San Francisco Spirits Competition 2023: List of Award Winning Products

Kiuchi suzoSuntoryFujigotenba DistilleryTsunuki DistilleryKanosuke DistillerySaburomaru DistilleryNagahama DistilleryAsaka DistilleryYuza DistilleryEigashima Distillery

“The San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2023,” which began in 2000 and has become one of the most influential liquor competitions in the world, was held in the United States in April 2023!

This year, more than 3,000 spirits were entered in the competition, and happily, our country’s whiskies won one award after another!

However, some of the distilleries’ names are new to me. I would like to excerpt only the “Japanese Whisky” category here.

Click here for the link to the official website (English only)


1. Double Gold Award

Double Gold is a prestigious award given only to products that receive a [perfect score from all judges] in a blind tasting, which we will introduce here along with our review!

Single Malt Kanosuke 2022 LIMITED EDITION

This is the third single malt Japanese whisky from the Kanosuke Distillery.
Single Malt Kanosuke 2022 LIMITED EDITION is made from non-peat malt and distilled between 2017 and 2019. Multiple casks were vatted for the key malt, sherry cask-aged sake.
Bottled at cask strength, this is the long-awaited Japanese whisky made from sherry casks!

[Review] Single Malt Kanosuke 20...
It has a reddish amber color like an evening shadow, which makes you feel as if you are in the twilight. The taste is long and lingering, with a hint of elegant...

Single Malt Tsunuki 2022 Edition

 “Single Malt Tsunuki 2022 Edition” and the third release from Tsunuki Distillery after “Tsunuki THE FIRST” and “Tsunuki Peated“.

[Review] Single Malt Tsunuki 202...
The gorgeous and sweet aroma, the sweetness of the fruit combined with the woody and sweet taste of the bourbon barrels make for a pleasant finish.

Yamazakura Single Malt Sasakawa

The award was given to an overseas product, Asaka Distillery operated by Sasanokawa Shuzo.
In terms of color, it seems to be mainly bourbon barrels, such as Asaka THEFIRST and YAMAZAKURA Single Malt Asaka 2022 EDITION.

YAMAZAKURA Single Malt Asaka 202...
Carefully selected 1st fill bourbon barrel non-peated and 50ppm peated originals. Aromatic, rich, nutty, savory canele and vanilla.


The only clear name is Pure Malt Whisky, but it is a double gold award winner.
It is probably not distributed in Japan.
If any of the readers of this site have any knowledge about this, we are looking forward to hearing from you.

2. Gold Award

Kanosuke Single Malt

It was awarded along with 2022 Limited.
This is the first standard product of Kanosuke Distillery.
They have just strengthened their production system and it will take some time until a stable supply is available, but it won’t be long before it reaches our hands.

[Review] Single Malt Kanosuke
Non-peat malt is used, with multiple barrels of vatting, with the key ingredient being the original wine aged in American white oak litchi casks.

Single Malt Komagatake 2022 Edition

The Komagatake Limited Edition has been released annually since 2018.
With a production of 60,000 bottles, this is a very large number, and you may have seen it online or on mail order sites.

The product name was “Limited Edition” until 2020, but the word “Limited” (limited, special, slight) has been lost and the product name has changed to “Edition” due to the significant increase in the number of limited editions since the previous one released in 2021.

[Review] Single Malt Komagatake ...
Japanese Whisky, Komagadake 2022 Edition. This single malt whisky is made primarily from bourbon barrel-aged whisky, accented with sherry cask-aged whisky and p...

MARS The Y.A. #01

“MARS The Y. A.” was born as a new whisky brand specializing in “Yakushima-aged malt whisky”.

Malt whisky distilled at Mars Shinshu Distillery and Mars Tsunuki Distillery is used.
The blended malt whisky is matured in the “Yakushima Aging Cellar”, which was newly established in June 2016 on Yakushima Island, a World Natural Heritage site and the highest island in Kyushu, Miyanoura-dake, which is located approximately 60 km southwest of the Kagoshima mainland and is said to be the Alps floating above the sea.
The “Yakushima Aging Cellar” is located in the “Yakushima Densetsu Kan”, a shochu brewery owned by Hombo Shuzo on Yakushima. It was built to store the original whisky.
By the way, the logo design is in the shape of Yakushima if you look closely.

Single Malt Nagahama THE FIRST BATCH

Five years have passed since the Nagahama Distillery started operation, and in the spirit of the distillery’s concept of “one brew, one barrel,” only the finest malt whisky from the original whisky lying in the aging cellar was carefully selected and blended to become Nagahama Distillery’s first single malt whisky.

