Whisky Festivals Are Back!

The magic returns. What a delight to experience an in-person whisky fest again.

The Akkeshi Whisky booth at the 2022 Tokyo Whisky Festival

The 2022 Tokyo Whisky Festival on 26th-27th March was a triumph; the organizers, staff and exhibitors all deserve plaudits for their hard work.

This year there were no long lines in advance of opening because all the festival exclusive bottles were pre-sold by lottery. Plus, entry was limited to 800 or 900 in each of four sessions (morning and afternoon, Saturday and Sunday) for obvious pandemic-related reasons.

With so much world whisky available for tasting, I focused on Japanese distilleries. I was especially impressed by several sherry cask samples. Chichibu offered a tasting of a superb 11-year oloroso hogshead. Wakatsuru (Saburomaru) had a delightful 2.5-year oloroso butt and Sakurao had a tantalizing first fill 3-year sherry hoggy.

Additionally there were some absorbing bourbon barrel cask samples, including a 9-year Chichibu (cask #2124, which keeps getting better). Mars brought a pair of 4-year bourbon barrels, one from Komagatake and one form Tsunuki, both of which are promising great things and I could imagine them having Papillon labels slapped on soon.

Yuza Distillery in Yamagata brought their recent First release as well as a couple of cask samples, which showed a lot of promise.

Another recent distillery in the northern part of Honshu is Kameda, which offered their new pot. In Japanese, kame means turtle, which seems to be refereed to in the logo, along with a pair of pot stills. Since Kameda distills on Forsyth pot stills, expectations are high.

In November 2021, another distillery with a pair of Forsyth stills started production in Kyoto Prefecture: Kizakura Tamba. The company has been producing saké and beer, so venturing into whisky appears to be sensible. Two new borns were available for sampling.

Osuzu Malt’s chestnut cask/ bourbon barrel and sakura (cherry) wood cask/bourbon barrel offerings were rather impressive. Their spirit is produced from locally grown malt in Miyazaki prefecture, Kyushu.

Ozuzu Malt New Born (Almost Whisky)

Japanese whisky fans probably know about Akashi Whisky, also known as White Oak or Eigashima in Hyogo Prefecture, west of Kobe city. Perhaps some of you’ve visited there on one of our tours. They are known for their 500ml bottlings, with creative cask choices including tequila, sake and cream sherry. Did you know there is a distinct company called Akashi Saké Brewery, also in Hyogo Prefecture, and that they are about to start producing their own spirit at Kaikyo Distillery on Forsyth stills?

The number of distilleries in the northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido, continues to grow. We whisky lovers know Niseko for Bar Gyu+, but the new Niseko Distillery is going to add to the fun up there. Currently they produce Ohoro Gin, but with their pair of Forsyth pot stills, whisky will soon be on its way. I suspect the reader is picking up on the Forsyth’s theme.

Gin producers have been regulars at whisky festivals since 2018. Here were available some really flavorful offerings with unusual botanicals, which make a refreshing change of pace after several drams of whisky.

Overall, it was a remarkable event. It was great to meet up with so many whisky-loving friends in-person once again.

The next event is Whisky Harbour Kobe on Sunday April 24th, 2022.

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