Whisky Connosr
Menu
Shop

Discussions

Planning a Japanese Distillery Visit

0 21

@InGreatSpirits
InGreatSpirits started a discussion

I'll be headed to Japan in two months and am in the process of finalizing our itinerary. After doing a bit of research on my end, our current plan has us visiting Suntory's Hakushu distillery. I really wanted to visit the Chichibu operation as well but I don't believe they offer tours yet. Does anyone have any other recommendations on distilleries or any places associated with whisky that are worth visiting?

11 years ago

21 replies

@CanadianNinja

@InGreatSpirits, I would highly recommend a visit to the Miyagikyou distillery located just outside of Sendai City. It is easily accessible from Sendai, located in an incredibly beautiful area and Miyagikyou is some of the best, often overlooked Japanese whisky!

As well, that area of Japan is in great need of any and all tourist dollars it can get since suffering from the earthquake.

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

@InGreatSpirits

Thanks for the follow up @CanadianNinja. I had actually looked in to visiting both the Miyagikyo and Yoichi distilleries but unfortunately, it looks like our trip will mostly be south of Tokyo. I can only hope that I can make it back in the future to visit the northern prefectures. Thanks again for the recommendation and I'll definitely be looking to get my hands on the Miyagikyo single malt or, if I'm lucky, single cask.

11 years ago 0

@CanadianNinja

@InGreatSpirits, please let me know where you end up going. I'd love to hear about your experiences. They will help me decide on which distilleries I should get myself to!

11 years ago 0

@InGreatSpirits

I definitely will. And keep me posted on any other bottles that you think I should keep an eye out for while I'm there - both for drinking and collecting. I'm going to see if I can get my hands on a Karuizawa before supplies run dry (something other than the Spirit of Asama) and possibly something from the Hanyu Malt Card series if I can.

11 years ago 0

@CanadianNinja

You may find it much more difficult to find Karuizawa whiskies than you think! They're not widely available... at all! If you're lucky enough to come across anything from the Noh series, you better be prepared to spend a fair amount of money.

You can find other bottles which were originally just for the Japanese market, however they are rare as well. I can almost guarantee that you won't find any Karuizawa in the major liquor shops or department stores. You'd be better off searching in the mom and pop liquor shops. You can sometimes make some great discoveries in the little corner liquor shops.

11 years ago 0

@InGreatSpirits

That's what I was afraid of with the Karuizawa's. I feel like I'm a few years too late with regards to making any sort of spectacular find given how much the Japanese whisky market has exploded recently. I'll be sure to keep my eyes open in the mom and pop shops (especially for something from the Noh series which I've been wanting for a while).

11 years ago 0

@CanadianNinja

Sorry to have had to break the bad news to you @InGreatSpirits! The fact is that since the last of Karuizawa's stock was purchased by Number One drinks, the whiskies have been released in such a way to turn the highest profit. This means being very careful about when and where they release bottles, the way they are marketed and of course, pricing!

I am not trying to come across as the authority here (I am far from it)! This is simply coming from someone who lives in Japan and has spent a great deal of time searching for Karuizawa whiskies. I'm certainly not saying it's impossible to find that special bottle, it's just difficult without ordering online and paying a ridiculous price.

As for the Hanyu/Ichiro's Malt, those are quite available. I would strongly recommend getting yourself to a Big Camera. It's a chain of stores which specializes in electronics, however they also sell alcohol at very good prices. They often keep a pretty good selection of Ichiro's Malt in stock.

11 years ago 0

@InGreatSpirits

The info you've provided so far has been a huge help - having lived in Japan for 10 years, I would definitely consider you to be an authority compared to anyone else I've spoken to thus far. I only wish stores here in the states sold both electronics and liquor...one stop shopping. Any favorite bottles outside of the Miyagikyo, Karuizawa, or Hanyu/Ichiro series that you would recommend?

11 years ago 0

@NilsG
NilsG replied

If you make it to Hokkaido, I can take you to Yoichi. And maybe there's still some left of this single cask Yamazaki 13yo, the best Japanese dram I've had to date, and exclusive to this one bar in Sapporo. But they reckoned they would run out of it some time in may.

