It's been a long time since we last heard anything from Kumamoto's Yamato Shuzo. As it turns out, back in August, they released an allegedly Japanese whisky called "The Yamato Single Malt Whisky." And they're saying it's fermented and distilled in Kumamoto. ...really?
Yamato Whisky is dubbed "Kumamoto prefecture's first local whisky."
First of all, here's the only background we have: the shochu maker behind this new whisky, Yamato Shuzo, has been around since 1821. They got a license to distill whisky in August 2017. Last year, we also saw this trademark application come through for Yamato Whisky.
But otherwise, mostly nothing. Apart from this sole Twitter thread, there's nothing on social media. No TV/newspaper appearances, no whisky festivals, no people clamoring to order bottles. Searches in English or Japanese yield nothing, except this Rakuten shop selling the same whisky.
It's really strange that this supposedly Japanese single malt whisky(!) just kind of... got past everyone. I mean, if you actually went through all of the hassle of funding and setting up a Japanese whisky distillery in this day and age, wouldn't you make a big deal out of it?
Long story short: this is an aged shochu being labeled and sold as whisky. Yes, it's unfortunately legal to do that! Yes, it probably is actually made in Kumamoto! Looking through Yamato Shuzo's other products, they do have a barley shochu aged in white oak casks, named "Angel's Share."
Bummer. Seems they've just changed the packaging to make it more whisky-like. And damn, they didn't try very hard, did they?
I’m Whiskey Richard, and I am the founder of nomunication.jp. I’ve lived in Tokyo for over a decade, and I am a certified Shochu Kikisake-shi/Shochu Sommelier (焼酎唎酒師), Cocktail Professor (カクテル検定１級), and I hold Whisky Kentei Levels 3 and JW (ウイスキー検定３級・JW級). Click here for more details about me and this site. Kampai!