Mizunara oaks cut for whiskey casks, Akkeshi Hokkaido prefectural forest
To make mizunara oak casks for whiskey production at Kenten Jitsugyo Akkeshi Distillery, lumber harvesting was conducted in Hokkaido prefectural forest area in Akkeshi Town, located in east Hokkaido’s Kushiro region. Mizunara oak whiskey has garnered high praise internationally, and Akkeshi grown lumber is especially essential for Akkeshi Distillery’s goal of producing “100% Akkeshi Made Whiskey”. Timber harvesting here has entered its fifth year.
This year five old mizunara oak trees were cut down. Mizunara oak trees were cut down together with tree thinning work in the artificial todomatsu fir forest as ten officials looked on. After a chainsaw made cuts into both sides of the 60 centimeter diameter trunk of a tree nearly 20 meters tall and over 200 years old, it fell with a loud noise.
Logs cut into lengths of 1.2 – 3.6 meters were carried to a lumber mill in Akkeshi where they will be dried over a one year period and sliced into lumber. A lumber mill representative explained, “For cask lumber, we only use straight grained portions of the tree core without any knots. The amount of lumber we can extract from one tree is about enough to make one 450 liter cask.” The lumber is sent to a plant in Miyazaki Prefecture on Kyushu island, where it will be processed into casks.
According to Akkeshi Distillery, Hokkaido grown mizunara oak casks can be used for over 50 years. Aged whiskey has a characteristic fragrance, and is popular among whiskey enthusiasts. Out of the 30 casks installed yearly, Akkeshi casks make up a little over 10%. The distillery head exclaimed enthusiastically, “In addition to barley and peat, these casks are essential for making 100% Akkeshi whiskey.”
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