The Year Ahead – What’s Set To Happen in Japanese Whisky in 2018

Our recent piece on Japanese whisky in 2017 aimed to help you look back on the incredible year, reminisce on drams tasted and events attended, and learn a little bit more about the wonderful world of Japanese whisky.

As 2018 comes to a close, it’s time to let the past go and focus on the exciting year ahead. Resolutions will be made, goals will be set, and the bells will bring in a blank canvas of opportunity.

For Japanese whisky, 2018 will be amazing, there’s no doubt about it. Starting your list of bottles to be tasted and events to experience? Take a look at what to expect in 2018.

New Distilleries

While 2017 didn’t deliver much in terms of new Japanese distilleries, 2018 is gearing up to be very exciting.

Chugoku Jozo has been in the drinks business for a century now, and is behind the Togouchi whisky brand, which is foreign whisky, which is imported and then blended and matured on site, in Hiroshima.

Sakurao Distillery

The company is now looking to start producing some real domestic whisky with its new Sakurao distillery. The distillery will be producing a fully Japanese gin using botanicals local to Hiroshima and the area’s very first single malt whisky. The gin is set to debut in 2018, and the whisky should drop around 2021, after aging for 3 years.

Next we have Kagoshima’s new Kanosuke distillery. Shochu-maker Komasa Jyozo Co. is the company behind the venture, founded back in 1883. Situated near Fukiage beach, the longest beach in the country, Kanosuke will be producing whisky headed by Yoshitsugu Komasa.

Opening to visitors in spring 2018, expect the first Kanosuke expression to drop in 2020.

In Yamagata, shochu-maker Sawaka Kinryu is currently building the Chokaisan distillery, claiming to be the first craft distillery in the area. Production is expected to begin in 2018.

Awards & Events

After Japanese whisky received awards for the world’s best blended whisky, grain whisky, and single cask single malt at last year’s World Whiskies Awards, we’re more than excited for the WWA 2018. Judging is currently underway, and the results are expected in spring 2018.

The International Wine & Spirits Competition 2018 is now open for entries, with the final winners being announced in summer 2018.

In terms of events, the wonderful Chichibu Festival will be taking place on February 18th. Make sure to attend for a bottle of the Chichibu Matsuri 2018. Last year’s bottling was named the “World’s Best Single Cask Single Malt”, so expectations are huge.

Chichibu Festival

The Tokyo International BarShow will be held in May. June will see the Osaka Whisky Festival and the amazing Whisky Talk Fukuoka event take place. In August, whisky lovers can travel north, to the Hokkaido Whisky Festival.

The always fun Whisky & Beer Camp will be taking place in Nagano on the weekend of the 9th and 10th of September.

The excitement will build nearing year’s end with the great Tokyo Whisky Festival held over two days, on the 24th and 25th of November. Up until 2017 the event ran for only one day. Now attendees will have more time to explore the many amazing booths, while taking their time to savour the drams. Here’s what happened at the 2017 event.

New Releases

As mentioned above, the Chichibu Matsuri 2018 bottling is one of the most anticipated releases of 2018.

Yamazaki Mizunara 2017

On a global scale, after the huge success of the 2017 release, the Yamazaki Limited Edition 2018 will be the fifth and most anticipated instalment in the series. Keep your eyes peeled on our blog for more info in the coming months.

The New Year will see the first release by Japan’s Akkeshi distillery. After tasting some of their younger stuff at the Tokyo Whisky Festival 2017, we’re more than excited for the first release.

The Nagahama distillery is also set to release their very first aged expression, which is expected to be a marriage of 1 year-old Mizunara whisky and some bourbon aged spirit. After the success of their new-make releases, the new product is expected to be a hit with Japanese craft whisky fans.

As usual, we’ll put our all into keeping you informed on the latest Japanese whisky news and releases as 2018 progresses.

In the meantime, keep all of the above in mind and, perhaps, build your New Year resolutions around the amazing events and bottlings ahead.

We wish you all a wonderful New Year. We’ll be raising a few drams to you all when the bells ring.