The All-Hokkaido Japanese Whisky

We’ve been hearing about the Akkeshi distillery quite a lot recently. Exciting times are afoot up in Hokkaido, especially since the distillery released their very first New Born bottling at the end of February.  

Having tasted it, one thing is for certain – We can expect some great things from Akkeshi in the future. Now, the distillery is further progressing in its mission to create fully local whisky, infusing the surrounding area of Hokkaido with the traditional whisky-making skills used on Islay.

This time they’ve distilled spirit using only Japanese barley, taken from the Furano region in Hokkaido. According to Yahoo, 10 tonnes of malt was used to distil 4,500 litres of new make spirit. Japanese barley is used by a few distilleries in Japan, however, imported barley reigns supreme, due to a lack of supply of the domestic varieties. We already know that Akkeshi utilizes peat taken from bogs in the surrounding area. Water, of course, is stellar up in the cold North of Japan.

Part of the all-Hokkaido spirit was filled into casks of Asahikawa Mizunara oak, bringing the full meaning to the term “Japanese whisky”.

Akkeshi only opened in 2016, but has already amassed a large following. This is expected, as they are putting quality before all else, and creating peated, intense whiskies born through the clear, rich wort. During his seminar at the Tokyo Whisky Festival in 2017, distillery manager, Katsuyuki Tatsuzaki, spoke of the importance of the wort’s flavour, maturation, and the use of peat to create the Japanese equivalent of Scotland’s world-renowned Islay expressions.

This fully local whisky is an important step forward, and we’re excited to taste it once it matures. As the origin of many spirits labelled as Japanese whisky is being questioned, amidst lack of regulations and transparency, the movement led by small, passionate distillers is bringing the word “Japanese” under the spotlight in a very powerful way.