Sample whisky at a distillery that draws on natural spring water in japan‘s Southern Alps
Nestled among the lush forests at the base of Japan’s Southern Alps lies a whisky distillery that has become a beloved local attraction. This distillery, known as the Suntory Hakushu Distillery, is a must-visit destination for whisky enthusiasts. With its unique location and commitment to using natural spring water, the distillery offers a one-of-a-kind experience that showcases the artistry and craftsmanship behind Japan’s renowned whisky production.
When visiting the Suntory Hakushu Distillery, there are several highlights that should not be missed. Firstly, the distillery room is a fascinating space where visitors can witness an interesting collection of pot stills. These pot stills play a crucial role in the whisky-making process, and their intricate designs contribute to the distinct flavors and aromas found in Hakushu whiskies.
Another must-see area within the distillery is the warehouses, which are filled with thousands of barrels of whisky. As visitors explore these warehouses, they will be enveloped in the intoxicating aroma of evaporating whisky. This sensory experience offers a glimpse into the aging process and the transformation that takes place within the barrels over time.
Of course, no visit to the Suntory Hakushu Distillery would be complete without indulging in a generous whisky tasting. At the end of the tour, visitors are invited to savor a selection of whiskies produced at the distillery. It is important to note that enjoying these tastings on an empty stomach is not advisable, as the high alcohol content can be overwhelming. Therefore, it is recommended to have a meal beforehand to fully appreciate the flavors and nuances of the whiskies.
Lastly, the distillery’s museum provides a comprehensive overview of the history and heritage of whisky production in Japan. Through exhibits and interactive displays, visitors can learn about the distillery’s rich legacy and the meticulous craftsmanship that goes into each bottle of Hakushu whisky.
In 2006, Suntory’s single malt whisky “Hakushu 18-years-old” was awarded the gold prize at the prestigious International Spirits Challenge. This recognition highlights the exceptional quality and craftsmanship of Hakushu whiskies, solidifying the distillery’s reputation as a leading producer in the industry.
How to Get There:
The Suntory Hakushu Distillery is located in northern Yamanashi, a prefecture known for its picturesque landscapes and natural beauty. To reach the distillery, the most convenient mode of transportation is by rail. Visitors can take the JR Chuo Main Line, which runs from JR Shinjuku Station to JR Matsumoto Station. From there, a bus is available to transport visitors to the distillery.
For those who prefer a more scenic route, taking a limited express train to JR Kobuchizawa Station on the JR Chuo Main Line is recommended. On weekends and national holidays from late March to November, a free limited shuttle bus operates between JR Kobuchizawa Station and the distillery. This shuttle bus offers a convenient and hassle-free way to reach the distillery, allowing visitors to enjoy the surrounding beauty of the Southern Alps during their journey.
Alternatively, on weekdays, visitors can take the limited express train to JR Nirasaki Station and then board a bus from platform 3. The bus will take them to Matsubarakami, which is a 10-minute walk from the distillery. Although this route may take slightly longer, it still offers a scenic and enjoyable journey through the Yamanashi countryside.
Book a Tour:
Due to the popularity of the Suntory Hakushu Distillery, it is highly recommended to book a tour in advance, especially if visiting on weekends. The distillery receives a significant number of visitors, and booking ahead will ensure that you secure a spot for the tour. Additionally, it is possible to request a multilingual audio guide for English, Chinese, or French commentary, allowing for a more immersive and informative experience.
The tour itself lasts approximately 80 minutes and includes a whisky tasting. During the tour, visitors will have the opportunity to explore various areas of the distillery, including the fermentation room, the distillation room, and the whisky warehouses. Each stop along the tour provides a unique insight into the whisky-making process, offering a deeper understanding of the art and science behind Hakushu whiskies.
The first room that visitors will encounter on the tour is the fermentation room. This room is characterized by its four-meter-high wooden vats, which are used in the fermentation process. The vats are filled with a mixture of water, malted barley, and yeast, which undergoes fermentation to produce alcohol. The fermentation room is a key component of the distillery, as it is where the initial stages of whisky production take place.
After exploring the fermentation room, visitors will proceed to the distillation room. This room is home to a variety of pot stills, each of which contributes to the unique flavors and characteristics of Hakushu whiskies. The distillation process, which involves heating the fermented liquid and collecting the evaporated alcohol, is a crucial step in whisky production. The distillation room offers an up-close look at the craftsmanship and precision involved in this intricate process.
To reach the whisky warehouses located throughout the distillery grounds, visitors will board a distillery bus. This bus ride is a highlight of the tour, as it provides an opportunity to immerse oneself in the captivating aroma of evaporating whisky. As the bus winds its way through the distillery, the scent of whisky fills the air, creating a truly intoxicating experience. This phenomenon, known as the “angels’ share,” refers to the portion of whisky that evaporates during the aging process.
Lesson on Tasting:
Following the warehouse tour, visitors are invited to participate in a whisky tasting session. The tour guide provides an in-depth lesson on the art of tasting whisky, offering insights into the different flavors, aromas, and nuances that can be found in Hakushu whiskies. To enhance the tasting experience, it is recommended to request one of the multilingual information booklets available at the distillery’s bar. These booklets provide additional details about the whiskies being sampled, allowing visitors to appreciate the complexities and craftsmanship behind each pour.
25-Year-Old Single Malt:
Just before leaving the distillery, visitors will pass through the distillery bar, where they have the opportunity to try the crown jewel of Hakushu whiskies – the 25-year-old single malt. This exceptional whisky represents the pinnacle of the distillery’s craftsmanship and aging process. As visitors savor this rare and exquisite spirit, they can reflect on the dedication and expertise required to produce such a remarkable whisky.
The Suntory Hakushu Distillery offers a captivating journey into the world of whisky production. From the moment visitors step foot on the distillery grounds, they are immersed in the sights, sounds, and aromas that define this unique craft. Through the distillery tour, visitors gain a deeper appreciation for the artistry and science behind Hakushu whiskies, as well as an understanding of the natural resources and traditional techniques that contribute to their exceptional quality.
Whether you are a whisky connoisseur or simply curious about the whisky-making process, a visit to the Suntory Hakushu Distillery is an experience not to be missed. From the intriguing collection of pot stills to the intoxicating aroma of the whisky warehouses, every aspect of the distillery is designed to engage and delight the senses. The generous whisky tasting at the end of the tour allows visitors to savor the fruits of the distillery’s labor, further enhancing the overall experience.
As you plan your visit to Japan’s Southern Alps, be sure to include the Suntory Hakushu Distillery in your itinerary. This hidden gem offers a unique perspective on whisky production and provides a memorable journey through the world of Japanese whisky. Whether you are a seasoned whisky enthusiast or a curious traveler, the Suntory Hakushu Distillery promises an unforgettable experience that combines nature, history, and the art of whisky-making in perfect harmony.
Address And Maps Location:
2913-1 Torihara, Hakushu-cho, Hokuto-shi, Yamanashi-ken