[Review] Yamazakura Blended Malt Japanese Whisky Sherrywood Reserve

The Sasanokawa Brewery, famous for its Cherry Whisky, was part of the local whisky boom that was known as “Cherry in the North, Toa in the East, and Mars in the West” from 1975 to 1960.
In 2004, Mr. Ichiro Akuto, who was the president of Toa Shuzo at the time, asked Sasanokawa Shuzo to take care of the whiskey stored at the Hanyu distillery due to Toa Shuzo’s poor management. This whisky was later sold as “Ichirose Malt” .

The year 2004 was a time of sluggish demand for whiskey, a sort of ice age. I shudder to think that Toa Shuzo would have refused to store the malt.


After that, the relationship seems to have continued to the present, and several barrels of the original whisky distilled at the Chichibu distillery are still being matured at Sasanokawa Shuzo.

1. Manufacturer

Sasanokawa Shuzo Co.

Establishment 1765
Headquarters location 1-178 Sasanokawa, Koriyama-shi, Fukushima 963-0108, Japan
Owned distillery Asaka distillery

2. Distillery

Asaka Distillery

Location 1-178 Sasanokawa, Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture
Start of operation 1946 (old facilities), distilling resumed in April 2016 (new facilities)

1765   Started operation. 
1920  Yamaguchi Shuzoten Co., Ltd. established.
1932   Yamazakura Shuzo Limited Partnership established
1946   Obtained a whiskey production license.
1966  Established Sasanokawa Shuzo Co., Ltd.
1983   Whisky malt storage warehouse completed
1998   Yamazakura Shuzo and Sasanokawa Shuzo merged, with Sasanokawa Shuzo becoming the surviving company.
2004   The whisky stored at Toa Shuzo was entrusted to us.
2005   “Ichirose Malt” , planned by Venture Whiskey, was released. (The manufacturer’s name on the back label of the bottle is Sasanokawa Shuzo)
2016   The Asaka Distillery started full-scale operations.

Yamazakura Shuzo, founded south of Lake Inawashiro in 1710, moved to Koriyama in 1765.
This Yamazakura Shuzo was the first to obtain a license to brew whiskey in 1946, which was in increasing demand as a national policy during the American occupation after the war.
Brewing sake was extremely difficult due to the rice shortage during and after the war, and the influx of Western culture after the war was also a factor in the company’s commitment to whiskey production.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, during the period of rapid economic growth, Sasanokawa Brewery’s Cherry Whiskey, along with Toa Shuzo and Hombo Shuzo, was called “Cherry in the North, Toa in the East, and Mars in the West.
However, after a period of low growth and changing tastes, Toa was forced to withdraw from the business in 2003, and the barrels of undiluted whiskey from the distillery in Hanyu were taken care of by Sasanokawa.
In 2003, Toa was forced to withdraw from the business, and Sasanokawa took custody of the barrels of undiluted sake from the distillery in Hanyu. This was a big help in the release of “Ichirose Malt” which later became popular worldwide.
Since the end of the war, the distillery has continued to produce whiskey in small quantities, and currently uses two types: Scotch and malt imported from Kentucky.
Asaka Distillery is located in Sasanokawa Shuzo, a sake brewery that has been in operation since the Edo period, and has been in operation at the end of October 2016 with the cooperation of Chichibu Distillery and Mr.Ichiro Akuto.

The pot still looks good against the old-fashioned white plaster walls.


Image credit: Asaka Distillery Official Facebook

For more information about Asaka Distillery, please visit here.

3. Product name and photo

Yamazakura Blended Malt Japanese Whisky Sherry Wood Reserve

4. Characteristics

Blended malt from Asaka distillery and domestic distilleries

A blend of carefully selected domestic malt that we have been storing and maturing for some time and malt from the Asaka Distillery.

It is matured in sherry cask for about 18 months.
Blended Malt Japanese Whiskey.

It has a well-balanced sense of weight and a beautiful sweetness derived from sherry, with a long aftertaste.

Straight, on the rocks, or tossed up.
Recommended. Non-chill filtered, natural color finish.

