The Taste of Japanese Whisky 3rd Edition

Whisky is a spirit made from Barley or other types of grain. It's mostly associated with Scotland, but also produced outside of the British Isles.

After World War II, Japan became one of the largest producers of Whisky outside of Scotland. This is why we started to  incorporate Japan's number one strong spirit in to the Anime Festival.

This year we are organising the Third Japanese Whisky tasting event at the Anime Festival.
To enter you will have to buy a separate Whisky ticket. This ticket covers all consumptions that are part of this tasting event. Tickets can be bought at the Registration Desk.


This year, we are organising a small and closed distillery tasting. None of the whiskies of the two giants of Japan, Nikka and Suntory are included in the tasting.

The History of Japanese Whisky

In 1923, Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory built Japan’s first malt whisky distillery in the valley of Yamazaki. Using copper pot stills, the Yamazaki distillery was the first of its kind outside of Scotland. The distillery’s location on the outskirts of Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto offered pure water, diversity of climate and high humidity and according to Torii the ideal environment for the maturation of quality whisky. Torii was able to start his empire by enlisting a Japanese chemist who had been sent out to learn about the Whisky trade in Scotland, a certain Masataka Taketsuru (1894-1979). Taketsuru was sent to Scotland by the later defunct Osaka-based company called Settsu Shuzo, who also wanted to produce a Japanese whisky based on what people in Scotland make. Taketsuru was send to Scotland in 1919 to get educated in western science at Glasgow University, and in his free time, he also learned about the art of blending and distilling.

When he returned to Japan in 1920, he realised that the project for which he had been recruited was not going to see the light of day. And, following the 1922 stock market crash, he lost his job. A year later, he joined the Kotobukiya group (Later Suntory), for which he and Torrii built the Yamazami distillery.

In 1934, after a dispute with Torii, he decided to strike out on his own. Masataka Taketsuru remembered from his experience in Scotland that the environment was essential for producing a quality whisky and realised that the climate of Southern Hokkaido closely resembles Scotland. He found the perfect place for his  istillery in the town of Yoichi and created the Nippon Kaju and in 1939, he began to release his first blends. War broke out, but this did not stop him from bringing out his first bottle in 1940. In 1952, the company definitively adopted the name Nikka Whisky.

His growing success enabled him to establish a second distillery in 1969 on the island of Honshu close to the city of Sendai. Meanwhile, Suntory established a second Distillery, Hakushu, near mount Fuji which prompted Nikka to start a third one, which has since closed and only used for storage near Osaka.

The two Giants

Nikka and Suntory are the most well known brands of Japanese Whisky. Nikka, Taketsuru's company, was subsequently bought by Asahi Breweries but still operates as a separate company. Suntory has started to expand in all kinds of beverages as well.
Of these two giants, only Suntory used to be well known in The Netherlands and most of Europe, simply because they have a good distribution channel here and at that time, Nikka produced only enough Single Malt Whisky for the home market. Luckily for us Westerners, this is slowly changing.

Japan's active distilleries

The map above, made by Shinanoya places all active Japanese Distilleries in it's place. However, the Karuizawa Distillery has been closed down and dismantled, despite voices from the West, screaming for the factory to continue as the Whisky, which has to mature for at least three years, is of exceptional quality.

The Honbo Shinshu Distillery is the only one left of their three production locations. Honbo used to produce Whisky in Kagoshima, Yamanashi and in Nagano (Shinshu) but was, three years ago, almost a lost cause. Due to the Factory manager and Master Distiller's input, their almost broken down still was repaired and is now, for it's third year, in full production again, but only during winter. Honbo produces Whisky under the Mars label. It's a small distillery and getting their goods outside of Japan is almost impossible.
An odd one in the World of Whisky is Eigashima's White Oak Distillery, which, up till recently, only produced blended whisky. They discovered that the malts they produced for their blends, were actually quite good. This led to their quiet release of a five year old Single Malt called Akashi, after the large city which is near the Distillery. This malt has been on the market for a few years and was relatively un-noticed, until they decided to release a one-off 8 year old Single Malt at The Tokyo Whisky Live! event, which got high praise from all famous Whisky buffs. They now produce, alongside their five year old, a very limited batch of 12 year old Akashi (about 2000 bottles a year, 500ml. bottles) and have recently released an even smaller batch of 14yo whisky, which has matured for it's final two years in wine barrels from their vineyards. The funny thing about this distillery is that they only produce Whisky during Winter because they produce Wine in Autumn, other spirits and digestives in Spring and Sake in the Summer.

The final small distillery I will discuss here is: Chichibu. Chichibu is owned by Venture Whisky. Venture Whisky has been set up by Akuto Ichiro, Grandson of the previous distiller in the area or Saitama, relatively near Tokyo. Ichiro has a real passion for his craft and you can notice this in his total hands-on approach. He aims to produce everything that is in his whiskies in Japan and even locally. To make this work, he has made agreements with local farmers to grow the type of barley he needs biologically, has used peat from local mores to burn, giving the whisky it's smoky flavour. This year he will start to malt this and other barley at
the Chichibu distillery, which is only done by three distilleries in Scotland at the moment and no others in Japan. Due to the heat and high elevation, Chichibu's spirit matures pretty fast. Their three year old "The First" was named Japanese Whisky of 2011. And for a reason!

Our tasting

This year, we will focus on mainly small distilleries in Japan.

Our tasting will contain: A blend from Eigashima, two single malts from Chichibu, a Karuaizawa single malt, New make spirit from Mars Shinshu and a 28 year old Pure Malt derived from the three distilleries that used to make up the Mars Whisky distilleries from Honbo. This Pure Malt recently won the World Whisky Award for best blended malt whisky.
Due to the difficulty to get these bottles and their price range, we may have to slightly up the price for the tasting. However, it will be a tasting, the likes of which have never been held in The Netherlands before.
As far as I know, no whiskies from Mars Shinshu have ever been used in a Dutch tasting before.

Our Whiskies

  1. White Oak Tokinoka Blended Whisky
  2. Mars Shinshu New Pot Heavily Peated (Distilate strength)
  3. Chichibu The Floor Malted (First own malting, done in Scotland at Ben Riach, Cask Strength)
  4. Karuizawa Asama Final vintage of Karuizawa (48% ABV)
  5. Chichibu Chibidaru (Cask Strength)
  6. Mars Maltage 3Plus25 28yo Pure Malt (46% ABV)

We are also looking into having Japanese Whiskies on sale again at Anime 2013.


Tickets are for sale at the Anime 2013 Information desk and will cost € 17,50.




  • You have to be 18 years of age or older on June 1, 2013.
  • You will need to bring your ID and show it to the security people at the door before you are allowed entrance.
  • Whole weekend visitors only, due to the hour of the tasting and the possibility of you driving home.
  • You are not allowed to drive after partaking in the tasting.
  • The tasting is limited to 65 people. If the limit is reached, you can not attend.
  • Taking part in this tasting costs € 17,50, to be paid at the Information desk.
  • The first half of the tickets will be sold on Friday after 18:00, the rest on Saturday after 12:00


Whole Weekend visitors ONLY.


22:00 - 0:00 Saturday

Ticketbooth Open

Order your tickets now!

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