Japanese Akashi Blended Whisky

Akashi Blended Whisky is certainly a bit of an enigma; the original blend that is sold in Japan wouldn't even be considered whisky in Europe as it is made from a mixture of malt whisky and molasses. To remedy this for the export market, Eigashima distillery have blended their limited availability malt with grain whiskey from the United States so that it can properly be classified as whisky in Europe. Eigashima, otherwise known as the White Oak Distillery, is primarily a sake and shochu producer and has been in operation since 1888. Despite whisky production being a very small part of their business, they are the oldest and smallest whisky distillery in Japan having been granted a license to distil whisky in 1919. Despite having this privilege, whisky production wasn't started until they moved to their new facilities near Kobe in Akashi City in 1984; these premises have separate rooms for whisky, sake and shochu production. The decision was taken to start producing whisky as a result of the boom in the Japanese whisky industry during the late 1970s. The boat was missed however as, shortly after opening White Oak, the industry crashed due to a massive hike in the Japanese Liquor Tax and the more attractive prices and ready availability of Scotch and Irish imported whisky. Due to this, they were only operating the whisky stills for around one month every year since the early 90s. This has increased to two months of the year since the current global fascination with Japanese malt but is still producing far less than the other Japanese distilleries. This, combined with the fact that less than five employees handle all of Eigashima’s whisky production, makes the distillery’s signature Akashi some of the rarest in Japan, not to mention elsewhere around the world. Akashi Blended Whisky is distilled using imported barley from Scotland in addition to pure water that comes from the same underground source that's used to make their sake. This barley is mashed and distilled in traditional copper pot stills before being aged in bourbon and sherry casks in what is a rather humid warehouse. Due to Akashi City's hot summers and cold winters, around 8% of the maturing whisky is lost every year due to evaporation; compare this to just 2% usually seen in Scotland and you will understand that the final yield is lessened considerably. Fortunately this also acts as an expedient in the maturation process as the extreme changes in temperature promote interaction between the whisky and the wood. As a result, Akashi White Oak Japanese Whisky has a malty, citrusy aroma with scents of black cherry, toffee and oak. Notes of vanilla and pine nuts dominate the palate, and lead to a long, malty finish. This is a reasonably priced everyday whisky that would provide an excellent gateway to some of the bigger Japanese drams. Highly recommended! You can buy yours here.