What you need to know:
- Shizuoka Distillery belongs to a wave of Ji-whisky (Japanese craft whisky) distilleries making a comeback.
- Their focus is on delivering local craft whisky to consumers by incorporating as much of the local influence and produce as possible, most of which is handcrafted by batch. This is as opposed to the incumbent whisky giants Suntory and Nikka.
- Prologue W is named after their unique wood-fired pot still that uses local firewood for direct heating (most places either indirectly heat stills or use coal), this comes after Prologue K, named after mothballed Karuizawa Distillery from whom they salvaged a still.
- Prologue W has notes of “Gentle Scent, Firm Body, Light Smokiness, Long, Gentle Finish”.
- Firewood used for heating was harvested by local lumberjacks from conifers that populate Shizuoka’s mountains.
Shizuoka Distillery belongs to independent bottler Gaia Flow, known for their distribution of Asta Morris and Blackadder independently bottled whiskies in Japan. The distillery is one of the first batch of Ji-whisky (otherwise known as craft or local whisky) distilleries making a revival in Japan, joined by the likes of Chichibu, Akkeshi, Kanosuke, just to name a few.
This is as opposed to the incumbent whisky giants that have dominated the Japanese whisky landscape with the well-known likes of Suntory and Nikka.
Asta Morris is an independent bottler. You can spot their bottles from their iconic frog on the label. (Image Source: Elysian Whisky Bar)
Previously, we covered their inaugural release, Prologue K, named after the legendary mothballed distillery Karuizawa, from whom they were able to salvage a pot still from, which were then used to distill its namesake whisky.
That was a big hit to say the least, interestingly being compared to the likes of Springbank in terms of its oiliness, minerality and bright citric notes, and even rums like Hampden (huge favorite of mine).
This time we have Prologue W, a follow up to the Prologue K.
As if Shizuoka was right on the punchline, Prologue W is named after their other pot still, a directly wood-fired pot still, and actually also the world’s only of such.
Do we detect a trend here eh? I’d take my bets the third release will be named Prologue H or Prologue S, for their other two pot stills, one of which is a hybrid still and the other is a spirit still.
In any case, the Prologue W will contain whiskies distilled using Shizuoka’s wood-fired directly heated pot still, using firewood from Shizuoka.
The Prologue W is distilled using a mix of Japanese malt (which is pretty uncommon), a mix of peated and unpeated Scottish malt, and even some beer malt from Germany.
Upon distillation it was matured in first-fill Bourbon barrels, first-fill Bourbon quarter casks, and virgin American oak barrels.
There’ll be 5,000 bottles of these babies, 3 years of age, bottled at 55% abv, at the standard 700ml.
Official notes from Shizuoka Distillery:
- Gentle Scent
- Firm Body
- Light Smokiness
- Long, Gentle Finish
It also seems to be that we can expect a more robust and stronger bodied malt because of the use of direct heating using the firewood.
We’re definitely huge supporters of this Ji-whisky movement, with more craft distilleries giving us the chance to taste local produce, climate, and styles. The very localized nature of these whiskies make them very unique in what they have to offer in flavors and it is interesting to see how the local region bears an effect on the whisky.
Shizuoka is a temperate mountainous region. Its influence reflected in the whiskies produced.
It is also very much fleeting because they are typically produced in small batches and no two batches are the same. Most of them don’t even produce enough to sustain a core range. So when you taste whisky from Shizuoka, it really is a taste of Shizuoka itself. Likewise for Chichibu or Kanosuke.
The handcrafted nature of the produce always gives it a more raw, organic feel, one that is far more spontaneous and less curated. Almost like a painting that is not shy of its rougher edges. And that is certainly something to be celebrated. #bottlepositivity
In every bottle it feels like there is a little surprise to be discovered and more often than not, we’ve found it to be a delightful experience.
Local Shizuoka conifers were harvested by lumberjacks for firewood to heat pot stills.
It’s also heartening to see distilleries go the extra mile in adherence to Ji-Whisky principles of maximizing what the locale has to offer. In the case of Prologue W, the firewood used for heating the pot stills were carefully broken down by local lumberjacks using thinned coniferous wood that populates the mountains of Shizuoka.
All this was done to bring back a distillation technique used more than 200 years ago. That commitment to craft is just so impressive.
Barley fields in Hokkaido. Barley is generally scarce in Japan, however craft whisky distilleries have been increasingly sourcing them for use.
Another thing that Shizuoka has done that deserves commendation is the use of local Japanese barley malt, which is rare considering that Japan has scarce barley crops and most Japanese whiskies use barley malt from places such as Scotland or Canada.
This is as local as local gets folks.