Hatozaki Pure Malt Whisky

Hatozaki Pure Malt Whisky

The Akashi Sake Brewery is owned by the Yonezawa family. It is located in the city of Akashi – not to be mistaken with Akashi whisky from Eigashima. They make artisan sake since 1856. In the adjacent Kaikyо̄ distillery they produce gin and Hatozaki whisky. The name comes from the oldest stone lighthouse in Japan, a symbol of guidance.

The website doesn’t offer much information. It refers to cooperation with Scottish master blenders and distillers, as well as a proprietary two-stage blending process, but details are vague. In any case they list three whiskies.

Hatozaki Small Batch Pure Malt is a vatting of 100% malt whiskies aged in bourbon casks, sherry casks and Japanese Mizunara casks. It is around 5 years old and produced in small batches (less than 20 casks). While the company is not exactly transparent about it, several retailers confirm our premonition: it contains some Japanese spirit but part of the whisky is imported from Scotland. After all the distillery only started in 2018. According to new regulations, such products cannot use the name Japanese whisky after April 1st 2024.

They also have Hatozaki Finest Blended, a blend of whiskies up to 12 years. The last is Hatozaki Umeshu Cask Finish, over 12 years and finished in bespoke barrels that previously held Umeshu liqueur.


Hatozaki Pure Malt Whisky ‘Small Batch’ (46%, OB +/- 2023)

Nose: quite light but very grainy and mashy, with a bit of funk that immediately reminded me of young Ben Nevis spirit, their Coire Leis perhaps. Some green apples and unripe pear, hints of sourdough. Then floral notes and grass. Limited complexity.

Mouth: a lot of sweet grains again. Some white grapes and candy floss, mixed with light pepper and vanilla. Then the grassiness appears, with light minerals and a bitter edge (grapefruit peel) towards the end.

Finish: a bit short, on peppery grains, liquorice and an alcoholic edge.

A young, rather rough and frankly boring whisky. The newmake notes are not entirely overcome – which is the basic requisite for any whisky in my opinion. While there is a nice echo of Ben Nevis spirit in there, that’s probably the imported part. Overall not a name I’ll remember. Available from The Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt for instance.