A sweet aroma wafted through the air as unblended malt whisky gushed from a storage cask at Hokkaido's Akkeshi Distillery in the freezing rural north of Japan in December.

The distillery, located in the village of Akkeshi in eastern Hokkaido, is just one of a growing number of craft operations that have sprung up around the nation, their products drawing parallels with more established giants such as Suntory and Nikka, which have become renowned for the unique profiles of their whisky.

Akkeshi, which opened in 2016, utilizes large puncheon barrels made of Mongolian oak, native to Japan, to hold the whisky as it ages.