About a week ago, Karuizawa Distillers announced the new Komoro Distillery. And for the first time, it happened in English. Today we take a look a brief look at things to come for the distillery.Let’s make one thing very clear: the Komoro Distillery is not in Karuizawa. It’s in Nagano prefecture’s Komoro-shi, not Karuizawa-machi. The company’s name may be “Karuizawa Distillers” in English, but I think it’s a bit of a misnomer. If you follow nomunication.jp’s facebook, you might remember that we came across the company’s trademark filings last year. Those filings include a logo for Karuizawa Distillery, so perhaps they actually intended it to be be located in Karuizawa.
As far as I can tell, the company and its staff have no relation to the historical Karuizawa Distillery. If you ask me, I’d say that the company is leaning a bit too hard into the Karuizawa angle, given it’s in a different town and unrelated.
On the other hand, Komoro-shi is very similar, climate-wise, to Karuizawa. The distillery will be at an elevation of 910m, making it Japan’s second-highest. Komoro-shi also sits at the foot of Mt. Asama. So if the company wants to “honour the Karuizawa legacy,” Komoro should be a good location to do exactly that.
Of course a whisky distillery isn’t solely about its location and name. Karuizawa Distillers has Ian Chang, of Kavalan fame, as its master distiller. Given Kavalan’s wild success worldwide, it’s understandable that a lot of people have high hopes for Komoro. Apparently, Chang-san even declined an offer from Pernod Ricard to head up China’s first whisky distillery. Undeniably, he’s a win for Japanese whisky.
The president of Karuizawa Distillers is Koji Shimaoka, who spent 20+ years working for Citibank, then left some years ago to build the Ikoi Villa. Shimaoka-san was born in China but he’s now a Japanese citizen and went to school in Yokohama.
Distillation is set to begin in 2022, using all Forsyths equipment. With a batch size of one ton, it’s on the same scale as most other Japanese craft whisky distilleries these days. The architect designing it is Akira Sogo of SOGO Architecture & Urban Design.
Apart from the distillery itself, the company is planning to build a visitor center and a “whisky academy.” Hopefully we’ll know more details soon.
Hi there! I created and run nomunication.jp. I’ve lived in Tokyo since 2008, 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). I also sit on the Executive Committees for the Tokyo Whisky & Spirits Competition and Japanese Whisky Day. Click here for more details about me and this site. Kampai!