Karuizawa distillery (軽井沢蒸溜所, Karuizawa jōryūsho) was a Japanese whisky distillery. It was located at Miyota, a town on the southern slopes of an active complex volcano, Mount Asama, in Kitasaku District, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Established in 1955, the distillery began production in 1956. It was owned by Mercian Corporation, and was the smallest in Japan.
The Sanraku-Ocean company was formed in 1962 through the merger of the Sanraku Shuzo Co. and Ocean (formerly Daikoku Budoshu). The former provided the distilleries of Yamanashi and Kawasaki, while the latter brought the Karuizawa malt distillery to the table. In 1969, Yamanashi was closed and its column stills and grain whisky production moved exclusively to Kawasaki. For many years the company produced popular blended whiskies under the Ocean Whisky brand, using Kawasaki grain and Karuizawa malt, becoming the third best-selling label in Japan. Unable to compete with Suntory and Nikka however, the company closed Kawasaki in 1987, focussing on the emerging popularity of its Karuizawa single malt. The company was renamed Sanraku Inc in 1987, and again as Mercian in 1990. Following the closure of Karuizawa in 2001, they were merged with Kirin who dismantled the distillery in 2010, bringing their story to an end.
Karuizawa was mothballed in 2000, and closed in 2011; the land on which it had stood was sold in 2012. The remaining whisky stock from the distillery was purchased and re-branded, then released as a series of luxury whiskies.