Fans of impossibly rare Japanese whiskey can look forward to an exciting new year. Karuizawa is about to rekindle its stills among the most sought-after names in the supreme single malt field. Well, sort of…
The popular distillery in Nagano prefecture was restored in 2000 and has since achieved a status akin to living liquid culture. As that remaining stock dwindles, excitement has intensified. A 1960 vintage recently sold for $638,000 a bottle. Even when it’s not that old, we’ve seen publications fetch nearly half a million dollars at auction. Seriously. Now we are going to see a new Karuizawa is reborn in a state-of-the-art $20 million USD facility just 7 miles from its original location.
Instrumental in shaping the revival is Ian Chang, the same master blender responsible for award-winning Taiwanese malt casks. Here he will be working with a single still pair of men from the Forsyths who supply the copper for the most respected names in Scotch. He would also use a primal water source from the foothills of Mount Asama – nearly identical in composition to the liquid to be used in the original Karuizawa distillation. As a result, all the pieces are in place to make this a truly exceptional whisky. But we’ll have to wait a decade before we know for sure.
Chang intends to put 250 barrels worth of liquid into sherry butts each year. He won’t bottle any of it until it’s rested for at least 10 years. Through an exclusive partnership with online retailer dekantā, Karuizawa will offer full boxes for deep-pocketed collectors. The reservation for 2022 is already sold out, but 2023 will be on sale soon. So keep your eyes open and don’t expect it to be cheap; The site isn’t exactly known for offering the most competitive rates.
In the meantime, you are welcome to visit the facility in person starting in the new year. It was built to include an elegant and modern visitor center. What you enjoy there remains a mystery. Maybe the stars are a new Japanese product? If you’re lucky, maybe Karuizawa Distillers’ CEO and founder Koji Shimaoka has a few bottles stored away from his predecessors. Chances are you’ll soon be sipping something younger and fruitier, bottled under the more accessible Komoro label. But one thing is certain: the future will be filled with more Karuizawas.