New whiskey distillery in Japan to use geothermal energy

New whiskey distillery in Japan to use geothermal energy Shinobu Whiskey (source: Company website)
Alexander Richter 24 May 2021

A new craft whiskey distillery in Niigata, Japan will be utilizing hot water from a geothermal hot spring for its distilling process.

Today, it was revealed that Niigata Beer (Nishikan Ward, Niigata City), which manufactures and sells craft beer and whiskey, will build a whiskey distillery in Aga Town, Niigata Prefecture, Japan. Geothermal heat from the Kanose area is to be used for distillation. In addition to establishing a new company in the town and hiring employees, it plans to graze cattle using the pomace produced during the manufacturing process as food in the future.

According to the company, the distillery will renovate the closed “Kakugami Lakeside Recreation Center” adjacent to the “Kanose Onsen Akayu” the one-day bath facility. Two distillers will be installed and whiskey will be made using the heat of the hot springs. Existing local infrastructure will be used for barrel storage tat the Kanose Dam on the Agano River and the head office will be set up in Nishikan Ward.

The company also develops a livestock business that uses pomace produced in the process of beer production as bait at its head office. The town is also looking for a suitable place for grazing using pomace after whiskey production.

A contract will be signed with the town in June 2021, to buy and sell facilities. Construction of the distillery will begin in August, and the company will apply for a new brewing license. It will start operation in the fall, aiming to ship whiskey six months to a year later. It plans to produce 16,000 bottles a month, and most of them will be exported overseas. Two staff members are expected to be hired.

The temperature of the Akayu geothermal source is 59.5 degrees, and it is heated to nearly 80 degrees for distillation. The head office uses propane gas for distillation, which will lead to cost reduction. Since a different pipe is used, there is no impact on the operation of the day spa bath facility.

Regarding the reason for entering the town, Ken Usami, president of Niigata Brewery, explained that “the heat and water of hot springs are high.” On top of that, he says, “Whiskey is also interested in the environment in which it is made as a story. Distilling using the heat of hot springs in Aga Town is also interesting worldwide and will be a big public relations [opportunity].”

The company started whiskey manufacturing in 2017. The “Koshi no Shinobu” series of blended whiskey and pure malt whiskey is being developed, and almost all of them are exported to Europe and the United States. In the fiscal year ending September 2008, sales were JPY 567 million (around USD 5.2 million), and the whiskey business accounted for 60%. The launch means a new brand for whiskey in the town.

Mayor Kanda Kazuaki said, “I am delighted to have you choose a town because the temperature of Akayu is suitable for distillation. It will lead to new utilization of hot springs and utilization of idle facilities.”

Source: Nigata Nippo/ Instagram