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Issue 100 - Survivors' Tales

Whisky Magazine Issue 100
December 2011


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Survivors' Tales

Six months after the Tohoku earthquake, a team from Whisky Magazine Japan spent a few days in the affected zone, talking to distillers, brewers and bartenders and those running local charities and trying to rebuild shattered businesses and communities. These are just a few of many stories.

The whisky maker's story

Although whisky lovers put aside any immediate thoughts of the spirit to one side as they tried to comprehend the full horror of the Tohoku Earthquake, the question at the back of many minds was what of Miyagikyo? This, it must be said, was more frequently asked internationally where a lack of understanding of Japanese geography and the former name of the distillery, Sendai, were conflated into placing the site in the midst of the devastated zone.

As WM-J discovered, however, damage was thankfully minor. We were shown a few slates which had been dislodged from the kiln, while there were reports of broken panes of glass, some very minor structural damage and the discovery, after a full check of the 25 warehouses, that a couple of casks had shifted. None of the 80 employees were hurt.

“Everyone stayed home in March for safety reasons due to the aftershocks,” says deputy general manager Minoru Miake. “We re-opened on April 1 when power was restored and restarted whisky production on April 27.” During our visit, the Coffey stills were in full operation – the distiller alternates between pots and continuous stills throughout the year.

The irradiated zone around Fukushima is too distant to have had any effect and visitors are returning – their numbers are currently at 70 per cent of last year's. Sales, too, do not appear to have been negatively affected. “This prefecture has long been a big consumer of whisky, there's less sake...

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