Japanese Whiskey Review: Akkeshi Sarorunkamuy (厚岸蒸溜所 サロルンカムイ)
Akkeshi Distillery is a new Japanese distillery founded in Hokkaido in 2013 which started production in 2016. It is unique in Japan, in a few interesting ways:
- It has been situated to emulate the local climate of Islay as closely as possible
- It is using Forsyth pot stills, at a 300,000 liter / year capacity
- It sits on a natural source of peat that it is using for its malts
- They are moving towards using Hokkaido-grown Barley (from Scottish imported) in their whisky
- They are movings towards aging in Hokkaido-sourced Mizunara oak, for an entirely “made local” whisky
Just this spring they finally achieved a 3-years+ in the casks product, which they called “Akkeshi Sarorunkamuy,” meaning “Japanese crane” in Ainu language, and also “God of the Marsh.”
This whisky was distilled in 2016 and matured in an unspecified proportion of bourbon, red wine, sherry and Mizunara casks. The suggested retail price is ¥5000, but the actual secondary market price is around ¥11,000, bottled at 55% and 200ml. It also got a “double gold” at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2020, although that is somewhat meaningless considering the “Whisky” category has 34 different medal winners from Japan.
I was fortunate to snag a sample from Tokyo Whiskey Library during their COVID sample sale at 50% off.
- Color: deep copper (1.0)
- Nose: fermented peat, roasted chestnuts, toluene, baked bread and imo; eau de rose, rye toast, dunnage warehouse
- Taste: extremely thick, peaty, port-charlotte-like distillate, pear and honey; malty cornbread, bubblegum
- Finish: medium, sour chocolate, pressed lavender, molasses; hay, pistachio
I was surprised the colour is so deep after just 3 years! I feel that with the cask, wood, and grain experimentation they’re doing, Akkeshi is probably on-par or slightly ahead of Kilchoman in terms of quality and trajectory, and I’m very to keen to see what they continue to put out. This is barely-legal whisky, but you could be completely convinced it was a 7/8 year old with a wine finish.
If this interests you, I’d also recommend following Richard’s blog, no relation to myself, which is one of the best English-language Japanese whisky news sources currently publishing.