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Learn About the Karuizawa Distillery
Karuizawa was a small distillery that produced first-class malt whiskeys.
There is no shortage of thawing snow at Mount Asama and the chilly climate provided an excellent location for whiskey making. In 1976 the first 100 percent domestic malt whiskey saw the light of day at Karuizawa. The whiskey was stored in small barrels, and the distillery used small pots for distillation. The storehouse of Karuizawa was also covered in ivy, which is said to assist in keeping the temperature and humidity at exactly the right levels for producing good whisky. Though small, this distillery was known for producing whiskey of the finest quality.
Karuizawa whiskeys are noted for their floral scent and maturity, making them highly sought-after products. In former times the company produced pharmaceuticals and chemicals as well as alcoholic beverages before focusing solely on alcoholic beverages.
History Of The Karuizawa Distillery
Suzuki Chuji, the second son of the founder of the Ajinomoto brand, started brewing sake from soya beans and founded the Showa Brewing Corp. in 1934.
After establishing a factory in Kawasaki, the company began producing Miraku refined sake, and in 1949, the name of the company was changed to Miraku Breweries Corp. In 1955, the Karuizawa distillery was built near Mount Asama, and whisky production began.
In 1961 the company acquired wine maker Nisshin Breweries based in the city of Koshu. The Nisshin owned the Mercian brand, and under this name the company added wine its production. In the following year it acquired the Ocean brand (owned by Daikoku Wineries). Following the example of Suntory, the company became a large producer of Western style alcoholic beverages under the Ocean name.
In 1970 the company marketed Chateau Mercian wine, and then during the 1980s highball boom, the company started making sour drinks and cocktails of all sorts, such as the famous peachtree fizz that’s still popular today. In 1990 the company acquired its present name of Mercian.
For a long time, the Suzuki family owned the largest shares in Ajinomoto; however, in 1997 following a power struggle, the company president published a damning account of family’s behavior. The company was then reworked and improved before being acquired as a subsidiary of Kirin Holdings in the mid-2000s. Today, Mercian forms the nucleus of the Kirin group’s wine industry. Although the main shareholder has changed, the company itself remains largely unchanged from its Ajinomoto origins.
But Kirin could not sustain the premium whisky production, so the Karuizawa distillery and its sister distillery at Kawasaki closed in 2011. When Karuizawa was completely shuttered in 2012, the pot still and other equipment were removed, and what could be sold was sold off. As Karuizawa is now a rare, world-famous whisky, its price has almost doubled in recent times. Currently it’s not easy to get one’s hands on a bottle.
Unfortunately it is no longer possible to visit the Karuizawa distillery as the land on which it stood was sold in 2012.
How To Find The Karuizawa Distillery
Unfortunately it is no longer possible to visit the Karuizawa distillery as it was closed and the land on which it stood sold in 2012.
Whisky From The Karuizawa Distillery
Mercian Karuizawa Master’s Blend Whisky$659.99
Yet another winner from this legendary but lost Japanese distillery, which has produced so many internationally acclaimed malts. This particular whisky is a NAS botting released in 1994. It is a well matured finished whisky presented in an original box.
Karuizawa Yashiro 1971 37 Year Old with Wooden Box$15,499.99
Yet another collector’s edition from the, now silent, Karuizawa distillery. This specially designed bottle in a specially designed case is as rare as they get! The bottle is dedicated to the traditional Japanese ballad (Enka) Aki Yashiro. The taste is soft, delicate, and elegant, as well as being somewhat smooth. White peach, dried figs, and […]
Karuizawa Vintage 1994 Cask #2211 Set$4,199.99
The Karuizawa Distillery was established in 1955 in the foothills of Mount Asama – an active volcano. The area is a popular mountain resort and the distillery is the highest in Japan at 850m above sea level. Traditional, small-scale, high-quality production is the aim, with wooden wash backs, small stills, and sherry casks from Spain, […]
Karuizawa Vintage 1981 Cask #2100$6,099.99
Here’s another fantastic and rare Karuizawa single-cask whisky from the Geisha collection! Karuizawa, which is a closed Japanese whisky distillery, shut down whisky production in 2011, but much of its remaining stock continues to be distributed. The Karuizawa Single Cask Vintage 1981 Cask #2100 is under Karuizawa’s famous Geisha label, and this bottle is a […]
Karuizawa Vintage 1973 Single Cask$7,799.99
Karuizawa is the gold standard of rare Japanese whisky. The distillery closed its doors in 2011, although it had not been producing whisky for over a decade. This particular Single Cask of 1973 was distilled and matured in Cask #6249 for 35 years before being bottled on March 2008. Presented in its original box with […]