The casks used are bourbon, sherry, Islay Quarter, and Quercus casks. Nagahama Distillery has blended these casks using the technology and experience cultivated in the “AMAHAGAN”.

[Review] Single Malt Nagahama TH...
Japanese Whisky Single Malt Nagahama The First Batch. It is made from bourbon, sherry, and iraq quarter barrels distilled between 2017 and 2019, as well as raw ...

Hibiki Japanese Harmony

The finest blended whisky that Japan has to offer.
The average age of this product is more than 10 years, and it is positioned as a non-ageing product.
The theme is inspired by the 4th movement of “Symphony No. 1” composed by Larmes.
The 24-sided cut decanter bottle represents the 24 seasonal divisions of Japan.
The bottle and the theme are all highly artistic, and contain everything Keizo Saji has to offer.
サントリー 響 ジャパニーズ ハーモニー 700ml 43度 箱付 ※おひとり様1ヶ月に1本限り

Yamazaki 12 Years

The distillery celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
It should be in the Hall of Fame by now…

[Review] Single Malt Yamazaki 12...
This single malt whisky, one of Japan's representative single malt whiskies, was introduced in 1984, the 60th year since the Yamazaki distillery, the birthplace...

Hayashi HAYASHI Koyo Ryukyu Japanese Whisky

This whisky seems to be made in Okinawa.

Image source: international mail order site MASH & GRAPE


3. Silver award

Akashi 7 years

The SFWSC website only mentions 7 Year Single Malt, so it may have been entered for the competition, or it may be the 7 year old cask strength version of the product for the overseas market.


Kirin Fuji Gotemba Distillery is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
When they are marketing their products overseas, they sometimes change the name of the distillery to make it easier to understand and catchier, and they entered the SFWSC as FUJI WHISKY.
Kirin Fuji Gotemba Distillery’s website for overseas visitors is click here.

[Review] Single Blended Japanese...
Everything from preparation to aging is done at the foot of Mt. Fuji, and it is a rare product in the world that blends a variety of malts and grains unique to ...

Hinomaru Whisky The 1st Barrels

This is a blend of malt whisky first distilled at the Nukata Distillery in Naka City in 2016 and domestic wheat grain whisky first distilled at the Yasato Distillery in Ishioka City in 2020, each aged in sherry casks.
And also in the “Special Barrel-Finished Whiskey” class, “Hinomaru Whisky Port Cask Finish” was awarded Gold.

[Scheduled to go on sale in Augu...
Reservations for Hinomaru Whisky Blended Newborn, winner of the gold medal in the Western Sake category at TWSC 2022, will begin in mid-June.

MARS Cosmo Manzanilla 2022

Awarded for a blended with no notation of Japanese made with English malt.
I think it was in the Japanese Whisky category, but I guess it is good for SFWSC!

Cosmo, aged in Manzanilla cask.

Mars Maltage Cosmo“, which expresses complexity and depth by vatting multiple malt liquors, was additionally aged (finished) in empty casks used for “Manzanilla”, a light and dry sherry. This limited production malt whisky has a soft and mellow mouthfeel with aromas of dried fruits, brown sugar, and maple syrup derived from the barrels, and is well-balanced with pleasant flavors such as coconut and chocolate, and a subtle bitter taste.
*This product contains a portion of imported base spirit.

Reference: Malt Whisky|Mars Cosmo Manzanilla Cask Finish Bottled in 2021

The nose is fresh and slightly spicy. On the palate it is mild, buttery, bitter chocolate, sweet and elegant. This is a very easy drinking whisky, with a calm s...

Saburomaru II & Saburomaru II Cask Strength

This is the first single malt distilled by “ZEMON”. The quality has been refined to a young, heavily peated, yet graceful bottle. This cask-strength version is heavily peated 50 PPM and has an alcohol content of 61%.

This will be the third release following “Single Malt Saburomaru 0 THE FOOL” to be released in 2020 and “Single Malt Saburomaru I THE MAGICIAN” in 2021.

The label design was created by Yukie Kano, a cutout artist (born in Himi City). The motif is based on tarot cards (consisting of 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana), with “THE THE HIGH PRIESTESS” (No. 2 of the 22 Major Arcana) as the “Copper and Tin. The label is based on the meaning of a solid vessel created by the combination of copper and tin, and the first and second distillation.”


Suntory TOKI

This whisky was first released in the U.S. and Canada in 2016 and in the U.K. in 2018.
Shinji Fukuyo, Suntory’s 5th chief blender, blended “Yamazaki” and grain type “Chita” based on “Hakushu 12 yeas”.
This whisky has a refreshing green apple-like taste and a vanilla-like sweetness that comes from the unique combination of malt and grain.

