After establishing a factory in Kawasaki, the company began producing Miraku refined sake, and in 1949, the name of the company was changed to Miraku Breweries Corp. In 1955, Karuizawa distillery was built near Mount Asama, and whisky production began.
In 1961 the company acquired wine maker Nisshin Breweries based in the city of Koshu. The Nisshin owned the Mercian brand, and under this name the company added wine its production. In the following year it acquired the Ocean brand (owned by Daikoku Wineries). Following the example of Suntory, the company became a large producer of Western style alcoholic beverages under the Ocean name.
In 1970 the company marketed Chateau Mercian wine, and then during the 1980s highball boom, the company started making sour drinks and cocktails of all sorts, such as the famous peachtree fizz that’s still popular today. In 1990 the company acquired its present name of Mercian.
For a long time, the Suzuki family owned the largest shares in Ajinomoto; however, in 1997 following a power struggle, the company president published a damning account of family’s behavior. The company was then reworked and improved before being acquired as a subsidiary of Kirin Holdings in the mid-2000s. Today, Mercian forms the nucleus of the Kirin group’s wine industry. Although the main shareholder has changed, the company itself remains largely unchanged from its Ajinomoto origins.
But Kirin could not sustain the premium whisky production, so the Karuizawa distillery and its sister distillery at Kawasaki closed in 2011. When Karuizawa was completely shuttered in 2012, the pot still and other equipment were removed, and what could be sold was sold off. As Karuizawa is now a rare, world-famous whisky, its price has almost doubled in recent times. Currently it’s not easy to get one’s hands on a bottle.
How To Find Karuizawa Distillery
Unfortunately it is no longer possible to visit Karuizawa distillery as it was closed and the land on which it stood sold in 2012.