The Rise of New Distilleries and Independent Bottling
Japan’s Shizuoka Distillery 静岡蒸溜所 (completed 2016)
Samsu Huay Kuan 三蒸会馆 along Orchard Road (2022)
Everyone knows about the Yamazakis. But in recent years, interest has grown in premium distilled spirits and in independent bottlings of spirits. With that, specialist providers and new distilleries have been brought to market. Enter Japan’s Shizuoka Distillery 静岡蒸溜所 (completed 2016), and spirits bar, Samsu Huay Kuan 三蒸会馆 (2022).
Shizuoka Distillery: Distilling in Nature
Shizuoka Distillery sits in an idyllic location in the mountains of Shizuoka prefecture, surrounded by cedar forests, fresh water sources and an abundance of wildlife. In fact, there are that many animals around here that, if you are in the area, you may even hear sounds from “shishiodoshi” – devices made to scare deer and other wildlife away from crops and farmland. From Tokyo, it is about an hour’s picturesque Shinkansen train ride passing by Mt Fuji, and about another hour’s car ride to arrive at the distillery.
Serenity, peace, and harmony are the words that come to mind when describing the distillery and its surroundings. Shizuoka Distillery is housed in a building designed to fuse the needs of a whisky distillery with the local landscape.
What differentiates Shizuoka distillery is the type of stills used at the distillery. Taiko Nakamura, founder of the distillery, even procured a still from the now silent Karuizawa distillery. There is also a direct-fire wood still, among others.
However, Shizuoka Distillery is not here to produce spirits like those at Japan’s most legendary whisky distillery. Instead they “produce whisky containing the features of this location and Shizuoka.” The distillate is fruity, delicate, and with floral notes.
The direct wood-fired still uses Sugi (cedar) wood sourced from the local forest to fuel the distillation process. Running a wood-fired still takes skill. Some distilleries use gas flames that allow easier control over the distillation with an even boiling rate. But for a wood-fired still, the fire needs to be attended, anticipated, and adjusted constantly. This process develops a distillate that is heavy, powerful, and sweet.
Shizuoka Distillery plans to use increasing amounts of local Japanese barley, instead of importing barley from Scotland. Another ode to rooting the whiskey to Shizuoka and its landscape.
Samsu Huay Kuan (三蒸会馆): Bringing Small Japanese Distilleries to Orchard Road
Whiskies from the Shizuoka distillery are available at Samsu Huay Kuan.
Located along Orchard Road in Concorde Hotel & Shopping Mall, Samsu Huay Kuan offers regular range and single cask whiskies from the Shizuoka distillery, along with whiskies from other relatively small Japanese distilleries e.g. Chichibu and Kanosuke.
Samsu Huay Kuan derives its name from “Samsu”, a local term for moonshine or illicitly distilled alcohol, and “Huay Kuan”, a clan association or the social support groups that our forefathers joined when they arrived on our shores.
The intimate 16-seater spirits bar opened its doors earlier this year, offering unique and interesting fine spirits.
Apart from whiskies from small Japanese distilleries, the bar specialises in spirits from independent bottlers, including whiskies, cognacs, and rums.
Independent Bottlers – casks of premium spirits are carefully selected from different distilleries and bottled under the independent bottler’s own label. What consumers get are usually single cask, one-off bottlings curated by and exclusive to the bottler, instead of vattings from multiple casks in regular releases.
Many independent bottlers are driven by a genuine interest and love for spirits, and quite a number have sprung up in recent years.
Spirits selected by Independent Bottlers such as Blackadder, Animal Spirits, and DramFool are displayed at Samsu Huay Kuan, and available to order by the dram.
These spirits are typically bottled at cask strength, some even going up to 70% ABV. Even seasoned alcoholics are advised to sip with both caution and curiosity!
In addition to the collection of spirits on offer, Japanese beer is also offered.
Samsu Huay Kuan also serves snacks sourced locally. These snacks are typically grouped into three different flavour profiles (sweet, savoury, and bitter), to be tasted against thedrams selected by a guest.
Mon – Sat 5pm – 12am
Young Lawyers Committee 2022