The use of mizunara oak for whisky barrels was not what one would declare serendipitous, at least not in its early years. During World War II, Japan, like several other countries, was unable to receive imported goods, making the delivery of European or American oak barrels for whisky maturation impossible.
Though it was not a priority to produce whisky, the demand for it increased greatly during this time period and became the primary drink consumed by the Japanese army. With this, Japanese coopers and whisky makers sought a domestic alternative to mature whisky in and found it in Japanese oak, more popularly identified as mizunara oak, which had been used in the craftsmanship of exclusive, luxury furniture.
Manufacturing the mizunara oak casks were not the only dilemma whisky makers faced; with whiskies being aged only a few years during the wartime period, the flavor mizunara oak casks infused into the whisky provided a rather unwelcome surprise to whisky drinkers – an explosion of an intense, overbearing woodiness onto the palate.
As a result, Japanese oak was snubbed and deemed substandard to American and European white oaks until further studies were done of longer maturation and finishing. Mizunara Oak is now regarded as the finest vessel to mature whisky.