles that Hakushu is renowned for, with the proprietary 10, 12 and 18 year old single malt bottlings not only reflecting a wonderful range of flavours, but picking up a number of awards to boot.
History Of The Hakushu Distillery
Tasked with producing an original whisky distinct from those originating at Yamazaki distillery, the Hakushu distillery was built as Suntory’s second distillery in 1973 on the 50th anniversary of the start of construction at its sister facility.
The distillery, which has created a rich variety of whiskies since its opening, is one of only a few distilleries in the world to be located at a forested, high-elevation site. Initiatives designed to coexist with the rich natural environment at the base of Mount Kai Komagatake include setting aside about 820.000 square metres of forested land and protecting bird life by establishing a wild bird sanctuary.
Hakushu distillery is located near the pristine waters of the Ojira River, which has been designated by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment as one of the highest-quality water sources in the country. The construction of the distillery, which is surrounded by expansive forest, was the culmination of a many-year search for a site that could best take advantage of Japan’s natural bounty in the process of making whisky. A willingness to experiment through a process of trial and error has led to the production of a remarkable variety of single malt whiskies at the facility, bringing to fruition the goal of creating a world-class whisky that would please the delicate Japanese palate. Hakushu distillery, which produces Hakushu single malt whisky and an array of other world-renowned, high quality whiskies, continues to pursue new whisky flavours and aromas in a beautiful natural setting.
Hakushu’s natural features and climate
AAfter carving a path down through the rock of Mount Kai Komagatake, clear-flowing rainwater joins the Ojira River and the Jingu River to form an alluvial fan of white sand at the foot of the mountain. The name Hakushu, which means “white sandbar,” reflects the geological character of the site. The clear air and cool, humid climate of Hakushu’s vast forests allow the distillery, one of only a few such facilities in the world to be located at an elevation of 700 meters or above, to produce high-quality whisky through a slow, unhurried process.
The pristine waters of Hakushu
Water from the mountains is a gift from the gods, and indeed, the natural water of Hakushu could only be made through the mysterious workings of the great natural wilderness surrounding the site, which is known for the clear-flowing Ojira River, considered one of Japan’s most exceptional sources of water. The soft water created as snow cover on the slopes of the Southern Alps melts and seeps down through the area’s granite strata serves as the beginning of the malt whisky produced by Hakushu Distillery.
The Hakushu Whisky Process
The real process of making single malt whisky begins with a procedure called mashing, in which malt is ground into fine pieces and mixed with hot water in a tank called a mash tun. As starch in the mash is converted into sugar, the mixture is slowly filtered to create a clear liquid known as wort. Suntory produces whisky in Hakushu, an area that is blessed with exceptional natural water, precisely because the quality of the water used influences the flavour of the wort. Next, the wort is transferred to a washback, and yeast is added. The yeast generates alcohol, carbon dioxide gas and congeners of flavour in a process known as fermentation. Hakushu distillery uses wooden washbacks. Despite demanding temperature control requirements, wooden washbacks not only take advantage of the site’s natural bounty, but also help produce refreshing yet complex single malt whiskies through the action of the distillery’s naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria and other microorganism populations.
The wash produced during the fermentation process is distilled twice in rows of pot stills of different shapes and sizes. By using different stills, the distillery is able to produce a variety of whiskies with flavours ranging from light to full-bodied. Direct-fired distillation at a temperature of about 1.200°C creates an even greater range of flavour-contributing substances.
Hakushu distillery’s use of a variety of processes and techniques from the mashing stage through distillation allows it to produce an array of single malt whiskies with a variety of characters.
Following distillation, whiskies are placed in casks and allowed to slumber in the distillery’s aging warehouse until they have mellowed. The Hakushu distillery primarily uses hogshead casks, which are suitable with the clear air and cool, humid climate.
