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This Shuttered Distillery’s Japanese Whisky Became a Cult Hit. Now It’s Making a Comeback.

Karuizawa is getting resurrected in 2023 as its new distillery begins production again.

Dekanta Karuizawa Distillery Courtesy of Dekantā

There are several names that can bring a dedicated Japanese whisky fan to tears knowing that he or she may never be able to taste a dram. One that holds a particularly vaunted place is Karuizawa, the long-shuttered distillery whose whiskies command tens of thousands of dollars on the secondary market. But the distillery has been resurrected and will soon start producing new whisky, giving spirits fans a chance to try much younger but slightly more easily attainable expressions.

Over the next few months, Karuizawa will begin distilling new whisky and filling barrels, albeit in very limited numbers. The whisky will be matured exclusively in sherry casks, with only 250 being filled each year and none bottled for at least a decade, so it will be some time before we actually get to taste the new whisky. Nevertheless, the hype has begun and casks are already being purchased—the 2022 allocation has already sold out and are available exclusively via a partnership with Japanese whisky website Dekantā (2023 casks will go on sale soon). Of course, there’s no way of knowing if the new whisky will match the fabled quality of the vintage bottles for at least another 10 years, but it seems that whisky investors are feeling pretty confident about this.

The original Karuizawa distillery was built in 1956 and produced sherry cask-matured whisky that was mostly used in blends until it closed in 2000. In the years since, the original Karuizawa stock was acquired by private parties and sold at extremely high prices. Some recent examples include The Last Masterpiece 1970, a 50-year-old whisky of which just over 200 bottles were made available through BlockBar earlier this year. And in 2021, the Ruby Geishas were listed at The Whisky Exchange—both the 34 and 38-year-old whiskies are still for sale, along with other single malts in the Geisha series.

“Japanese whisky fans like myself, who have held in reverence the remaining, scarce liquid from Karuizawa, will soon get to taste what we thought was no longer possible,” said Dekantā founder Makiyo Masa in a statement. “Karuizawa’s whisky and legacy are famous around the world and I’m delighted that Dekantā is the pioneering brand to make Japanese whisky lovers’ dreams come true.” That’s quite a legacy to live up to, assuming you’re one of the lucky few that’s gotten to try a vintage bottle from the original distillery. And hopefully, for all parties involved, Japanese whisky will still be a hot commodity a decade from now.

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