Could there be a more intriguing water source than snow melt off of the iconic Mt. Fuji, in Japan? Besides being a UNESCO World Heritage site, the inscrutable peak is the subject of more paintings and poems than anyone could ever count. The Mt. Fuji distillery, 7.5 miles from the mountain, says the journey of the melt from the peak to its aquifer source takes 50 years. That’s a heck of a provenance.
The juice is good, too. I found the main FUJI Whisky World Blend ($60) to have an appealing heat, light body, and a rounded melon tone—not dissimilar to a Lowlands single malt. It really loved spending a little time with an ice cube—my filtered-water refrigerator cubes had to suffice—revealing layers of grain flavors and finer woodsy notes. Nicely made. I suspect stepping up to the FUJI Single Grain Whiskey ($95) would be worth it.
“We believe in celebrating the distinctive attributes that place of origin can impart on flavor profile and style,” says Steve Myers, Managing Director of Distinguished Vineyards & Wine Partners for North America. “And no other source of Japanese water is more pure or iconic than the glacial snowmelt coming from Japan’s Mt. Fuji itself.” Distinguished brought the stuff to the States for the first time just this past December; previously, outside of Japan, it was available only in France (which, let us remind ourselves, is one of the largest consumers of Scotch).
Mt. Fuji Distillery was established in 1973, part of the wave of makers deploying Japanese craftsmanship while employing Scottish, American, and Canadian whisk(e)ys and whisky making methods. The FUJI Single Grain is in fact a blend of three different grain whiskeys, each distilled in those three styles. Master Blender Jota Tanaka is only the second Master Blender in Mt. Fuji Distillery’s 48-year history.
“The expression is a blend of Japanese and Scotch whiskies,” the press materials say plainly—meaning that, if this is not entirely a Japanese product, at least they aren’t keeping that a secret. The brand has a boatload of awards over the years, and there’s no question that the whiskey has a Japanese typicity. It is, in other words, a safe bet as a rebrand, especially in a marketplace that is starting to look harder for quality. “We at Winebow believe the spirits of Japan are the next exciting frontier,” said a rep from the U.S. importer. He might be right.