KAMIKI Japanese whisky brand with Japanese cedar cask finish

We had a meeting with Serdar Pala, Global Sales Director of Kamiki, a Japanese whisky brand and the first with Japanese cedar cask finish. They won 70 awards in 2023 and exporting to more than 120 countries worldwide.

Serdar, when did you start with the Japanese whisky business?
Whiskey has become a significant element in the Asian alcohol beverage industry, especially in Japan. We are now in our 8th year in the Japanese whisky business, handling both agency brands and our own direct control brands. This period has seen Japanese whisky gain worldwide recognition for its exceptional quality and unique flavors, a testament to the meticulous craftsmanship that goes into its production. The new distillery building is over hundred years old and it has been under construction over last few years and we are happy to have it restored as of this year.

How important is whiskey in the Asian alcohol beverage industry ?
Whiskey holds a significant place in the Asian alcohol beverage industry, particularly in Japan, where it has developed a distinguished reputation globally. Over the years, Japanese whisky has gained immense popularity incorporating distinctively local nuances. This reverence for whisky extends to other Asian countries as well, where a growing interest in both consumption and production is evident. The rise in local distilleries and an increasing appreciation for premium and craft whiskies reflect this trend. In essence, whisky in Asia, spearheaded by Japan’s acclaimed brands, represents not just a beverage choice but a deepening cultural affinity and a growing segment in the region’s diverse and expanding alcohol market.

Whiskey is always a unique combination of flavors, how would you describe the Kamiki Whiskey ?
Kamiki Whisky is a unique whisky from Japan that stands out for its distinctive maturation process and flavor profile. A key characteristic of Kamiki Whisky is its “second maturation” in Yoshino Sugi (Japanese Cedar) casks, a wood indigenous to Japan and known for its pleasant fragrance and soft texture. This process imparts a smooth taste, with a scent of sandalwood on the nose and a zest of green tea in the finish. Kamiki is the first whisky brand in the world with Japanese cedar cask finish.

The flavor profile of Kamiki Whisky includes notes of green tea, cedar, and honey on the nose, while the palate experiences sweet and thick flavors of plum, green tea, and nutty toffee, with a hint of banana nut bread. The finish is moderately long and , with pepper and green tea nuances. This unique combination of flavors, especially the cedar cask influence, lends Kamiki Whisky a distinct and memorable character, appreciated by whisky enthusiasts looking for something different and unique.

What is “Yoshino Sugi” exactly ?
Kamiki Whisky’s unique profile comes from its “second maturation” in Yoshino Sugi (Japanese Cedar) casks The use of Japanese Cedar. It has been traditionally used in Japan in aging local spirits, burnt as essence in Shinto shrines to calm spirit & mind and used for temple construction, adds a unique dimension to the whisky, making Kamiki the first whisky brand in the world with a Japanese Cedar cask finish.

What’s the origin of the name “Kamiki” ?
The name “Kamiki” for the whisky is deeply rooted in Japanese spiritual and cultural traditions, particularly drawing inspiration from the Omiwa Shrine, one of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines. The Omiwa Shrine is, located at the base of Mount Miwa in Nara, a site revered in Shintoism and known for its ancient and spiritual significance. The shrine is particularly notable for its blessing of alcohol producers, a centuries-old tradition at Shinto temples, symbolizing a sacred connection between the divine and the craftsmanship of alcohol making. Inspired by the beautiful breezes coming from Mountain Miwa (Mountain of God) we decided to name our whisky Kamiki.

Where the word “Kamiki” combines two Japanese terms: “Kami,” meaning “God,” and “Iki,” translating to “Breath.” Thus, “Kamiki” encapsulates the meaning of “God’s Breath.”. By naming the whisky “Kamiki,” there is an intentional reflection of the spiritual essence. And the divine inspiration derived from the Omiwa Shrine. It signifies a blend of traditional Japanese beliefs and the artistry of whisky production. Embodying the reverence for nature and spirituality that is central to Japanese culture and Shinto practices. This spiritual connection is further emphasized by the innovative use of Japanese Cedar casks for the whisky’s maturation, linking the beverage to the natural and sacred elements of Japan.

Where is the distillery located in Japan and why ?
Kamiki Shuzou Co., situated in Soni Village of Nara, that prides itself on its unique location and heritage. The choice to establish in this particular region is deeply rooted in its historical and natural significance. Soni Village is a place that resonates with the very beginnings of Japan, nestled amidst the historical richness of Nara.

The distillery is surrounded by the serene beauty of the Yoshino Mountains, often likened to the Japanese Alps, offering a tranquil environment ideal for the meticulous process of crafting spirit. This peaceful setting is an integral part of the distillery’s identity, fostering a connection to the land and its history.

The use of the highland waters is crucial ?

Yes, the utilization of Soni’s highland waters, known as one of Japan’s finest water sources, is a crucial aspect. Since pristine water is essential in crafting spirits with exquisite taste and quality, reflecting the purity of the region.

Being the first whisky distillery in Nara, Kamiki Shuzou – Nara Distillery is not only making history. It is also laying down new traditions in an area steeped in ancient heritage. Its location in Soni Village places it at the heart of Japan’s cultural and historical lineage. Symbolizing a bridge between the past and the present. This strategic positioning allows Kamiki Shuzou to honor traditional practices. While pioneering the art of whisky-making in a region revered for its contribution to the Japanese nation’s birth.

In summary, the establishment of Kamiki Shuzou in Soni Village is a testament. A Testament to the distillery’s commitment to quality, heritage.And of course a deep respect for the natural and historical treasures of Nara. This choice symbolizes a harmonious blend of traditional values and innovative spirit. Setting the distillery apart in the world of whisky making.

Can you tell us something more about the Shinto shrine ?
The Omiwa Shrine in Nara, Japan, holds a significant place in both the spiritual and cultural landscape of the country. Notably, it is one of Japan’s oldest, if not the oldest, Shinto shrines. Its unique feature is the absence of a main hall (honden), a common element in most Shinto shrines.

Instead, the shrine venerates Mount Miwa itself, reflecting ancient Shinto practices of nature worship. This shrine is also deeply connected to alcohol production in Japan. It serves as a tutelary shrine for the alcohol production industry, symbolizing the intertwining of spirituality and traditional practices in this field. The shrine’s historical and cultural significance, coupled with its role in traditional industries, makes it a vital and revered site in Japan .

Are you exporting ? Which are your target countries ?
We have a global footprint with presence in Asia, Europe and Americas. We export to all main whisky countries around the world and in total we have exports over 120 countries worldwide.

You won several awards in 2023 ?
As Kamiki franchise we have nearly 70 awards as of 2023. This with varying competitions from Asia, Europe and Americas with accolades varying from best its category awards.

Can readers meet up with your team on trade exhibitions in 2024 ?
Yes we would be in Cannes, Duty Free Exhibition and selected shows across USA , Europe and rest of the world.

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