Next to Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest and most beautiful freshwater lake, travellers will find the serene, gorgeous town of Nagahama. Home to the historic Nagahama Castle, the city continues to develop and grow each year, and enjoys quite a large number of tourists during the seasons of spring and summer.
For this reason, the Nagahama Brewery was established in 1996, which was also the year the Japanese government loosened restrictions concerning beer production. They wanted to create great, local, craft beer, and they succeeded greatly in this goal.
Better known as Roman beer, the Nagahama releases grew popular, and both locals and tourists alike grew to love the craft brews they could enjoy in Nagahama, and the surrounding prefecture. If you get a chance, try the Nagahama IPA Special brewed with Citra hops, and their flagship Nagahama Ale.
Now, some 20 years later, the Nagahama team have jumped on the latest boom once more, by establishing a small whisky distillery to cater to the country’s rising thirst for domestic whisky.
New Ideas From A New Generation
Nagahama may be Japan’s smallest distillery, at about 8 tsubo (Japanese measurement unit, approx 26 square meters), but it is playing its part well, as part of a new generation of distilleries popping up throughout Japan.
The great, globally known Chichibu distillery started the movement of innovation and experimentation with whisky maturation and distillation, and now other new, Japanese distilleries are following suit.
Since Nagahama’s inception last year in 2016, the distillery team have started with some very interesting new make spirit expressions. This was one of the very first bottlings by the distillery, while here we have the most recent lightly peated single malt by Nagahama.
Mini-casks were also created and sold alongside the first new make bottlings, allowing fans to age the whisky by themselves in just a few weeks. These were made of American Oak and charred, just like normal casks.
New make spirit releases are usually rather intense and overwhelming, yet, the unique shape of the small pot still at Nagahama is meant to give the spirit a richer flavour and more depth.
Right now, the new make releases and mini cask accompaniment are all Nagahama has to offer, and so they put a lot of energy into their distillation methods, attempting to create the most balanced new make whiskies they can.
They attend many whisky events throughout Japan, and so far their whiskies have been greatly welcomed, as their fan base begins to grow and awaits some of the young releases to come.
If you get a chance to try some Nagahama whisky, take it. A new distillery’s journey has begun, and there’s nothing better than “tasting” each step it takes on its path towards greatness.