Hakushu Single Malt Whisky
Hakushu Distillery – pronounced ‘Hack-shoo’, which means ‘white sand bar’ – stands at 2,300 feet above sea level – more than twice the altitude of Scotland’s highest distillery – in the shadow of the pale granite pyramid of Mount Kaikomagatake (9,744 feet), in the Japanese Alps.
White is a sacred colour in Japan, and the name is derived from alluvial deposits cast up by the rivers which water the district, rushing down from the mountain above in crystal-clear cascades, filtering through granite rocks and filling subterranean caverns and springs. It is considered to be the best water in Japan and is bottled and sold by Suntory, the distillery’s owner.
The distillery is surrounded by deep green sub-tropical forest, most of it protected as a nature reserve. The air is clean and cool, which makes Hakushu district popular with summer visitors escaping the torrid heat of the cities and plains of Japan’s south island, Honshu – especially since it is only three hours by Bullet Train from downtown Tokyo.
Climate and water quality were key reasons for Suntory choosing to build their second distillery at Hakushu in 1973, the year the company celebrated its 50th anniversary and a time when Japanese whisky was enjoying huge, albeit local, popularity