YUZA First edition 2022 / YUZA Second edition 2022

The “Yuza Distillery” was established in Yuza-machi, Yamagata Prefecture in 2018 with the strong belief of “maturing whisky until we are satisfied” and “concentrating on offering only products that meet the definition of Japanese whisky“.
With a strong belief from the beginning, Kinryu Co., Ltd. opened its third distillery in the Tohoku region, “Yuza Distillery”, in Yuza-machi, Yamagata Prefecture, in 2018!

[Review] YUZA First Edition 2022
Yuza First Edition, the long-awaited first release, has finally been released by Yusa Distillery. A review is provided.

[Review] YUZA Second edition 202...
Japanese Whisky Yuza. Based on the theme of the fruit tree kingdom Yamagata's "fragrance of fertility," it expresses a mellow aroma and a complex, mul...

Daimyo no Shinobu

“Daimyo no Shinobu” was awarded from Niigata Beer’s Shinobu Distillery, which has been successful in exporting the “Shinobu” series mainly overseas.
Much of what they produce is exported to Europe and the United States, and to meet the further increase in demand, they have added a distillery in Aga Town that utilizes the heat from the Akayu hot spring to increase production.
It is unclear whether they are distilling or not due to a lack of information on the production process, such as photos of pot stills.
Incidentally, a company called “SHIN Group” is in charge of the overseas distribution network, and “Akashi”, “Masahiro GIN”, “Sasanokawa Shuzo”, and “Wolfburn Distillery” also have business tie-ups.

Hatozaki Pure Malt (Silver) / Hatozaki Finest (Bronze)

Two bottles from the “Kaikyo Distillery”, owned by Akashi Sake Brewery Co.,Ltd, known for “Akashi”, won the double award.
The opening of the distillery as a huge visitor center is also fresh in our memories.

World Whisky Society

It was awarded a silver in the Japanese category.
The bottler company and the award-winning bottle are probably unknown, but we were able to confirm the sharp design of the whisky, which is labeled as Japanese whisky, on the official English website here.


According to the official website, it is a 100% Japanese whisky that has been aged for three years and released exclusively overseas.
If you look closely, you can see “small batch” written on the left side of the label, which may mean a small batch, which makes me feel indescribable.


Kamiki Whisky is produced by YOSHINO SPIRITS, an overseas exporter.
The company has begun recruiting personnel for a small craft distillery in Soni-mura, Nara Prefecture, starting in December 2022.
Until then, production had been outsourced to other companies, said CEO Shakur Gem.
Thus, that is what happened with this award-winning whisky.
Click here for the Soni Distillery Recruitment page

ICONIC SPIRITS – Shunka Shuto, Autumn

Taichi Seki, a former professional fighter and former employee of Asahi Breweries, and Julious Grant, a former professional fighter and former employee of Asahi Breweries, seem to have a tremendous background in management and marketing, having worked for Beam, Diageo, and Bacardi.
The award was presented to “Autumn”, a Japanese-inspired blended whiskey produced by “ICONIC SPIRITS“, which is co-owned by these two men.
Four bottles each of spring, summer, fall, and winter, which are compared to the four seasons of Japan, are now being released.

SUEKICHI Blended Whisky (40% Malt x 60% Grain)

SUEKICHI appeared like a comet.
We like the fact that the ratio of malt to grain is described in a straightforward manner, but we have no information about it.
If you have any information, please send me a DM.

アンノウン(unknown)」とは? カタカナ語の意味・発音・類語辞典



I think that both familiar whiskies and up-and-coming whiskies that show promise for the future showed the results of their friendly competition.
However, there was one person who sounded a warning bell when I read an article for foreign readers.
That is, the world still wants “whisky correctly labeled as Japanese“.

Some foreign companies entered the market unnoticed, and before you know it, some of them were labeled as “domestically produced.
One article said, “Japanese labeling is voluntary.
I strongly hope that the “Japanese labeling will not be voluntary and that the law will be strictly regulated like bourbon and scotch.”
I strongly hope that one day consumers will be able to pick up domestically produced whisky with peace of mind, and that the world will correctly recognize and correctly evaluate it as domestically produced.

Misato Ushiwata

Born in Fukushima Prefecture.
She attended a university in Tokyo, where she studied brewing and other sciences while translating articles for the "Japanese Whisky Dictionary".

Misato Ushiwataをフォローする
Japanese Whisky Dictionary