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Japanese Spirits: the best is yet to come?

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After asking Japanese whisky experts from the Dekanta team last week about all the fuss around Karuizawa, I thought it could be a great opportunity to get an update on the latest spirited news and projects in Japan… We all know these are exciting times for the Japanese spirits industry, getting everyday more and more popular all over the world. If sometimes it may seem like Japanese whisky is all about Nikka and Suntory, there’s actually many more than big players. Japanese craft whisky (known as “ji-whisky”) is for example quickly gaining popularity amongst malt maniacs of all continents, so are sakés and other Japanese spirits. Dekanta’s expert therefore chose to focus on two upcoming (and exciting) distillery projects.


“These are exiting days in the Japanese alcohol industry, you should already know of Suntory and Nikka and their award winning whiskies, and you might even have heard of the legendary Karuizawa whiskies, but there is a new whisky distillery opening up in Japan, and this is news in a country which actually only has a handful of them. On top of that, Number One Drinks Co, a notable European importer of Japanese whiskies and beers, is also expending its business and opening up its own gin distillery in Kyoto!

But one thing at a time, who on earth is opening up this whisky distillery? The answer is Gaiaflow, a somewhat small importer and bottler of whiskies from countries like Scotland, India, Sweden and more. Apparently they have ambitions to be something more than a bottler, they have already bought the equipment from the Karuizawa distillery and are busy having it inspected and set up in Shizuoka at the site of their new distillery. Operations are to start next year… Stay tuned!

And then, there is this new gin distillery being set up by veteran Tokyoite David Croll and his business partner in Europe Marcin Miller owners of Number One Drinks Co. According to recent news, copper stills are currently being made in Germany and will be installed early next year. The distillery itself is supposed to go operational in May 2016.

Japan isn’t well known for making gin, in fact we have never heard of Japanese gin, but the owners of Number One Drinks are confident that it is an excellent place to make it. According to Miller:

“The gin category remains dynamics but we are entering a period of natural selection where quality and a genuine backstory of craft and location is becoming increasingly important.”

And Croll says that:

Our plan is simply to make the finest gin possible with a focus on Japanese botanicals. We realize that there are plenty of new entrants in the gin category but are confident that, by offering an exceptional spirit with a genuine point of difference, we will attract discerning consumers. Our initial emphasis will be on engaging with the Japanese bartending community and, thereafter, exporting to a small number of markets on allocation only.”

Bold plans are definitely something to look forward to for those interested in Japanese liqueurs. You already know how good Japanese whisky is, I think it will be exciting to see if Japanese gin will be as good!” And with Cotswolds Distillery’s former head distiller Alex Davies in charge… I’m more than confident on the quality of the spirit to come! So yes, maybe the best is yet to come… At least when it comes to Japanese gin 😉

Check The Kyoto Distillery’s official website for upcoming news!


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