Akkeshi is a whisky distillery in the rural north of Japan. It is the second distillery on the island of Hokkaido after Nikka Yoichi.
The distillery is owned and operated by the Kenten Co Ltd. Company president, Keiichi Toita is a fan of Islay single malt Scotch whisky and Akkeshi sometimes referred to as Little Lagavulin.
The distillery's goal is to use its unique location, combined with traditional Scottish methods to create aromas and flavours that aren't found anywhere else.
The distillery produces a peaty, heavy-bodied single malt. The whisky is designed to pair well with local food specialities like dairy products and oysters.
Akkeshi produces whisky from malted barley imported from Scotland. However, there are plans to introduce locally sourced ingredients.
Fermentation takes place in stainless steel washbacks without any form of temperature control. The distillery relies on the skill of its staff to time the fermentation in relation to outside temperatures.
Ex-bourbon barrels and sherry butts are the most commonly used maturation casks. However, there has been some experimentation with Japanese Mizunara oak, wine casks and rum barrels as well.
The Kenten Company was inspired by the distinctive flavour of Islay whiskies. However, the Akkeshi area experiences more drastic climate changes than Scotland. Such temperature fluctuations could impact the maturation of the whisky.
There are three warehouses. The first two are in the dunnage style. The third warehouse is racked and was built near the sea in the hopes that the ageing whisky will take on some of the aromas of the sea.
The Kenten Company began planning for the distillery back in 2013. A stock of new spirits was purchased from other distilleries to test the maturation process.
The foggy landscape of Akkeshi in Hokkaido was chosen and construction began in 2015. By 2016, the distillery was in full production using pot stills supplied and fitted by Forsyths in Scotland.
In 2017, the distillery released its first product. Foundations 1 was a vatted blend of spirit matured for 5-14 months in bourbon casks. Foundations 2 was released the following year, containing the first peated example of the spirit. Foundations 3 demonstrated the effects of maturation in a Mizunara cask and Foundations 4, released in 2019, was a blended whisky.
2020 saw the release of the first single malt whisky bottle. Akkeshi Kanro was around 3 years old and matured in a combination of bourbon, sherry, wine and Mizunara casks. There were 15,000 bottles released at a strength of 55% alcohol by volume.