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Karuizawa Japanese Single Malt Whisky


The Karuizawa Distillery was one of Japan’s most small-scaled operating distilleries, operated for less than half a century and it has remained dormant since the early 21st century. Despite this, Karuizawa Single Malt Whisky is the most sought-after single malt in Japan and one of the most international desired whiskies due to the spirit’s high quality and exceptional rareness, such as the Karuizawa 1960 Single Cask No. #5627, which is probably the most rare and expensive Japanese whisky sold on the market.


Karuizawa was established in shadows of the active volcano Mount Asama in the former Asama Vineyard in 1955 by the Mercian Wine Company (currently known as the Mercian Corporation), a Japanese retailer of wine, liquors and distilled spirits. The distillery was named after the adjacent city of Karuizawa, the home base of a mountain ski-resort very popular among the Japanese upper class. MORE ...


Having the Karuizawa Distillery established, the Mercian Wine Company realized their ambition to create a single malt whisky following the traditional distiller methods used in Scotland yet combined with a representative Japanese twist. In order to achieve this, both the distillery’s equipment and the climatic circumstances under which the spirit’s maturing process took place had to be predominantly similar to those in Scotland. Karuizawa was built in the city of Mitoya, the Nagano Prefecture in Japan because of the region’s similarity in climatic temperatures to those in Scotland, even though Mitoya’s seasonal fluctuations were more contrasting at its peak during summer- and wintertime. Karuizawa has used small wooden washbacks for the fermentation and imported sherry casks from Spain to provide for the spirits aging process. Karuizawa Single Malt is definitely comparable to the style of the traditional Scotch single malt whisky, bus has maintained a distinctive Japanese whisky in its taste!


Until the year 1958, Japan’s importing restrictions and legislation didn’t allow the import of Scottish barley needed for the spirit’s production. The distilleries in Japan were obligated to buy the required, but scarce Japanese barley supplied by the Japanese government, this was a mandatory regulation. In 1958, import restrictions were lifted. Karuizawa started right away to import the higher-quality Golden Promise barley from Scotland. By making this strategic decision, it was the first Japanese distillery to import this necessity for the production process.  Besides that, Karuizawa was the first Japanese distillery to export its whiskies across the border.


In that era, the international demand for Japanese whiskies wasn’t as substantial as desired sales wise. The high quality of the Karuizawa whiskies remained unknown to the general public and the expenses of producing Karuizawa Single Malt unfortunately didn’t meet the beneficial profits resulting from the distillery's sales. Karuizawa was mothballed in the year 2000 and ultimately shut down in 2011, resulting in the distillery’s premises to be dismantled and the distillery’s equipment to be sold. Most of Karuizawa’s equipment was sold to the Japanese independent bottler Gaiaflow, and the Kruizawa’s wooden casks were acquired by the Chichibu Distillery.


Remarkably enough, the following years the world became more and more appreciative with the Japanese whisky selection. Being such a high-class and limited released Japanese single malt, with only a few casks left in stock to release, Karuizawa has acquired a cult status. Until this day on, obtaining one of those rare vintage Karuizawa Single Malts is just something whisky collectors can only dream about.


Mark Watt, the general manager of independent bottler Cadenhead once said: “You want to sell your whisky? Then you should close your distillery”. Maybe, as far as the Karuizawa Distillery’s legacy is concerned, this is a nostalgic true story.


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Top wines in Karuizawa

product view:
ProducerName Vintage l. Parker
Robert Parker is one of the world's most infuential wine critic. Ratings are from 50 – 100 points.
Ratings from WineSpectator/James Suckling. Ratings are from 50 – 100 points
Tasting Notes from other wine professionals like Jancis Robinson, Rene Gabriel, Burghound etc.
Rating from the Best of Wine Tasting panel
Number of bottles in stock
Price (incl. VAT)
Karuizawa • 12 Years Old Pure Malt Whisky 40% NV 0,70 1 € 1.322,31 € 1.600,00
Karuizawa • 15 years old 40% NV 0,70 1 € 1.652,89 € 2.000,00
Karuizawa • 17 Years Old Crystal Decanter 40% (Box slighlty dented ) NV 0,70 1 € 1.302,00 € 1.575,42
Karuizawa • 1981 30 Years Old Vintage Cask 6207 58.3% 1981 0,70 1 € 3.163,64 € 3.828,00
Karuizawa • 1981 Cask:6056 Japanese Label 60.3% 1981 0,70 1 € 5.371,90 € 6.500,00
Karuizawa • 1981 Cocktail Serie Sherry Butt Cask 162 55.8% 1981 0,70 94 1 € 3.719,01 € 4.500,00
Karuizawa • 1981 Geisha Label 31 Years Old Cask 2100 60.4% 1981 0,70 1 € 6.198,35 € 7.500,00
Karuizawa • 1983 Geisha Label 29 Years Old Cask 2233 59.4% 1983 0,70 1 € 4.958,68 € 6.000,00
Karuizawa • 1984 28 Year Old Cocktail Serie Cask 7975 59.3% 1984 0,70 91 1 € 4.090,91 € 4.950,00
Karuizawa • 1999-2000 Vintages Cask Strength 2th Edition 59.5% 1999 0,70 2 € 1.652,88 € 1.999,98
Karuizawa • 35 Years Old Vintage Cask 6736 (Slightly damaged box) 1975 0,70 1 € 5.758,12 € 6.967,33
Karuizawa • 42 Years Old Vintage Cask 6177 64.3% 1970 0,70 1 € 13.223,14 € 16.000,00
Karuizawa • 42 Years Old Vintage Cask 8183 For Number One Drinks 61,3% 1969 0,70 90 1 € 9.200,00 € 11.132,00
Karuizawa • Asama 11 Years Old 46% NV 0,70 1 € 1.384,30 € 1.675,00
Karuizawa • That Boutique-y Whisky Company Batch 3 50.1% NV 0,5 1 € 2.750,00 € 3.327,50