6 Japanese Whisky Distilleries To Visit
Most people associate Japan with the more traditional sake and not whisky but in the last few years a number of Japanese distilleries began gaining the attention of international whisky connoisseurs. The first distillery opened its doors just outside Kyoto in 1923 and to date there are somewhere around 12 operational whisky distilleries across the country. It’s a very small number compared to the ones in the UK and US but its important to remember that the Japanese have been winning an impressive number of international whisky competitions – many times outperforming and beating the legendary scotch brands. In this article we will reveal all the Japanese whisky distilleries you can visit.
The Fuji Gotemba Distillery
The Fuji Gotemba distillery sits a mere 2 hour drive away from Tokyo city in a town called Gotemba which is located at the foot of the majestic Mount Fuji. The distillery, founded by Kirin Seagram Ltd in 1972, produces four different high quality whiskies. And the best part about this facility is that you can go on free tours – all without making a booking.
Tours starts off with an educational video which covers the history of Kirin Whisky, followed by a tour of the factory and finally a visit to the tasting room where you will taste the various whiskies produced.
|Address||970 Shibanta, Gotemba 412-0003, Shizuoka Prefecture|
|Phone||+81 550-89-4909||Admission Fee||Free|
The Hakushu Distillery
If you hop on board a train and head 2.5 hours west from Tokyo City you will reach Hokuto in the Yamanashi Prefecture. There, on the hills of Mount Kaikoma sits the Hakushu distillery which is owned by the famous Suntory Group.
The Hakushu distillery was opened in 1973 and is the second distillery owned by the Suntory Group with the first being Yamazaki. There are two options for touring this facility. The first being the free distillery viewing where you basically show yourself around with no guided tour. The second option is a paid tour where you will be shown around on a guided tour with whisky tasting included.
|Address||2913-1 Torihara, Hakushu-cho, Hokuto-shi, Yamanashi Prefecture|
|Phone||+81 551-35-2211||Admission Fee||Free and paid options|
The Mars Shinshu Distillery
Up in the scenic Japanese Alps sits a very small town called Miyada which is home to the renowned Mars Shinshu distillery. They first opened for business in 1985 but closed down in 1992 due to low domestic demand, only to be reopened again fairly recently in 2012. The facility sits 800m above sea level which makes it the highest elevated distillery in Japan. The free 30 minute tours are followed by whisky, sake, wine, beer and brandy tasting.
|Address||Miyatamura 4752-31, Kami-inagun, Nagano|
|Phone||+81 265 85 4633||Admission Fee||Free|
The Miyagikyo Distillery
The Miyagikyo Distillery, which opened its doors in 1969, is one of the first Japanese whisky distilleries to come into existence. They are located between two mountains near the city of Sendai, a location specifically chosen for its climate, clean air and underground water source. On the free guided tour you will be shown around the facility, learn about its history and sample all three varieties of their Nikka whisky.
|Address||Nikka 1, Aoba, Sendai City, Miyagi 989-3433|
|Phone||+81 22 395 2865||Admission Fee||Free|
The Yamazaki Distillery
Sitting at the foot of Mount Tennozan in southwest Kyoto is the Yamazaki distillery. The Suntory owned manufacturing facility first opened its doors in 1923 – which makes it the very first commercial Japanese whisky distillery in the country.
The history behind Yamazaki is interesting. Sales were booming during World War 2 because of high demand from Japanese soldiers and after the war, US soldiers became big fans of the whisky. In addition, there is an enormous library on the premises which houses around 7,000 samples of malt whisky. Access to the library is free of charge but the guided tour costs around $10.00 per person and booking is essential.
|Address||5-2-1 Yamazaki, Shimamoto-cho, Mishima-gun, Osaka, Japan|
|Phone||+81 759 62 1423||Admission Fee||Free and paid options|
The Yoichi Distillery
The Yoichi distillery opened in 1934 and is owned by Nikka Whisky Distilling. It’s situated in a small town called Yoichi, Hokkaido which has a climate comparable to that of Scotland. The single malt whiskies produced here are regarded by many as some of the best in the world – and its numerous international awards prove it. The facility offers guided and self guided tours. Also, visitors will be able to taste all three types of whiskies produced here.
|Address||Kurokawacho 7-6, Yoichicho, Yoichi-gun, Hokkaido, 046-0003, Japan|
|Phone||+81 135 23 2202||Admission Fee||Free|