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Japanese distillery to resurrect Karuizawa whisky

Online retailer Dekantā has partnered with Karuizawa Whisky Company to offer the new Japanese distillery’s inaugural bottlings, with the aim of reviving the ‘former prominence of the world-renowned whisky brand’.

Karuizawa Whisky Company
Karuizawa Whisky Company will produce whisky using only Sherry casks

The Karuizawa Whisky Company has been working on the build of a new whisky distillery in the heart of its namesake town over the last few years. The facility, which will not operate on the same site as the closed distillery of the same name, is due to open and start producing liquid from late 2022.

The original Karuizawa distillery was built by Daikiku Budoshu Co in 1956, in the foothills of Mount Asama in Karuizawa.

Closed in 2000, the original Karuizawa site has achieved a cult-like status for its Sherried single malt whisky, with very little liquid available on the market. Bottles of the last remaining liquid are often sold at auction, fetching sky-high prices.

The Karuizawa Whisky Company and independent bottler Dekantā will work together for 10 years to create official distillery bottlings and independent releases, alongside Japanese whisky events and experiences.

The long-term collaboration is also expected to result in private cask sales, which have been largely closed to international consumers up until this point, Dekantā said.

“This is a venture that we believe will help to take Japanese whisky to the next level,” Dekantā head of content Liam Hiller said.

“Further boosting its popularity around the globe and allowing fans to get their hands on some precious Karuizawa liquid, distilled to the same quality and specifications as the famous bottles that sell for tens of thousands at auction houses around the world.”

To continue the legacy of the brand, the Karuizawa Whisky Company has hired master distillers Osami Uchibori and Yoshiyuki Nakazato, who were the distillers of the original whisky.

The distillery plans to produce only Sherry cask whisky, with 250 casks filled annually. None of the whisky will be bottled before the age of 10.

‘Rich legacy’ 

“I’m very proud we’ve struck this partnership with masterful whisky distillers I so greatly admire,” said Dekantā director Makiyo Masa.

“From retaining key experts in the team, to their commitment to use only Sherry cask whisky, it is clear the team at Karuizawa are dedicated to protecting and advancing the rich legacy of the Karuizawa brand. It is a huge honour to continue to play a part in the story of a brand which holds such great significance in Japanese whisky history.”

All casks will be stored at the new distillery and bottlings undertaken at the new site.

Dekantā said the allocation for Karuizawa casks filled in 2022 have already sold out, with the 2023 cask allocation to be available for sale soon.

The new distillery’s owner, Shigeru Totsuka, said: “We are very proud to have struck this partnership and look forward to bringing top-quality Karuizawa whisky to Dekanta’s clients for years to come.”

Karuizawa Whisky Company is not the only producer building a distillery in honour of the world-renowned brand.

Karuizawa Distillers (KDI) unveiled plans to build a Japanese whisky distillery in Komoro in December 2020, seven miles from the original Karuizawa distillery.

KDI was formed by CEO Koji Shimaoka, with former Kavalan whisky maker Ian Chang serving as master blender and distiller for the new Komoro Distillery.

The distillery’s flagship brand will be Japanese single malt whisky Komoro.

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