The Shizuoka Distillery recently posted details of their all-Shizuoka whisky on their blog, giving us more insight into what's going on behind the scenes at one of Japan's newest craft whisky distilleries.
Up until now, Japanese whisky has generally used imported ingredients, though the actual whisky-making (fermentation, distillation, and maturation) is happening here in Japan. In some cases, anyway.
But, beginning around late 2017 or so, several distilleries have either discussed or actually moved towards creating 100% domestic whiskies. This means using Japan-grown barley, Japan-born yeast, casks made from trees grown in Japan, and of course with all distillation/maturation taking place here in Japan. This summer we saw such an announcement from Hokkaido's Akkeshi Distillery. The Chichibu Distillery is also at least partially using domestic ingredients as well.
Shizuoka Distillery has detailed their ingredients as follows:
Water: An on-site well at the distillery is used as a water supply throughout the entire process. This is fed by the Abenakagochi River, an underground river that runs immediately under the distiller.
Malt: Barley is harvested from Fujinomiya and Kayama, Tamakawa, the latter of which from fields located near the distillery. Barley is extremely uncommon for Shizuoka prefecture.
Yeast: An entirely new strain of yeast, dubbed NMZ-0688, was developed for malt to make beer and whisky. This was done at the Numazu Industrial Support Center, which also created "Shizuoka Yeast" used in making sake.
Fuel: Shizuoka Distillery claims to have the world's only wood-fired direct heat still. The firewood is sourced from lumber forests in Tamakawa via Tamakawa Kicori, a lumberyard in Shizuoka City. It's then split into firewood and dried on-site at the distillery.
The process began on November 5, with the growing a suitable yeast culture at the Numazu Industrial Support Center. It was transported to the distillery via a bucket(!), where it then went on to do its job saccharizing and fermenting the malt over the next couple weeks. On November 22, the first distillation run was done, and on the 23rd, the Shizuoka Distillery had its very first all-Shizuoka new pot.
In this case, smaller production numbers are actually an advantage: Japan's domestic supply of barley is probably not enough to meet the needs of bigger players like Suntory or Nikka. Instead, what makes all-domestic whiskies like this possible is the relationships that craft distilleries forge with their local communities.
Whiskey Richard is the founder of nomunication.jp, and has been saying he has lived in Japan for ten years for the past four years. He enjoys drinking basically anything except straight-up Campari.