Shizuoka Distillery in Shizuoka City, Japan, is a pioneer in independent whisky production, using cedar from nearby forests to meet global demand for premium spirits. Japan celebrates a century of whisky production since Suntory’s first distillery in 1923. With over 100 licensed distilleries, Japan aims to establish its identity in the rapidly expanding market. Shizuoka stands out by using a unique cedar-fueled fire beneath its whisky still.

Despite their smaller size in comparison to industry giants like Suntory, these emerging distilleries have grand ambitions on a global scale. Taiko Nakamura, the visionary behind Shizuoka Distillery since its establishment in 2016, found inspiration during a trip to Scotland. Witnessing a modest distillery thrive in the international whisky market sparked his ambition to create a globally cherished whisky. The surge in craft whisky in Japan follows a previous cycle of rapid growth and subsequent decline in the industry. Japanese single malts and blends, once considered inferior imitations of Scotch, gained international acclaim around 2008, igniting fervent global demand that exceeded available supply by 2015. This scarcity led to soaring prices, prompting industry leaders like Suntory and Nikka to expand production capacity and whisky reserves, aiming to maintain quality standards. However, concerns have surfaced within the industry regarding potential compromises in product quality, posing a threat to Japan’s established reputation for exceptional whisky. Nakamura from Shizuoka emphasizes the commitment needed to uphold the legacy of Japanese whisky excellence, stressing the importance of unwavering dedication to crafting exceptional Japanese spirits.