The Akkeshi single malt whisky is one of the best young “scotch” single malt whiskies I have ever tried. It is not from Scotland but originates from a newly born Japanese craft whisky distiller called “Akkeshi,” located on the northern island of Hokkaido. As you may know, we have a known distillery in Hokkaido, the Yoichi distillery, whose founder is Masataka Taketsuru. He was dispatched in 1918 by his serving company to learn whisky in Scotland. He brought their whisky-making techniques back to Japan, and later, he made his long-wished-for dream come true by planting his distillery in pursuit of making a fine scotch whisky here in Japan.
Almost 100 years after his travel, we have a company looking for the same goal Mr. Taketsuru challenged. The company is called Kenten-jitsugyou. Unlike other craft distillers in Japan who have already experienced making liquor, such as Japanese sake or shochu, Kenten is a food wholesaler based in Tokyo. The company’s president, Keiichi Toita, is a big lover of Scottish whisky. He wanted to make a fine scotch whisky on his own. They chose the location Akkeshi (the distillery name comes after the location) because of the terroir and climate similarity to Islay Island, one of the famous whisky regions in Scotland. Similarly to the predecessor, Mr. Taketsuru, they have traveled around Scotland, especially Islay island, to learn the secret of best whisky making. They were surprised to see each distillery using different methods to create their products. They installed stills from Scotland and imported grains as well; now, their distillery is in operation, hoping to make a fine scotch whisky but also trying to establish their style.
Their goal is to put their terroir into the whisky, reflecting their decision to select the Akkeshi location. They knew that not only did they make a distillery there, but the neighboring land produced what they needed most to make a whisky: barley for malts, peat for drying, and woods for barrels. They are trying to put all the local elements into a bottle by using local resources. This “terroir whisky” is getting into fashion in the current whisky industry. You can spot many examples, such as Westland in America, Waterford in Ireland, or High Coast (formerly “Box”) in Sweden. They all try to establish their terroir after learning and practicing the whisky-making method from Scotland. This trend is not a deviation from making a scotch whisky but an expansion of its potential. I am happy that we now have one in the league for new challenges in the whisky industry.