Eigashima Distillery, located in Akashi City near Kobe, Japan, is both the country’s oldest and smallest whisky distillery, and perhaps its most mysterious as well. Founded in 1888, the distillery is best-known for its production of sake and shochu — two of Japan’s most popular spirits — and although technically able to produce whisky since 1919, Eigashima only began making whisky in 1984 when the company moved to its new “White Oak” facilities.
Whisky production at Eigashima Distillery takes place only two months out each year, with the rest of the time being devoted to sake and shochu production. This, combined with the fact that less than five employees handle all of Eigashima’s whisky production, makes the distillery’s signature Akashi White Oak Japanese Whisky some of the rarest in Japan, not to mention elsewhere around the world.
Akashi White Oak Japanese Whisky is crafted using specially-imported barley from Scotland, as well as pure water that comes from the same underground source Eigashima Distillery uses to make its sake. Once the barley is milled, mashed and distilled through Eigashima’s traditional pot stills, it is set to age in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks in the distillery’s newly-built warehouses.
Due to Akashi City’s unique climate, with extremely hot summers and cool winters, as much as 7%-8% of Eigashima’s maturing whisky may be lost to evaporation each year, as opposed to the 2% commonly seen in Scotland. While this lowers still the overall production yield, it also acts as a catalyst for the maturation process, as the temperature swings encourage 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.