Kaikyo Distillery and Hatozaki Whisky

Several weeks back I wrote about how some facts were beginning to come together to reveal the Akashi-based Kaikyo Distillery. Today we have another important piece of the puzzle: an actual whisky to talk about!

It's called "Hatozaki Whisky," and it's named after a lighthouse nearby that dates back to 1657. The distillery apparently chose this name to avoid confusion with whiskies created by the nearby Eigashima White Oak Distillery, who makes Akashi whisky. Good choice!

Unfortunately we don't have any further details about the whisky itself. As of this writing, that Hatozaki Whisky page is currently under construction. From public filings made in the USA, we know the label says it's "Small Batch" and "Finest Japanese Whisky," two phrases which mean basically nothing. It also says that it's made using a "two-stage blending of casks of whiskies produced from 100% malted barley," though hell if we know what those stages are (they could simply be "pour in whisky 1, then pour in whisky 2").

For many of us, the real question is whether or not it contains--at least even partially--whisky actually distilled at this Kaikyo Distillery. That's unfortunately going to have to remain an open question.

It's worth noting here that I have seen literally zero information written in Japanese about either the Kaikyo Distillery or Hatozaki Whisky in Japanese. Nothing on the Akashi Sake Brewery homepage, or any other Japanese language media. This is not a good sign, since actual Japanese whisky distilleries tend to at least get local news coverage as they launch.

Digging a bit deeper, I came across this page that describes a conversation with a sales manager of Mossburn Distillers & Blenders about the Kaikyo Distillery. The manager says that Mossburn acquired the distillery, and they have been distilling whisky since 2016. If the latter is true, though good news for authentic Japanese whisky fans, it also means Kaikyo Distillery technically violated Japanese tax law(!) -- they were only granted a whisky distillation license in May 2017.

What do you think: will we eventually see a real Japanese whisky come from them? Or is this another faux Japanese whisky in the making?

6 Comments

  1. Vipin

    Hatozaki is as real as it gets. I tried this at BBC (berlin ). They are blending with Japanese distilled whisky. Its light & smooth on the palate. Definately will want to have more.

  2. Dominic

    Hi, I guess there is a bit more information creeping out about Hatozaki now. As I understand it both the Pure Malt and Blended are aged in hybrid casks with cherry wood heads. There is some Japanese whisky in both bottlings, but they are cage-y about exactly what. I am sure there will be more info.

  3. David Storey

    This is out in the US and European market. Strangely the under construction web site now forwards to the Sake distillery site, with no info on the whisky. There is some information however. It seems both of the expressions (small batch pure malt, and a blended whisky) are world whiskies. Japanese component comes from two distilleries but they don’t say which (or how they got it, as it doesn’t seem to be their own?) I suspect their non-Japanese comes from the same sourcing as Mossburn as they’re openly blending whisky from other Scottish distilleries until their own distillate reaches 3 years old.

    Info on the blended:

    “Hatozaki Blended Japanese Whisky is premium blend of whisky aged up to 12 years in barrel. It is the first of two releases, alongside the Hatozaki Pure Malt Japanese Whisky, from the Kaikyo Distillery. It has a minimum malt content of 40%.

    “Hatozaki is an exciting new Japanese Whisky project made by the Kaikyo Distillery which is located in the town of Akashi, Hyogo, Japan. Here is where it gets a little bit complicated, Kaikyo Distillery is based at the historic Akashi Sake Brewery whose Sake is well known via their Akashi-Tai brand. However there is already a Japanese whisky produced by different Sake brewery producing a whisky called Akashi. So to save any confusion, whisky produced and/or bottled at Kaikyo Distillery will be known as Hatozaki (although future single malts will be bottled as Kaikyo). Hatozaki Whisky is named after the nearby Hatozaki Lighthouse, the oldest stone lighthouse in Japan, in operation since 1620. Kaikyo Distillery is named after the famous is Akashi-Kaikyo bridge which lies in front of the distillery. Clear? Good.

    “The Yonezawa family have been brewing Sake since 1856 and began distilling in 1917. The company was acquired in 2016 by Mossburn Distillers & Blenders (a new independent Scotch Whisky company) and, with their 100th anniversary of distilling approaching, Mossburn installed two new alembic stills made by the old Scottish firm of Forsythes to secure the future of whisky production at Kaikyo.

    “As mentioned above, Hatozaki Blended Japanese Whisky is a blend of whisky aged up to 12 years in barrel. Although Japanese labelling regulations allow the naming of the constituent whiskies, Hatozaki does not, as it will allow them more flexibility going forward. It is most likely that the proportions of the blend will change, according to the age of the components as particularly when Kaikyo’s own whisky comes online. Initially this is a blend of Japanese whiskies sourced from two different Japanese distilleries (until Kaikyo’s own spirit is old enough to be whisky) and some Scottish Malt for taste profile. The whiskies are aged in a combination of casks including Bourbon, Sherry cask, some Japanese native Mizunara oak barrels and some hybrid casks including those with cherry wood heads (not possible in Scotch production, of course).

    “Many argue that the success of Japanese whisky has been in the skill of blending. All Hatozaki whiskies undergo a two stage blending process. The master blender first selects component whiskies to make two foundation blends (No 1 and No 2). These are blended and then left to mature and marry quietly in in cask, whilst being constantly monitored as they mature. When ready these two foundation blends are blended, in different proportions depending on how they mature and develop, with other individual whiskies to add florality, depth and finesse to the blend. The final blend is then allowed to marry again for a period in cask prior to bottling. All the stock is lying, and the blending carried out, at their Akashi warehouse.”

    The description of the pure malt is the same except the opening sentence: “Hatozaki Pure Malt Japanese Whisky is a blend of different single malts which have been aged in a combination of ex Bourbon, ex Sherry and native Japanese Mizunara oak barrels.”
    I assume the Pure Malt sold in the UK is the same as the Small Batch in the US as they have the same label otherwise.
    https://www.farehamwinecellar.co.uk/product/hatozaki-blended-japanese-whisky/

    The US importer’s website has much more detail on the “two step process” for Mossburn, which I assume is the same as the Hatozaki

    1. Whiskey Richard

      Hi David,

      Thanks for the excellent info!
      Just last week, I threw several questions asking for more details about these whiskies and their future plans directly to Akashi Sake Brewery. Hopefully they get back to me soon.

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