The Karuizawa Distillery & dekantā – Exclusive Partners

Today, we are delighted to announce that dekantā is now the exclusive worldwide supplier of sherry casks from the reborn Karuizawa Distillery. This partnership will see us working with Karuizawa for the next 10 years, offering our loyal customers the chance to own their very own cask of iconic Japanese whisky. 

The original Karuizawa Whisky Distillery, which sat just outside of Karuizawa, in the neighbouring town of Miyota, was sadly mothballed in 2000, with the ‘silent period’ of the late 1980s and early ‘90s leaving them struggling to continue distilling due to a lack of local and global demand for Japanese whisky.

In an unfortunate twist of fate, the Japanese whisky industry exploded onto international markets some five years later, when the Yamazaki 12 picked up a gold award at the International Spirits Challenge. But, sadly, it was too little too late for the Karuizawa Distillery.

Over the next two decades, the remaining casks of precious Karuizawa liquid would go on to become some of the most sought after in the entire world thanks to their signature, rich sherried style and their new found rarity. Today, Karuizawa single malt whiskies sell for tens of thousands of dollars at auction houses around the globe, as collectors vie to get their hands on what precious little liquid remains from this legend of Japanese whisky. 

The Reborn Karuizawa Distillery


Now, some 21 years after the initial closure, the Karuizawa Distillery is back, and they have even hired some of the original staff in a bid to recreate the long lost precious single malt whisky of Karuizawa. 

This time, the distillery was built by Mr Shigeru Totsuka-san. It is situated in the town of Karuizawa itself, known for its stunning year round vistas that range from vibrant green and yellow forests in the summer months to gleaming snow covered peaks that attract skiers from around the globe in the winter. 

Speaking of this exciting venture, Totsuka-san said, “I moved back from Tokyo to work for the family business – a sake distillery – in 1999 and I was in charge of making deliveries to Karuizawa. I loved the area and always dreamt of building a whisky distillery there. This was not necessarily going to be the Karuizawa Distillery, because that existed at the time, but I wanted to build a whisky distillery.” 

It would be over two decades before Totsuka-san would finally get the opportunity to realise his dream, and when the opportunity arose to build the Karuizawa Distillery, and do it in his favourite town, he jumped at the chance. 

Totsuka-san was well aware of the long, rich legacy that the Karuizawa Distillery name carries with it, and so he knew he would need to hire the very best Master Distillers in order to protect this legacy and ensure that only the finest liquid is bottled and released under the Karuizawa brand name. 

He hired ex-Mercian Karuizawa Distillery Master Distiller Osami Uchibori as an advisor, who has sadly since passed, and brought former Karuizawa distiller Yoshiyuki Nakazato on as Master Distiller.

He stated, “The timing could not have been better for setting up the new Kariuzawa Whisky Distillery. Uchibori-san, who made the original Karuizawa whisky, had just retired from another whisky-maker and had moved back to Karuizawa. I was good friends with him for a long time, so it was easy to ask him to come on board.”

“So he then brought Nakazato-san to the distillery. Of course, they worked together at the original Karuizawa Distillery.”

The Whisky


With a veteran distiller from the original Karuizawa Distillery on board and the stills fired up, Karuizawa began producing test batches in 2022, with full production beginning in 2023. The initial stages of distilling revolved around trying to find the correct flavour profile and things went smoother and worked out quicker than even Nakazato-san himself expected. 

“We made our first test batch of new-make to get the equipment up and running, which we didn’t expect much from, but I was surprised by how good it was. It was delicious, so that makes us very confident about the future.” – Nakazato-san 

Of course, Karuizawa whisky is most famous for its rich, sherried style resulting in a deep, dark colour and a whole array of fruity and spicy aromas and flavours that are hard to rival.This is a style that the new distillery aims to mirror, through the use of top quality sherry casks, long maturation times and careful monitoring. 

Totsuka-san stated, “Our first goal is to make whisky that is very similar to the old Karuizawa whisky, to continue that tradition, and then we may challenge other offerings, but our first goal is definitely to make whisky that is as good as the old Karuizawa whisky, using the person who made it, similar casks, similar stills etc. We want to create some of the very best single malt in Japan.”

“We have already sourced a large number of top quality sherry casks from Spain. Initially, we are using only sherry casks. What’s more, all of these casks will sit for a minimum of 10 years – no single malt will be released before then.”

No single malt whisky before 10 Years Old means we will be waiting a while to get our lips around some of the precious liquid from the new Karuizawa Distillery, but it also tells us the team that Totsuka-san has put together are dedicated to protecting the legacy of the Karuizawa Distillery, and that they are not willing to rush the job.

It’s an incredibly exciting venture that is set up nicely to succeed. With a fantastic team on board in the form of highly successful Master Distillers and advisors, who exhibit a dedication to protect what came before them, and a lack of any rush to do so, they have all of the necessary ingredients to be a brilliant Japanese whisky distillery.

Early Praise from a Karuizawa Expert

When Daniel Lam, Head of Wine & Spirits at Spink Auction House and something of a legend in Japanese whisky and Karuizawa bottle sales, visited the distillery earlier this year, he was excited by what he found there. 

Of the whisky, he said, “All of the old Karuizawa was signed by either Uchibori-san or Nakazato-san. Those are two fundamental routes for the successful Karuizawa whisky style. I think when I look at the distillery, the equipment and the procedure – it’s a very concise, small distillery but with modern technology and being more selective in terms of production, so that thye don’t overproduce, I think they will make very very good whisky for the new, reborn Karuizawa”. 

Exclusive Partnership with dekantā


As if the return of the Karuizawa Distillery wasn’t enough to get everyone excited, we’re pleased to announce that dekantā has officially partnered with the distillery, bringing the long-desired opportunity of private cask ownership to our friends and followers, allowing you to live the dream of owning a full cask of whisky from a legendary Japanese distillery.

Of the partnership, Totsuka-san said, ““We wanted to partner with someone who is able to do premium, high-end bottlings of fantastic whisky because we want to protect the Karuizawa brand and ensure it is always regarded as the best. I think dekantā is the best partner for doing this on an international level.”

Cask purchases come with opportunities to sample the liquid, visit the distillery and create your very own independent bottling of Karuizawa Single Malt Whisky. 

With extremely limited quantities available, it’s worth registering your interest by clicking here.

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