Japan’s most legendary whisky distillery is back

The world-renowned Karuizawa distillery closed its doors in 2000 but thanks to a recent investment, and exclusive global partnership with dekantã, the legend lives on.

The Karuizawa distillery was established in 1955 at the foothills of an active volcano, Mount Asama. The location was notable for being the highest distillery in Japan at 850m above sea level. Despite being the country’s smallest whisky producer, Karuizawa had a global reputation for producing first-class malt whiskies.

Karuizawa stopped producing whisky in 2000 and has since been known as a ‘silent’ distillery. As global interest in Japanese whisky has grown in recent years, demand for stock from the closed Karuizawa distillery has increased dramatically, with bottles selling for record prices at auction houses around the world.

In 2020 a bottle of Karuizawa 52-year-old became the most valuable bottle of Japanese whisky ever sold, achieving £363,000 / $435,273 through Sotheby’s in London.

Now, some 24 years after the initial closure, Karuizawa Whisky is back, along with members of the original distilling team.

The new Karuizawa Whisky was built by Shigeru Totsuka, who hired the former Karuizawa Master Distiller, Osami Uchibori, as an advisor, who has sadly since passed away, and his apprentice, distiller Yoshiyuki Nakazato, as Master Distiller.

Unlike the old Karuizawa distillery, which was situated in the neighbouring town of Miyota, the new distillery is situated in the town of Karuizawa itself, known for its stunning year-round vistas that range from vibrant green and yellow forests in the summer months to gleaming snow-covered peaks that attract skiers from around the globe in the winter.

“I strive to produce a liquid that both respects and surpasses the old Karuizawa whisky”

Yoshiyuki Nakazato, Master Distiller, Karuizawa Whisky

The new distillery, built in 2022, located at the base of Mount Asama, sees water flow through volcanic lava rock that surrounds the distillery giving it a unique quality.

Totsuka and his team are more than aware of the rich legacy that comes with the distillery’s name, and they are keen to protect this with everything they have. It is for this reason that they have chosen to use only top-quality sherry casks and each of these has a minimum ageing requirement of 10 years, ensuring that when bottles of Karuizawa single malt finally hit the market, they will be of the highest standard. In keeping with the tradition of the old distillery, the smallest in Japan, Karuizawa Whisky are only filling a very limited number of casks, with a clear emphasis on quality over quantity.

Dekantã, the world’s leading online retailer of fine and rare Japanese whisky, has fostered a close working relationship with the new Karuizawa Whisky to bring both the joys of their liquid and their epic story to Japanese whisky lovers across the world.

Through a global partnership dekantã have the exclusive rights to sell a limited number of single malt sherry casks from Karuizawa Whisky which are available for their loyal customers to buy, allowing them to live the dream of owning a full cask of whisky from a legendary Japanese distillery. Cask purchases come with opportunities to sample the liquid, visit the distillery, and create one’s very own independent bottling of Karuizawa single malt whisky, once the 10-year minimum ageing requirement has been met.

“It is nothing short of an honour to be entrusted with Karuizawa’s legacy and liquid.”

Makiyo Masa, Founder, dekantã

What’s more, when the time finally comes, limited edition official bottle releases will be available via dekantã, while working on their very own independent bottlings of this exceptional whisky. Until then, dekantã will be keeping their customers and cask owners up to date with regular news, content, offers and updates from Karuizawa Whisky.

“Nakazato is the fundamental route for a successful Karuizawa whisky style. When I look at what they are doing here, I think they will make some very very good liquid for the new, reborn, Karuizawa.”

Daniel Lam, Global Head of Wine & Whisky, Spink & Son

Karuizawa Whisky casks are available exclusively through www.dekanta.com

Tags: Japanlegendary whisky distillery
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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