[Yamagata] Start of whisky preparation at the Gakkogawa distillery.

Gakkogawa Distillery

The whisky distillery [Gakkogawa Distillery], a whisky distillery by Tatenokawa Shuzo in Yuza-machi, Yamagata Prefecture, started producing whisky using the underground water of Mt Chokaisan for brewing.


1.What is Tatenokawa Shuzo?

The Tatenokawa sake is made mainly from Yamagata Prefecture’s original sake rice, and all current brews are Junmai Daiginjo, which has received very high acclaim at sake competitions.

It is also a long-established sake brewer that not only produces sake, but also locally produced and locally consumed fruit liqueurs, makgeolli and plum wine, and has finally started producing whisky.

When a vassal of the Uesugi clan visited Shonai in 1832, he was surprised by the quality of the water and recommended that Heishiro Sato (the first brewer) start brewing sake, which led to the opening of the sake brewery. He then started a sake brewing business in 1854. The following year, when Lord Sakai, the feudal lord of the Shonai Domain, visited the family and offered them sake, he was very pleased and named the sake “Tatenokawa”.
The Tatenokawa Brewery, located in Sakata City, Yamagata Prefecture, is a historical brewery that has been in existence for six generations.

Reference: Tatenokawa Sake Brewery official website.

Image courtesy of Tadenokawa Brewery Facebook

Company Name.Tatenokawa Brewery
Location.27, Aza Shimizuda, Yamatate, Sakata, Yamagata 999-6724
Founded / Incorporated1832 / 22 November 1962

2. What is Gakkogawa Distillery?

The distillery was established in December 2021 and whisky preparation started in earnest in October 2023.

Gakkogawa Distillery owes its name to the ‘Gakko River’ that runs at the foot of the distillery.

The distillery is located in Yuza-machi, Yamagata Prefecture, surrounded by mountains, rivers and the sea, and what kind of flavour does the climate with its diverse natural environment bring to the whisky?

The following is an extract from the distillery’s official website

Chokaisan subsoil water

Chokaisan, the ‘divine mountain’ that has shaped Shonai’s food culture.
While making the most of the characteristics of this beautifully clear subterranean water
The fine and refined taste is produced.

Natural environment of the Gakko River basin

The Gakko River distillery is surrounded by diverse nature, including mountains, rivers and the sea.
The climate of this region and the time that flows through it
gives our whisky its character.


We are prepared to produce only as much as we can handle down to the smallest detail.
The pursuit of a beautiful taste, simply and royally.
We place great importance on facing the quality of our alcohol straight on.

Reference: Gakkogawa Distillery official website

Image courtesy of Gakkogawa Distillery Instagram

Company Name.Gakkogawa Distillery Co.
Location.37-14 Sugano, Sugari, Yuza-machi, Akumi-gun, Yamagata 999-8531
EstablishedDecember 2021

3. Last.

Yuza Town in Yamagata Prefecture is home to the “Single Malt YUZA” whiskey produced by the Yuza Distillery of Kinryu Co.

[YUZA First Edition 2022] was also awarded ‘GOLD’ at the International Spirits Challenge (ISC) 2022 and has already gained popularity.

The Gakkogawa distillery is located in the same town as the Yuza distillery. What kind of whisky will the Gakkogawa distillery, which is closer to the sea than the Yuza distillery, produce?

The distillery will be exhibiting at the Tokyo Whisky Festival on 2 and 3 December 2023, where they will be showing their new pot.


For a list of other Japanese distilleries, click here↓.

List of 86 whisky distilleries in Japan, updated in September 2023 (jpwhisky.net)

櫻井 和人

Born in Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture
He loves all kinds of luxury goods, and was so impressed by the diversity of craft gin that he decided to become a bartender at the age of 30.
While working as a bartender, he visited BAR Shinkai and joined BAR Shinkai to learn more about the wide variety of Japanese craft whiskeys.
He is now working hard both on site and on the web so that more and more people can enjoy the pleasure of experiencing the best of the finest.

櫻井 和人をフォローする
Japanese Whisky Dictionary