The entire staff of the Akkeshi Distillery shares one thing in common:
an unquenchable love of whisky. We want to produce a truly great whisky.
We are willing to go to any lengths to do it.
And we want to create a whisky of distinction that could only be made here in Akkeshi.
I have been working in quality control and product development at a major dairy products manufacturer. In the course of my duties I met with our President, Mr. Toita, several times a year for business talks related to ingredients. Over time I came to hear from Mr. Toita about his passion for whisky and his dream of opening a distillery, and I too came to harbor the ambition to make whisky.
I was sure the opportunity to be involved in opening a distillery was one that would only come once in life, and was not to be passed up. My own roots are on the factory floor, and I jumped at the chance to put my skills to work in manufacturing once again, though I was coming from a field other than whisky. I was given a push by Mr. Toita's encouraging words: "With the valuable experience you've built up over years in the food industry, I'd love for you to come on board and help fulfill my long-held dream of making whisky." I am overjoyed to be engaged in building a new distillery from square one.
As distillery manager, naturally I will be directing things overall, but I will also be able to employ the knowledge and expertise I've built up in the fields of production, sanitation, and quality control. No matter the field, building effective systems is of crucial importance, and as someone who has consistently been engaged in the system-building side of things, I believe I'll be able to put my experience to good use.
While preparations for opening our distillery were underway, I toured nine distilleries on the Scottish islands of Islay and Jura, and I was astonished at how every one of them willingly disclosed all of their trade secrets. For example, they told me how many minutes the "middle cut" (one stage of the distillation process) takes to complete, and so forth. The reason they were willing to do this, of course, is that even if we know the entire process they use, we will never be able to imitate their product.
What I learned after visiting all of these distilleries is that "the whisky we produce here will inevitably have the distinctive flavor of Akkeshi." I came to the realization that there was no need to change the process for the sake of changing it: we could stick faithfully to the traditional methods of Scotland and still have a truly original product. Whisky takes on flavor and depth over the years, just as people take time to learn and grow. Change whisky's environment, or the casks that store it, and its flavor will change as well. Herein lies the appeal and romance of whisky craftsmanship. The climate and terrain of Akkeshi is extremely similar to that of the Scottish island of Islay, renowned for its whiskies: cold weather, deep fog, and clean, pure air. At the same time, it is sure to create an inimitable whisky that could only be made here. All of us at the Akkeshi Distillery are hard at work, and can hardly wait for the day we can present the fruits of our labor to whisky lovers everywhere.
Looking back, my first whisky experience was in childhood––when I was drawn to the scent of whisky enjoyed by adults around me. Over time I became a die-hard whisky lover, even traveling to Scotland to visit distilleries.
I studied applied bacteriology at university and microbial resource ecology as my master's degree, going on to carry out environmental studies and chemical analyses at an architectural consulting company, but I could never give up on my dream of making whisky.
Then one day I heard about the plan to open the Akkeshi Distillery, and after conveying my feelings and ambitions regarding whisky to the team members, I was given the opportunity to join the project.
My duties involve procuring materials and carrying out whisky flavor and fragrance research using a GC-MS analyzer, making full use of the knowledge I've accrued at university and in my former position. I am also engaged in the study of yeast produced in Akkeshi in collaboration with university partners.
As Production Manager, I will oversee the entire production process.
One of the great strengths of the Akkeshi Distillery lies in our four craftsmen. Each brings a different background to the table, and each is effectively applying competencies required for the distillery's establishment. Then there is our ideal location in Akkeshi: we can produce malt, peat, yeast, and Japanese oak barrels here, and once we become able to raise barley, we'll be in sight of the goal of "100% Made in Akkeshi" whisky. This is a big deal to us, and we are going to continue putting forth every effort until we achieve it!
In preparation for the distillery's opening I made the rounds of 35 distilleries in Scotland, and I realized all over again how profound whisky is. I also realized how many fascinating people are involved in crafting it, and I intend to work hard toward joining their ranks.
At the moment, we are still in the process of finding our way forward, but each one of us is sincerely and wholeheartedly dedicated to the craft of making whisky. We are sure that what we produce will be worth the wait, and we look forward to sharing it with you.
Though I'm from Australia, I am a devotee of Japanese whisky. I came to Japan well over a decade ago, and have worked for an advertising agency and a liquor importer and distributor involving mainly whisky. Now I'm looking forward to applying the experience I gained there to marketing the whisky we produce at the Akkeshi Distillery, so that it will be enjoyed by whisky lovers the world over, and to serving as Akkeshi's brand ambassador.
Because Akkeshi is rich in peat and has a climate and terrain similar to the island of Islay in Scotland, I believe many people have high hopes that we'll deliver the kind of heavily peated whisky that's never really been made in Japan before. I'm happy to say that we already have a lot of fans both domestically and internationally via our social media, an increasing number of them are from overseas, so our number one priority is to craft whisky that lives up to these high expectations.
We aim to refine the know-how we've gained at other distilleries and amass new expertise unique to the Akkeshi Distillery.
For one thing, we intend to try out a variety of different casks, which are crucial to whisky production. One of my responsibilities is to explore the market to find supply sources of good quality casks, which we feel we have done. From here, we seek to develop the ideal flavor profile through our own endeavors, which include a variety of single cask and blended malt products.
Of course we want to craft superb whisky that satisfies the most discriminating enthusiast, but we also want to make our whisky accessible and easily drinkable for everybody. That's because we want not just a handful of insiders but countless people all over the world to enjoy the taste of Akkeshi Distillery whisky.
Fine whisky has the power to connect people, and one often sees scenes in which strangers become friends over a glass of whisky. Nothing would make me happier than if the whisky we make plays this role in people's lives.
All of us are looking forward to the dawn of a new era in Japanese whisky, and we hope you are as well.
I have lived in Akkeshi since 1970, where I used to run a furniture business. In 2013 I joined the Akkeshi Distillery team after I introduced a local contractor for construction of a maturation warehouse for a test maturation.
One of my duties is as a liaison between the distillery and the town of Akkeshi. This is a community where interpersonal ties are highly valued, and I aim to foster these by actively participating in local events and forging connections between our whisky and local industry so that we and Akkeshi can grow together.
In specific terms this includes projects that pair our whisky with prized local specialties like oysters and dairy products, as well as a plan for local cattle farmers to utilize our draff (residue of husks after fermentation of grain for distilling) as feed. It would be terrific if this eventually leads to "whisky-fed beef" as a product!
Hopes are high for this distillery not only among whisky enthusiasts but also in the local community, so we aim to contribute to the town of Akkeshi in as many ways as possible.
During construction of the distillery, I was placed in charge of checking blueprints and estimates, overseeing construction progress and giving instructions, making use of expertise from my former profession. I am satisfied that the end result is a distillation facility that looks beautiful silhouetted against the blue sky, and also has a practical, streamlined design that makes workers' jobs easy.
I am also scheduled to be involved in caring for the casks. This will be a big job, as we intend to fill 400 casks in the first year alone and progressively boost their numbers thereafter, but I look forward to going around checking each and every one and asking "How are you doing today?"––just as if I were caring for my grandchildren.
The climate and terrain of the production site has a strong effect on the scent and flavor of whisky, so I am sure the abundant nature and unique climate of Akkeshi will be amply reflected in what we produce. I will be delighted if we can craft a distinctive whisky that people will take one sip of and say, without looking at the label: "Ah, that's Akkeshi!"
Kenten Co., Ltd.
2-109 Miyazono, Akkeshi-cho, Akkeshi-gun, Hokkaido 088-1124