Today we look at four distilleries that have been newly granted licenses to make whisky by Japan's National Tax Agency. Let's speculate!
These have all been added to the map!
Okinawa: Masahiro DistilleryAwamori maker Masahiro Distilling broke into the world of Japanese craft gin with Masahiro Okinawa Gin back in 2017. I personally don't think "gin" accurately describes the contents of that bottle, but we won't go there right now.
But guess what, Masahiro Distillery now has a license to make whisky! This would make them the second whisky distillery on Okinawa after Helios. But to my knowledge, Helios doesn't actually distill whisky anymore.
Kagoshima: Hioki Distillery by Komasa Jyozo
You may remember Komasa Jyozo as the shochu maker behind the up-and-coming Kanosuke Distillery. They're doing a fantastic job, by all accounts.
Maybe we can add whisky to the list! They were just granted a license to distill whisky at Hioki.
This article is for speculating, so let's do it. My guess is Kanosuke will remain as the company's premiere distillery for malt whisky. At Hioki, they will use the same stills/facilities used to make their gin and shochu to make grain whisky. rice is a grain, after all.
***Update March 5, 4;51PM: Komasa-san has responded to this article confirming that the company is indeed making grain whisky at Hioki Distillery. "Hioki distillery has now started making a new whisky, grain whiskey. In the near future, we will take on the challenge of selling 100% Japanese blended whisky," he said.
Kanagawa: Kumazawa Brewing
If they do get into distilling, they would be following in the footsteps of the likes of Kiuchi Shuzo. Meaning, a sake maker turned craft beer maker turned spirits/whisky maker.
Saitama: Hikari Distillery
Not much info out there on this one yet, but there's a newly licensed whisky distillery in Saitama dubbed Hikari Distillery. I probably don't need to remind you, but just in case: Saitama prefecture is home to Hanyu and Chichibu distilleries!
Hikari Distillery has a Facebook page that shows a few buildings that I suppose could be a distillery. The wrought iron gate reads Hikari Distillery and Dum spiro spero. But there are no pics of stills, casks, mash tuns, or other whisky paraphernalia yet.
They have a domain which doesn't point to anything.
But that's not the end of the story. Digging deeper, the domain is registered to a company called Hikari Capital Limited.
Hikari Capital Limited looks to be a Malaysia-based VC firm. On his LinkedIn profile, the founder of Hikari Capital Limited says "we are building a malt whisky distillery in Konosu, Japan." Guess we'll keep an eye on it.
Best of luck to everyone involved in getting these distilleries up and running!
Note: this report is simply about licenses to distill whisky. There is no guarantee these makers will do so, or will do so for commercial purposes. For this reason, until there is an official announcement, they have been categorized as "Speculative" on the Japan Distillery Map.
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.