The town of Niseko, Hokkaido Prefecture, wants to be known for more than its world-class powder. In recent years, a growing number of bars and restaurants have been attracting visitors beyond peak skiing season.

Surrounded by lush forests at the foot of the Annupuri International Ski Area, Niseko Distillery opened its doors in early October. The project is the brainchild of Jiro Nagumo, president and CEO of sake maker Hakkaisan Brewery, located in Niigata Prefecture. Though best known for its popular Hakkaisan brand, the company produces a range of drinks that include beer, shōchū and now, at this new distillery, whisky.

Takahiro Suzuki, who oversees operations at Niseko Distillery, says the transition from shōchū to whisky was “a natural progression.” After experimenting with rice shōchū aged in oak barrels, Hakkaisan obtained a whisky-making license in 2016, establishing Niseko Distillery as a subsidiary in 2019.