Friday, July 19, 2013

Nine Leaves Distillery (5): The Future

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

There’s not much spirit left in the storage tank at Nine Leaves distillery. A little over 400 bottles of ‘Clear’ have found their way to adventurous punters nationwide and what little is left in the tank is waiting to be filled into wood. That’s the next step on Yoshiharu Takeuchi’s journey to produce the first premium Japanese rum: maturation.
Takeuchi-san got hold of two 225-litre virgin oak casks – one American oak, the other French oak – and is planning to fill them next week. It’s a start, but he’s got bigger plans. The idea is to set aside 60% of the distillery output for his ‘Gold’ releases (i.e. rum aged between 6 months and 2 years) and 20% for his ‘Dark’ releases (rum aged well over 2 years) with the remaining 20% bottled as is, i.e. as ‘Clear’.

With 80% of the output destined to spend time in wood, Takeuchi-san is going to need more than two small casks, obviously. Aside from ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks, he’s working on sourcing ex-red wine barrels. He spent a few days in the US this week, scouring Napa valley for good quality wine wood. Seems like it was a productive trip. There’s just one problem: he doesn’t have a warehouse… yet. Until there is one – and he’s planning on building one, partially below ground level to keep the angel’s share from skyrocketing during the hot summers here – those soon-to-be-filled barrels will have to sleep in the actual distillery building.

What else does the future hold for Nine Leaves distillery? Expansion? Not really. For Takeuchi-san, it’s not about quantity but about quality. He plans to produce just enough rum to keep the legislators from pulling his distilling license, i.e. the legal minimum of 6,000 litres per annum.

The first release of Nine Leaves ‘Gold’ is scheduled for the spring of next year. There’s a lot of work to be done but Takeuchi-san is ready. He’s driven but he’s patient. He knows it will take years before something will come out of his little distillery in Shiga that will be up there with the best rums in the world and of the same quality as the best Japanese single malt whiskies.

Before we head back to Tokyo, we ask Takeuchi-san what sort of practical advice he got from Akuto-san while he was learning the ropes at Chichibu distillery. “Just two things, really,” he says, “to trust your intuition and to believe in what you’re making.” Simple as that…

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Stefan,
Thank you for this very interesting 5-article long introduction on Nine Leaves. I'm extremely curious about it and would love to be able to taste what seems to be a very promising rum.
Thanks again.
Cheers,
Adrien T.

Stefan Van Eycken said...

Thanks for kind words, Adrien. Next time our paths cross, I'd be happy to share some of Nine Leaves' clear rum with you!