I have just got back from two wonderful visits to Suntory`s Yamazaki and Eigashima`s White Oak distilleries. I think I got some really beautiful images of both places and lots of great interviews and new information. I think I have dropped the odd hint here but perhaps I should come clean: for the past few months I have been working on two books about Japanese alcohol for Tuttle publishing. The first is a comprehensive guide to the history and culture of Japanese alcohol combined with visits to bars and makers all over Japan. I am not just exploring what is known in the West as "sake", although there are a lot of new things to be said about that, but instead the whole incredible range of Japanese alcohol. My second project, which I should get on to later in the year, is a book specifically about the history and present of Japanese whisky but I am already making distillery visits alongside the other interviews etc. required for the more general guide.
Anyway, I visited Eigashima and grabbed a couple of pieces of news that I want to share with you. Eigashima, who released their first "Akashi" malt the year before last, seem to be really committed to single malt whisky. They are a tiny operation and are very much feeling their way in this new world (I have a bottle of Akashi here and so will try to post my impressions asap). The news? Well, a new 5 year old Akashi is to be released later this year. Then there will be a 12 year old next year. They have really small stocks of the older whisky because their strategy was, until recently, to make minimally aged blends. However, White Oak is a classic maritime location and who knows whether these are the small beginnings of a significant presence in the Japanese single malt world?