"RAREST JAPANESE WHISKY" FROM A GHOST DISTILLERY, SHIRAKAWA 1985 AT USD29,580 A BOTTLE
By Susan Lewis
Source: Tomatin Distillery
Japanese spirits and sake producer, Takara Shuzo, has announced the limited release of 1,500 bottles of Shirakawa 1958 single malt on 13 September for £25,000 (USD29,580) per bottle. To be distributed by Tomatin Distillery, the release is being described as the “rarest Japanese whisky” and “the earliest single vintage Japanese whisky ever bottled”.
Shirakawa is a ghost distillery located 200km north of Tokyo, it was demolished in 2003. Documents about the distillery were long-lost and little was known about the company’s history.
A key piece of information was discovered in Takara Shuzo’s cellar in 2019. The information said the liquid had been distilled in 1958, aged in cask, and then transferred to ceramic jars at the distillery.
After Shirakawa’s closure, it was then poured into stainless steel tanks at Takara Shuzo’s factory in Kyushu, where it lay, until recently.
This unusual past means that the precise ageing of the whisky cannot be determined; although it is clear the whisky has been matured in oak casks (presumed to be the malted barley and Mizunara oak casks in use at that time), the exact type and length of maturation remains unknown to this day.
Stephen Bremner, Managing Director of Tomatin Distillery, was key in finding this forgotten liquid. He became fascinated by the story of Shirakawa and its history of whisky production after Tomatin Distillery was acquired by Takara Shuzo in 1986.
After some in-depth investigations with colleagues at Takara Shuzo, he identifies the last remaining parcel of Shirakawa in 2019. When he discovered that the last remaining stock was distilled in 1958, he immediately realised that they were dealing with something extremely rare.
“There are no known examples of Japanese Whisky claiming to be from a single vintage that predates Shirakawa 1958,” said Stefan van Eycken, an expert of Japanese whisky and distilling.
“Even though Shirakawa Distillery was one of the pioneers of malt whisky making in Japan, the liquid was never officially available as a single malt,” he added.
Bottled with an ABV of 49 percent, the limited edition of 1,500 bottles of Shirakawa 1958 will be available from 13 September via tomatindistillery.com and from selected retailers worldwide including Harrods, Berry Bros, The Whisky Exchange & Royal Mile Whiskies with a RRP of £25,000 (USD29,580).
Tasting notes from whisky writer Dave Broom:
• Nose: Resinous, slight dry earth, dried citrus peels, a hint of wax. Aromatic. A drop of water makes it more vibrant and also shows clear maturity as well as a hint of incense. Exotic.
• Palate: The palate is expansive with a succulent texture and hints of fragrant grass. Fruits emerge in the middle. Layered, spiced, and dry. Water brings out ash from an incense burner, a satisfying mouthfeel and surprisingly perky acidity.
• Finish: Nicely balanced and persistent on the finish which picks up mint flavouring and makes it more camphor-like.
(the writer can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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