Tomatin Distillery to launch ‘world’s rarest Japanese whisky’
Shirakawa 1958 Single Malt, believed to be ‘the world’s rarest Japanese whisky’, will be distributed worldwide by Tomatin Distillery in September.
The single malt whisky is from the lost Japanese distillery, Shirakawa, built in the Fukushima Prefecture in 1939 by Daikoku Budoshu, and purchased by Takara Shuzo in 1947.
The distillery operated for nearly six and a half decades before being demolished in 2003. It produced malt whisky between 1951-1969 – one of the first distilleries in Japan to do so.
The whisky produced was rumoured to be ‘exquisite’, but destined only for blending and never to be captured as a single malt.
The collaboration between Tomatin Distillery and its owner Takara Shuzo is the first time the whisky will be presented for sale as a single malt, making it a ‘remarkable and incredibly rare expression’.
“There are no known examples of Japanese whisky claiming to be from a single vintage that predates Shirakawa 1958,” said Stefan van Eycken, the ‘pre-eminent authority’ on the world of Japanese whisky and distilling.
“Even though Shirakawa Distillery was one of the pioneers of malt whisky making in Japan, the liquid was never officially available as a single malt. This limited 1,500 bottle release will see the Japanese whisky category, one of the most sought-after categories of spirit in the world, continue to grow from strength to strength.”
From 13 September, 1,500 bottles will be released on a limited basis worldwide. It is the earliest single vintage Japanese whisky ever bottled.
The rare liquid was identified in Takara Shuzo’s Kurokabegura plant in 2019. It had been distilled in 1958, aged in cask, then transferred to ceramic jars at the distillery. When Shirakawa closed, it was put into stainless steel tanks at Takara Shuzo’s factory in Kyushu where it lay untouched until now.
The type of cask and length of maturation remains unknown.
“Tomatin Distillery Co had been bought by Takara Shuzo in 1986 and I became fascinated by the story of Shirakawa and its history of whisky production,” said Stephen Bremner, managing director of Tomatin Distillery Co.
“There had never been an official single malt bottling, and the distillery had long gone, but I couldn’t help wondering what if a part of liquid history lay unearthed.
“After several in-depth discussions with colleagues at Takara Shuzo the last remaining parcel of Shirakawa was identified in 2019. When I discovered that the last remaining stock was distilled in 1958, I was astounded. It was a genuine wow moment as I realised very quickly that what we were dealing with was extremely rare.”
The 1958 vintage is bottled at 49% ABV. It is said to have an ‘expansive’ palate, with ‘a succulent texture and hints of fragrant grass’.
The 1,500 700ml bottles will be on sale for an RRP £25,000 (US$29,450) at select retail partners worldwide including Harrods, Berry Bros, The Whisky Exchange and Royal Mile Whiskies. The whisky can also be purchased from www.tomatindistillery.com.