Photography © by Niko Neefs
It’s not everyday you get to witness the start of a new distillery in Japan. Well, it’s not everyday a new distillery is built here. The obstacles are enormous – more so than in other whisky-producing countries – and it’s highly unlikely we’ll see anything like a craft/micro-distilling boom here any time soon. So when the first spirit runs off the stills of a new distillery in Japan, it’s big news. It’s even more extraordinary when a new distillery is the work and vision of one man. Meet Yoshiharu Takeuchi, the owner of – and, basically, the entire crew at – the Nine Leaves Distillery. Oh yes, it’s a rum distillery but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a malt whisky distillery. More about that later.
Nine Leaves Distillery is located in Shiga prefecture near the South Basin of Lake Biwa (Biwako), along the Seta river (Setagawa), the only river flowing out of the lake (as opposed to the 118 rivers that flow into the lake). The distillery sits at the foot of a small mountain that doesn’t really have a name but people in the area refer to it as ‘Ishiyama’ (lit. stone mountain).
|Straight out of 'Totoro': the entrance to the caves|
|Towards the source|
|The water source|
|The Ishiyama shrine|