How To Find The Hakushu Distillery
If you are planning on visiting the Eigashima distillery you can find it using the map provided here. The address for the Eigashima distillery is as follows:
- 2913-1 Torihara
- Hokuto-shi, Yamanashi Prefecture
- +81 (0)78 946 1001
- +81 (0)78-947-0002
- Contact the Eigashima Distillery
Directions To Hakushu Distillery
Hakushu distillery offers guided tours of its facility. The tours are conducted in Japanese but an audio guide in English, French and Chinese is available. You can reach Hakushu using the following modes of transport:
Train – the distillery is located about 10 minutes by car from Kobuchizawa Station on the JR Chuo Main Line.
Car – the distillery is located 15 minutes by car from the Kobuchizawa Interchange on the Chuo Expressway. The car park has a capacity for 200 passenger cars (Large buses can also be accommodated). Please note – Drivers are not permitted to sample whisky as consumption of alcoholic beverages by drivers is prohibited by law. Thank you for your cooperation.
Bus service – From Nirasaki to Hakushu Distillery, No. 3 boarding area at Nirasaki Station → Matsubarakami (the closest bus stop to the distillery).
From Hakushu Distillery to Nirasaki – Matsubarakami (the closest bus stop to the distillery) → Nirasaki Station.
For departure times, fares, and other information, please contact the Yamako Town Coach Nirasaki Sales Office by phone on +81-551-22-2511.
The distillery may be crowded depending on the season of your visit, and you may be asked to wait some time before your tour begins. Thank you for your understanding and patience.
Whisky From The Hakushu Distillery
Yamazaki & Hakushu Lucky and Life Ceramic Bottle Set$1,499.99
Suntory is the oldest whisky making company in Japan. Its origins stretch back to a small shop, started in 1899 by Torii Shinjiro, which specialized in selling imported wines. Today, it is the country’s largest and most recognizable producer of quality whisky. This particular Suntory set includes a bottle of Hakushu whisky ceramic and Yamazaki […]
The Cask of Hakushu 1993$2,599.99
Suntory is one of the largest makers of alcoholic beverages in the world. Its products include favorites, such as the Yamazaki and Hibiki, and of course, the Hakushu, which remains as popular as ever. This particular Hakushu Whisky was distilled in 1993 and matured in a Spanish Oak Cask #3C40789 until being bottled last 2008. […]
Suntory Whisky Hakushu Distillery 30th Anniversary$1,599.99
Suntory is one of the largest makers of alcoholic beverages in the world. Its products include favorites, such as the Yamazaki and Hibiki, and of course, the Hakushu, which remains as popular as ever. This particular Hakushu Distillery Whisky was released to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Hakushu Distillery. This a rare and memorable whisky. […]
Suntory W. Whisky Shop Single Cask Set 190ml$1,389.99
Suntory W Shop-Osaka release has been closed last March 2016. No more releases of W.Whiskies so it will be more difficult to have one! This particular single cask set was released to celebrate their 4th anniversary. Hakushu Vintage 2000- Spanish Oak Ex-Sherry Cask- 55% abv- 19cl Yamazaki Vintage 2003- White Oak Hogshead Cask- 60% abv- 19cl This […]
Suntory The Owner’s Cask Hakushu 1996 for 45th Anniversary of Japanese Financial Newspaper$1,599.99
Suntory is the oldest whisky making company in Japan. Its origins stretch back to a small shop, started in 1899 by Torii Shinjiro, which specialized in selling imported wines. Today, it is the country’s largest and most recognizable producer of quality whisky. This particular Hakushu Single Cask was distilled in 1996 and aged in Cask […]
Suntory The Owner’s Cask Hakushu 1992$1,399.99
Suntory is the oldest whisky making company in Japan. Its origins stretch back to a small shop, started in 1899 by Torii Shinjiro, which specialized in selling imported wines. Today, it is the country’s largest and most recognizable producer of quality whisky. This particular Suntory The Owner’s Cask Hakushu was distilled in 1992 in a […]