A report by business daily Nikkei confirms long-standing rumors that Venture Whisky, headed by Ichiro Akuto of the famed Chichibu Distillery, plans to build a grain whisky distillery in Tomakomai, Hokkaido.
The property will reportedly be 6.6 hectares–16.3 acres–in size and produce some 2.4 million liters of whisky annually. Nikkei did not specify the abv behind that number.
Production is slated to kick off in spring 2025. The company has been looking at Hokkaido for the past three or four years, and eventually chose Tomakomai due to its proximity to the local port (for importing corn/raw materials and exporting some products). Of course, another reason is the real estate: industrial-scale grain operations have pretty large footprints, and Hokkaido land prices are significantly more affordable than, say, Chichibu. The water quality and climate were also big factors in the decision. It’s also just a 15-minute drive to Chitose airport.
Nikkei mentions that Ichiro-san has chosen to install a Coffey still. That’s the same kind of still famously imported to Japan by Masataka Taketsuru when he decided to get into grain whisky (these days, it’s at Miyagikyo). Venture Whisky will also have aging facilities at the site, but is apparently yet to decide whether they’ll do bottling there. In the future, they may also use Hokkaido-grown corn for production.
With a 2.4 million liter capacity, this facility will easily dwarf Chichibu Daini (260,000 LPA) and make the original Chichibu (52,000 LPA) look like a speck of dust. That’s the point of a grain whisky distillery: you generally use it to supplement a malt whisky operation, enabling you to produce huge volumes of blended whisky. Though don’t be surprised to see grain standalone releases as well.
It’s also important for Japanese whisky, because the JSLMA standards require that all of the whisky in a given bottle be distilled and matured in Japan. Thus, to make a Blended Japanese Whisky, you need both Japan-distilled grain and Japan-distilled malt.
Hokkaido is rapidly becoming the place to be for grain whisky in Japan. With Akuto-san’s supplies of legacy (Kawasaki) grain whisky running dry, this is an expected move that had been discussed in industry circles for the past few years.
Great to see it finally came to light. Of course, if you follow nomunication.jp’s Twitter account, you’ll know that Akuto-san actually confirmed this back in December last year.
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