Fuji Gotemba- Kirin. Most of my Japanese distillery posts are going to be organized differently than Scotland, Ireland and the US. As you read and compare you will see that the technical and capacity side of my Japanese write-ups will be lacking. This is not a negative thing, just a clear language barrier presented itself. There were a few locations that I was able to get a bit of English help, but beyond that this was truly a brand, ownership and whisky culture experience. That is what people are looking for in regards to Japanese whisky anyways. I wanted to learn how they are organized, how they launch brands and produce blends. Traveling here, I wasn’t as concerned about pot still capacity, kinds of yeast etc. For example you may be able to imagine that asking what kind of yeast strand is used via Google translate could turn out to be an interesting translation.
Now taking a deeper look into Fuji Gotemba and who owns this distillery. This is a distillery about two hours outside of Tokyo and can be reached by a combination train and bus. It sits at the base of Mt. Fuji and of course boasts that amazing spring and melted snow water are being used during their production. This means then that this melted snow water is running through the volcanic rock of the mountain as well. This facility works with both malted barley for single malts and with column stills for other grain whiskies. I only saw the pot stills and they were quite large. There is a pair of both wash and spirit stills and apparently the majority of what is made here goes through the multiple column still and doubler set up. We then moved on to see the stainless steel washbacks. There had to be at least 30 washbacks from what I could see. After this we walked down a long corridor where we could actually watch barrels go through their cooperage facility. All of their warehouses are racked. They also have a bottling facility on site as well. From what I gathered and from what is in the market for their product line, a lot of what they make is being used for blends and most likely being sold off. The facility was quite impressive and fully automated. They definitely spent a lot of money on this place.
I tried the following two mainstream brands out of this distillery:
Kirin’s Fuji Sanroku 50 Degrees Non-Chill Filtered- NAS
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Maple syrup, plums, get something quite sweet.
Palate: Wood, oak, spice up front, finished with char and spicy fig.
This is cask strength hence the 50 degrees on the label, but it may need a dash of water to calm the palate down. Apparently it’s quite popular for highballs. It is found in most all retail stores throughout Japan and not distributed outside of the country.
Robert Brown Blended Whisky
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Grainy, honey, tea with honey in it. Very light.
Palate: Soft oak, sweet on top of tongue, floral, pear and other light fruits.
Definitely a grain whisky, but would be great for cocktails.
Some of you may have known that Kirin is also the owner of American whiskey brand Four Roses. Kirin used to be the distributor for Four Roses in Japan in the 70’s when it was owned by drinks conglomerate Seagrams. In 2002 Kirin purchased the American brand outright and revitalized it to it’s current state (see my previous Four Roses post). If you are in Tokyo and want to visit, I highly recommend it. They are super friendly and all of the workers wanted to follow me on Instagram! Get off at the Gotemba station and take a cab from there for about 1200 Yen. Great little town to get lunch in and see Mt. Fuji too.