On Friday, February 9th, up at the Akkeshi distillery in Hokkaido, a ceremony was held celebrating the company’s first whisky bottling.
In the parking lot, the distillery team was joined by the heads of the company backing the venture, as a Japanese priest moved forward with the ceremony. After cutting the inauguration ribbon, the first shipment of Akkeshi whisky was sent on its way.
Named the Akkeshi New Born, NHK in Japan reports that 10,000 bottles were released, each holding 200ml. The expression will be reaching stores in Sapporo and Tokyo on the 27th of February and is expected to go far. The bottles are many, but Akkeshi fans have been waiting over a year for Japan’s Islay-esque distillery to release some whisky from the stills. We expect they’ll be thirsty!
During the Tokyo Whisky Festival 2017, I attended a seminar held by Akkeshi’s distillery leader, Katsuyuki Tatsuzaki. The New Born Prototype available during the seminar was immense. Aged between 5 and 14 months, the sweetness of the ageing in bourbon casks perfectly complimented the spirit’s strong, fresh character and brought hints of wood and earth. Honey and maple dominated the nose, leading one to believe a fully sweet palate would ensue. However, the palate instead brought earth, fresh citrus, and wood alongside the sweetness. All the attendees, including myself, were pleasantly surprised at what the distillery has accomplished in just over a year.
Looking at the label, this Prototype is bourbon-aged, non-peated, and looks very similar to what was sampled at the festival. So, the good news is, if it’s same one, it tastes pretty great.
Akkeshi has been under the spotlight since its inception in 2016, as fans both domestically and globally expect much from Hokkaido’s second distillery, after the legendary Yoichi. Utilizing the area’s peatlands, Akkeshi looks to create whisky in a similar way to that of the Scottish isle of Islay, yet maintain a uniquely Japanese experience, imbued with the surrounding land.
The distillery seems to be well on its way.