Reference: from the back of the label

4-1. Tasting Notes

Aroma Sweet aroma of strawberry jam, savory cookies and banana.
Taste Grape tannins, spicy, woody and full-bodied

Black tea, tannin astringency changing to a sweet but spicy aftertaste like cinnamon

4-2. Product Specifications

Alcohol content 50% 
alcohol category Blended Malt Japanese Whisky
Barrel type Bourbon barrels, sherry barrels, etc.
Contents 700ml
Number of bottles sold Limited to 440 bottles
Suggested retail price 27,500 yen (tax included)
Release date November 9, 2021

5. Awards

No awards have been received at this time.

6. Price

6-1. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price

Product name Yamazakura Blended Malt Japanese Whisky Sherrywood Reserve
Volume 700ml
Suggested retail price Tax included: 27,500 yen

6-2. Resale price on Mercari

There seems to be no listing on Mercari at present. (*As of December 20, 2021)

6-3. Sold price on Yahoo Auction

There are currently no items for sale on Yahoo Auction. (*As of December 20, 2021)

6-4. Rakuten, Yahoo Shopping, Amazon

There are no mail order sites that carry this product. (* As of December 20, 20210)

6-5. Price offered at BAR SHINKAI

At “Bar Shinkai” which is operated by this website 1 glass, 45ml: 8,910 yen, 30ml: 5,940 yen, 15ml: 2,970 yen We also offer small quantities such as

7. Summary 

A solid sense of maturity and a sense of ripe sherry are well matched. If I had to say, I would say that the sherry flavor is a little subdued, because the spicy flavor comes to the fore rather than the sweetness. It also has the richness of lactic acid fermentation, so I have the impression that it will get better with time after opening the bottle.

Please check out the other articles about “Yamazakura” .

Lastly: Recommended Books on Japanese Whisky

If you want to learn more about Japanese whisky, which is a global trend, we highly recommend these books.

(1).Whisky Galore Vol.29 December 2021 issue

In the December 2021 issue of Whisky Galore, published by the Whisky Culture Research Institute, we report on 11 Japanese craft distilleries, including some that are open to the public for the first time, under the title of “Japanese Whisky Craft Frontline,” the first of three consecutive issues. Why did the popularity of Japanese whiskey and the craft boom occur? We will examine with interviews. Chichibu Distillery / Chichibu No.2 Distillery / Mars Shinshu Distillery / Mars Tsunuki Distillery / Kanosuke Distillery / Hioki Distillery / Ontake Distillery / Osuzuyama Distillery / Kaikyo Distillery / Hanyu Distillery / Konosu Distillery

created by Rinker
(2023/06/05 19:36:31時点 Amazon調べ-詳細)

(2). Japanese Whisky as an Education for Business

This is a book written by Mamoru Tsuchiya, a world-famous whisky critic and representative of the Whisky Culture Research Institute, titled “Japanese Whisky as a Culture that Works for Business” .
The book covers the basics of whisky, the introduction of whisky to Japan, the birth of Japanese whisky, advertising strategies and the rise of Japanese whisky, and the current rise of craft distilleries. This is a book that summarizes Japanese whisky in a very easy to understand way.

(3). Whisky and I (Masataka Taketsuru)

Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of Nikka Whisky, devoted his life to brewing whisky in Japan. This is a revised and reprinted version of the autobiography of a man who simply loved whiskey and talked about himself. The book vividly depicts the days when he went to Scotland alone to study as a young man and overcame many hardships to complete Japanese whisky, as well as his companion, Rita.

created by Rinker
(2023/06/05 01:02:31時点 Amazon調べ-詳細)

(4). A Letter of Challenge from a New Generation Distillery

Launching in 2019. With the world experiencing an unprecedented whisky boom, what were the managers of craft distilleries thinking and what were their thoughts as they took on the challenge of making whiskey? This book tells the stories of 13 craft distillery owners, including Ichiro Hido of Venture Whisky, famous for his Ichirose Malt, who inspired the birth of craft distilleries in Japan.

created by Rinker
(2023/06/05 06:51:19時点 Amazon調べ-詳細)

(5). Whiskey Rising

This is the Japanese version of Whisky Risng, published in the US in 2016, with much updated content. Not only does it describe the history of Japanese whiskey in detail, but it also includes data on all the distilleries in Japan, including the craft distilleries that have been founded in recent years. The book also includes descriptions of the legendary bottles that have been released, as well as information on bars where Japanese whisky can be found.

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