Photo/Illutration Yuichi Kawasaki, who works at Kiuchi Brewery Inc., holds a bottle of Hinomaru Whisky at its distillery in Ishioka, Ibaraki Prefecture, on May 13. (Kazumichi Kubota)

ISHIOKA, Ibaraki Prefecture--A sake brewery that has sold its craft beer products around the world is now trying to emulate that success with its whisky.

Kiuchi Brewery Inc. plans to start shipping Hinomaru Whisky on July 20.

The blended whisky consists of a spirit produced from barley imported from Britain and the United States and another made from locally grown wheat.

Based in Naka, Ibaraki Prefecture, the brewery is renowned for its Hitachino Nest Beer range. The craft beers are exported to about 40 countries mainly in Europe.

The company started producing whisky in 2016 in one corner of its beer factory.

It set up the Yasato Distillery here in 2020 for full-scale whisky production, using brewing and distilling equipment manufactured in Europe.

Fastidious about incorporating Japanese ingredients, the brewery has been working with local farmers to grow barley for beer production while producing a spirit using wheat and rice harvested in the prefecture.

It also plans to produce whisky mainly using domestically grown barley.

With some of its beers made with Fukure “mikan” oranges and malted rice, the brewery intends to produce whiskies with unique flavors to differentiate itself from U.S. and European breweries.

Hinomaru Whisky will be sold at some liquor retailers. It can be tasted at the Yasato Distillery, Kiuchi Brewery’s main shop in Naka and elsewhere.

The company said it will likely be able to increase the shipment volume next year, when it marks the 200th anniversary of its founding.

Prices of Hinomaru Whisky are expected to range from 5,000 yen ($37) to 20,000 yen.

“It is made using fermentation technologies, and you can enjoy flavors similar to vanilla and coconut,” said President Toshiyuki Kiuchi. “There is no use imitating European and American spirits. We want to use a lot of locally grown cereals to make products that can represent Japan.”