Did you know that a whisky distillery has opened in Niseko, Hokkaido, one of the most famous snow resorts in the world?
The RecoMentor editorial team visited Niseko distillery at the end of one snowy year.
The distillery was completed in December 2020, and the grand opening was held on October 1, 2021 (distillation started on March 24, and the store part opened on October 1st).
The modern buildings (distillery building and storage building) stand quietly as if blending into the security forest near Niseko Annupuri International Ski Resort. The roofs and interior walls of both buildings are made of locally grown larch wood, and the distillery building has a wide open space where all visitors can relax and feel the rich nature of the region. In the distillery building, equipment for production is placed, and a lot of space is devoted to the bar corner and the store, which is designed with visitors from overseas in mind.
The store is far more than just a place to buy products made at the distillery, it is a select shop targeting the discerning and wealthy overseas. The shop offers a wide range of products, including high-grade Junmai Daiginjo sake, which is not available at ordinary sake stores; vintage Scotch whisky, which is targeted at the birth year of senior whisky fans; and Japanese traditional techniques and craftsmanship from Niigata, such as hammered copper teapots and sake cups made by Gyokusendo, an intangible cultural asset from Hakkaisan's hometown, as well as planes, kissers, tools, tableware, and chopsticks.
In terms of equipment, the two pot stills with parallel arms facing each other are symbolic and characteristic of the manufacturing process. The first pot still is a straight neck type, and the second one is a bulge type, and the shape of each pot still is different. This is the result of the advice from Forsythe, the manufacturer, that it is suitable for the trial and error to make a complex, balanced and beautiful whisky.
The aging room can hold up to 500 barrels, and if production continues at this rate, the room will be filled in three years. With the cool climate throughout the four seasons, the maturation process is expected to be relatively slow, and the raw whiskies are intentionally made to have a relatively strong body. The process of creating the flavors we are aiming for has just begun, as we take our time to understand the unique environment of Niseko. Thank you very much to Mr. Suzuki for his explanation.
The inside tour of the distillery is available three times a day, with advance reservations required, and is limited to a maximum of 10 people per tour. During the tour, you can enter the production facility area and receive an explanation, and afterwards, you can taste the new pot at the bar counter. Even now, there are no overseas tourists here, making it a definite hole-in-the-wall spot for domestic ski resort tourists. It is definitely one of the places I would like to visit as a domestic traveler.