Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nine Leaves Distillery (4): The First Bottling

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
Photography © by Niko Neefs

At Nine Leaves Distillery, everything is pretty much done by hand. Owner / distiller Yoshiharu Takeuchi likes that; it makes him feel part of the process. And that includes bringing the product to the customer.
His first release, unaged Nine Leaves rum, came out a few months ago. He named it ‘Clear’ – as opposed to ‘White’ – in reference to the transparent glaze that used to be mined from the mountain from which he now draws his water. (See part 1 for more about this.) Cutting the spirit in the storage tank down from about 58% to 50%, his bottling strength of choice, is one of the hardest parts of the whole process, he says. Getting the numbers right is quite tricky.

Finding the right bottle was hard, too. Most mass-produced bottles in Japan scream ‘shochu’ or ‘nihonshu’. Since rum is not a Japanese spirit – and wanting to avoid confusion with shochu and nihonshu – Takeuchi-san didn’t feel the standard bottles available here were suitable. Having them order-made was a possible solution but a costly one, especially for a craft distiller with a small output. He looked abroad and found just the right bottle in France. As he says, “everything inside is Japanese but the ‘clothes’ are foreign.”

Takeuchi-san bottles everything by hand – sometimes helped by his wife and/or son(s) – without chill-filtration. Each bottle is labeled by hand and even numbered by hand. He doesn’t feel it’s tedious at all – it’s just a continuation of the care and attention to detail that goes into making the rum. As he checks and labels a couple of bottles, using an impromptu jig he made from a piece of styrofoam, we ask him where the actual name of the distillery comes from. Turns out there’s nothing mysterious about it: it’s just a modern translation of Takeuchi-san’s family crest, which consists of... nine leaves.

The first release... and the family crest.
Join us again tomorrow for the last part of our mini-series on Nine Leaves distillery as we find out about Takeuchi-san’s plans for the future.

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