Hakushu was founded in 1973 as Suntory's sister distillery to Yamazaki. It is situated in the forested foothills surrounding Mount Kaikomagatake in Yamanashi Prefecture. At one time the largest malt production facility in the world when production was expanded into a second site 'Hakushu East' near the original 'Hakushu West'. Now all production is at what as called 'Hakushu East'. The distillery also features its own grain production, potentially allowing for the production of a 'single blend'.
Hakushu was one of my first gateways in to the world of Japanese whisky. Located in the forested town of Toribara on the slopes of Mount Kaikomagatake, Hakushu is a distillery which exhibits true terroir with its whisky - Crisp, fresh and full of green fruit and vegetal notes are common descriptors and, as such, you can’t fail to be whisked away to what is one of the most beautiful distilling locations on the planet. However, Japanese whisky is now hotter than hot, and interest and speculation have put incredible pressure on supplies.
The discontinuation of Hakushu 12 year old shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone – the stock pressure on virtually all Japanese whisky is already well reported, and this particular expression had seen its availability become limited over the last couple of years. And yet, I’m still a little melancholy about it – not because it is my favourite Japanese expression, but because it was my first. Way back when, Hakushu 12 year old was my earliest experience of whisky procuded outside of Scotland, and at the time, I remember being quite stunned not only by the differences I found between this and the Scottish single malts I’d been tasting, but also, importantly, the by the similarities. It was the catalyst that lead me to explore the category further.