The story of Karuizawa

January’s bottle of the month is not a single bottle. Rather, Karuizawa collectively is the bottle of the month. You may ask why, and our answer is simple: Karuizawa is so rare that awarding bottle of the month to one single bottle might very well result in our bottle of the month going out of stock! On top of this, it is extremely difficult to pick just one bottle of Karuizawa over another, due to their exquisite taste. That being said, as January (or what’s left of it) is Karuizawa month, let’s take a moment to look over the basics of Karuizawaology.

Karuizawa was one of the smaller distilleries in Japan, located at a popular tourist resort town, not far from Tokyo, and bearing the same name. The distillery produced an approximate of only 150,000 liters of spirit each year. It was, in many ways, one of the most charming Japanese distilleries, which prided itself in using traditional whisky making methods. For example, the distillery imported golden barley from Scotland and sherry casks from Spain. The water that Karuizawa used flowed through lava, giving it an exceptionally peculiar taste.
Karuizawa whisky was stored in small barrels and the distillery used small pots for distillation. The storehouse of Karuizawa was covered in ivy, which was said to assist in keeping the temperature and humidity at a perfect level for producing good whisky.

Although very small, the distillery was known for producing whisky of the finest quality. Karuizawa whiskies were noted for their floral scent and maturity, which made them highly sought-after products. In fact, the distillery itself acquired something of a cult status, making it a popular tourist destination, with a museum, visitor center, and restaurant et al.

The distillery was set up in 1955, with the first vintage being released in 1971. All Karuizawa whiskies were blended until the late 1980s when it started making single malts. Unfortunately, Karuizawas ambition was also its undoing; its insistence on using traditional methods, and settling only for the best, proved commercially unsustainable. The company ceased production in 2000 and completely closed its doors in 2011. By now, Karuizawa whiskies are a collector’s item for any fan of quality whisky. Unlike some other closed down distilleries, the whisky from Karuizawa truly was top notch. Last summer, a single bottle of Karuizawa whisky, distilled in 1960, sold for a whopping 118.500 USD! Our bottles are thankfully not quite that expensive, but they are high grade, highly priced commodities.

For now, you can take a look at some of the Karuizawa bottles here, for more details on the distillery itself go here. In our next article, we will provide more information about several chosen bottles worth noting.