The Matsui Mizunara Cask wins Double Gold at SFWSC 2019

The San Francisco World Spirits Competition is the largest such competition in the world. In past years, we’ve seen several now iconic Japanese whiskies such as Yamazaki 18 and Fuji Gotemba Blender’s Choice get decorated with some of the highest honors.

Now another Japanese whisky joins those ranks, but it’s from where you may expect. Instead it’s from Matsui Shuzo: The Matsui Mizunara Cask has been awarded a prestigious Double Gold at San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2019. Double Gold is awarded only to spirits where the judges unanimously decide to award Gold. The only other Japanese whiskies to earn this award in years past come from Kirin, Nikka, or Suntory. And, it’s only the fourth Japanese NAS whisky to win this award.

I’ve written plenty about Matsui Shuzo over the last few months. First we dove into how they may have turned a corner, then trying one of the new whiskies that they’re (at least partially) distilling here in Japan.

While it’s impossible to forget the company’s past–or present, for that matter–this award should certainly earn them and The Matsui series some much-needed prestige.

Like the recent Tokyo Whisky & Spirits Competition, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition tastings are conducted blind. While we may never get a definitive answer about how much of The Matsui whisky is distilled in Japan, it’s evident that at least for SFWSC judges, taste is paramount and The Matsui Mizunara Cask is damn good.

Congratulations to Matsui Shuzo!


  1. David Storey

    You were right in your other post. This, and the other two expressions are New Make. All three were distilled in a copper pot still from Portugal and aged for 14-19 months.

    The other thing that the Japanese website (at least the English language version) doesn’t make clear is that the Mizunara and Sakura casks are not aged in those respective casks. They’re both aged in ex-Bourbon barrels and then finished for a few months in ex-Bourbon barrels with their heads replaced with Mizunara and Sakura respectively. Source: (the US importer)

    1. Pedro

      I emailed the distillery asking where the whisky was distilled. No response. If I were them, I’d prominently tout, if indeed this whisky was distilled proper in Japan.

  2. Pedro

    I bought the new Matsui bottles yesterday. The label on the Sakura Cask says, “Distilled in Japan.” Kudos to the distillery!

  3. Peter

    I just found this post, i hope the good reviews and double gold is true! my friend is shopping at the Costco in Irvine ca and he picked up a bottle for me. Cant wait to try it.

  4. Nik Dante

    Dave Story; If what you say is true about the barrel heads used to finish, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. A full Mizunara barrel is going to be completely overpowering and ruin the batch. Even switching the order, mizunara then ex bourbon finish, creates a radically different color and flavour profile.

  5. Stuart

    Even if Matsui Shuzo has gained some recognition with the awards, that doesn’t erase their dishonest marketing behavior of the past and present. The bottle label kanji and design are clear rip-offs of Suntory, and putting “Since 1910” is extremely deceptive as that’s for the original brewery, not 2017 when they actually started distilling whisky. Moreover, by jumping on the bandwagon with the magic words “Mizunara”, especially if it’s just a few months finishing with Mizunara barrel heads. They’ve proven they are happy to let uninformed tourists and drinkers believe this is a storied Japanese whisky distiller with 18-year expressions, rather than an upstart sake brewer eager to cash in on the Japanese whisky boom. We should not give them a single yen, dollar, pound, or any other currency. Winning this aware with extremely young new make spirit makes me question how impartial the judging really is…

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