11 years ago 0

@Nolinske
Nolinske replied

@InGreatSpirits I'd love to see a write up of your distillery visit on its on forum post when u get back if u have time. I don't know if I will ever make it to Japan so I would love to know what a Japanese distillery is like.

11 years ago 0

@InGreatSpirits

@NilsG, unfortunately I won't be making my way that far north, otherwise I would take you up on that offer in a heartbeat. I'm pretty psyched I've been able to connect with some whisky lovers in Japan - sure beats having to spend hours pouring over the limited books and articles online about Japanese whisky outside of the nonjatta blog. @Nolinske, I'll definitely try and get a write up and some photos together after visiting the Hakushu distillery.

11 years ago 0

@CanadianNinja

@InGreatSpirits, there are so many great Japanese whiskies, I'm pretty sure you'll feel like a kid in a candy store! Personally, I would suggest trying many of the blended or 'pure malt' whiskies while you are here. In my opinion the Japanese produce some of the best blended whiskies around.

Hey @NilsG, will you take me to that bar?? ; )

11 years ago 0

@InGreatSpirits

So the TWE Blog had a posting this morning about touring the Karuizawa distillery last year and how their visit was the last time the distillery would be open to the public. In my earlier attempts at researching the facility, I had read they had a museum on site and that it was still open so that was bit of disappointment to start the morning. What I wouldn't do to get my hands on one of their barrel heads or some other memento from the distillery. It's actually a pretty depressing read ...

blog.thewhiskyexchange.com/2013/03/…

11 years ago 0

@InGreatSpirits

Figured I would do a quick follow up on this being that I got back from our Japan trip last week and am just now getting back on a regular schedule. It was definitely an unbelievable experience both culturally and from a whisky perspective. Got to visit the Hakushu distillery as well as a private tour from Ichiro Akuto at Chichibu which was fantastic. Ended the trip in Tokyo where I feverishly tried to find some unique bottles before making the trip home. I'm hoping to get a chance to sit down and put together a write up with pictures from the visits but it was quite the trip to say the least. @CanadianNinja...you were right, Karuizawa was not to be found in any of the shops I visited (and I went to a bunch). I went to Liquors Hasegawa in the Tokyo station where they had just unpacked a box of the TIBS bottling from this year and, like an idiot, I held off thinking I would pick up a bottle the second day only to find them all sold out. Fortunately, two of the Card Series bottles came home with me along with several others.

11 years ago 4Who liked this?

DevD replied

@InGreatSpirits, How is the Karuizawa Spirit of Asama as my wife is traveling to London and was planning to ask her to pick it up from The Whisky Exchange shop who have this in stock

11 years ago 0

@InGreatSpirits

@DevD, Funny you should ask that. Being that I wasn't able to find any Karuizawa while I was over there, I ordered a bottle of the 1982 Bourbon Cask and two bottles of the Spirit of Asama (55%) all from the Whisky Exchange. Broke the bank in doing so but I figured it may be my only chance to try the stuff. It should arrive any day so I'll have to keep you posted.

11 years ago 0

@Nolinske
Nolinske replied

@InGreatSpirits thanks for the follow up its really good hearing about Japanese distilleries that I will most likely never get to visit!

11 years ago 0

@CanadianNinja

Welcome back @InGreatSpirits! Very happy to hear that you enjoyed your trip. I'm sorry that you weren't able to find any Karuizawa while you were here. The Whisky Exchange is a fantastic option, I'm glad we have it.... but those prices... ouch! ; )

I would love to hear more about your tour of the Chichibu distillery. I would very much like to get there one day myself. I'm glad you picked up some bottles from the card series, there are some fantastic drams in that series. I look forward to reading your reviews!!

11 years ago 0

@InGreatSpirits

@DevD, unfortunately not yet. They arrived this past Friday but I still have a bunch of open bottles that I want to drink down before I crack in to a new one. However, it's sitting in my cabinet tempting me every time I go in there.

11 years ago 0