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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 1981 Single Cask #6370$5,249.99
Karuizawa is a silent distillery, with bottles from it fetching a fortune in the secondary market, with prices continuing to rise. This particular bottle was distilled in 1981 and matured in Sherry Butt Cask #6370 for 30 years until finally being bottled in 2011. Only 378 bottles were ever released. Like everything else from Karuizawa, […]
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 […]
Karuizawa Tokyo Bar Show 2016$4,019.99
You will have most certainly heard of Karuizawa – the gold standard of Japanese whisky. This Karuizawa Tokyo Barshow 2016 is another wonderful bottle from this, now silent, distillery. Distilled in 1999 with an alcohol strength of 60.3%, it was then matured in a sherry cask and bottled at cask strength, with only 420 bottles […]