Japan's shochu capital becomes new hot spot for whisky

Kyushu-based distillers buck tradition to leap into growing market

Nikkei -- Jun 26
Traditionally known for its shochu, a clear liquor made from grains, potatoes, sugar cane and more, Japan's southwestern region of Kyushu has become home to a budding whisky industry as craft distillers chase a larger, more global audience.

Surrounded by vegetable fields and rice paddies, Shindo Distillery began producing whisky in the Fukuoka Prefecture city of Asakura in summer 2021. The facility belongs to Shinozaki, a storied barley shochu maker founded in 1922.

Shinozaki is branching out "because demand for Japanese whisky is skyrocketing," said Michiaki Shinozaki, who is part of the eighth generation of the founding family.

Japanese whisky has surged in popularity worldwide during recent years. Japan exported 46.1 billion yen ($339 million at current rates) worth of whisky in 2021, government statistics show -- up 70% from the year before and 4.3 times from 2016. In contrast, shochu exports had increased 19% since 2016.

Shochu sales have stalled even at home as more restaurants and bars shut down or shorten hours amid the coronavirus pandemic. ...continue reading

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