Ichiro’s Malt Collection – Past, Present & Future

If you follow our blog and news here at dekanta, you’ll know that within the large cult following the Chichibu distillery enjoys, we’re some of the most enthusiastic fans. 

We simply love what Ichiro Akuto and his team are doing here in Japan, and the Chichibu story is truly a great one. Since 2008, numerous wonderful Chichibu whiskies have taken the world by storm and, almost single-handedly, taken the Japanese ji-whisky distillery (small, craft distillery) movement to new heights.

They’ve shown the world that Japanese whisky isn’t just what Suntory and Nikka have to offer. With their intense, high cask strength expressions, they have shown both the domestic and international market that the Japanese are not just proficient as creating smooth, elegant blends, but a whole range of whisky products.

Their single malts and single cask releases at 60 per cent ABV more than hold their own on the global whisky stage. Hard to believe? Well, Chichibu won the award for the World’s Best Single Cask Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards this year. That’s world’s best, over any other distillery.

Chichibu took part in this year’s Spirit of Speyside festival, even though no other non-Scottish distilleries are even included in the festivities. On an exciting note for us, we had the chance to interview the great Ichiro Akuto this year, and get his thoughts on Japanese whisky, production and maturation methods, and Chichibu’s amazing progress.

Apart from being the place to go for news on Chichibu, we also have a huge, huge selection of some of the most popular bottles by Chichibu, and the rarest by Hanyu, Ichiro Akuto’s family distillery that shut-down in 2000.

These are the bottlings we are have for you today, some extremely rare bottles from the shut-down Hanyu distillery, some delicious recent releases by Chichibu, and some that you will keep on your shelf, as an investment for decades to come. We’ve included a few extra treats in our monthly newsletter, so feel free to subscribe to get the entire “spread”. 

Have a taste and see why Chichibu has amassed such a dedicated, fanatic fan base, and why their whiskies are some of the most sought-after in the world.

The Spotlight

Hanyu & Kawasaki 25 Year Old

By looking at the title, one can probably deduce why it’s the bottle under the spotlight. There are several facts about this bottle that make it one the rarest bottlings in existence.

Firstly, this blend is made up of two extremely old whiskies, a 25 year old Hanyu malt whisky from 1990, and an equally rare 33 year old Kawasaki grain whisky distilled in 1982. The marriage of these two well-aged whiskies has resulted in a smooth, extremely well-balanced expression, which tells tales on the palate of the decades of maturation.

Secondly, the fact that both the distilleries that make-up this whisky were shut down over a decade ago, make this release all the more special. Two distilleries working together in Japan is something that rarely ever happens, so you can add that to the list of why this bottle is extra special.

Sets

Chichibu Whisky Festival Limited Edition 2017 & 2016

Each year, Chichibu holds the Chichibu festival, where fans are invited to come, try the latest whiskies, and meet the great distillery team. It’s a beautiful event, held out in an area surrounded by nature.

Chichibu release a special bottling for each festival, and the latest release for the 2017 festival won the award for the World Best Single Cask Single Malt, as mentioned above. With an award like that in the bag, there’s little we can say to expand on how special the 2017 Chichibu Festival bottle is.

And the 2016 release doesn’t fall short either.

If you want to experience the best by Chichibu, and taste the exceptional drams they choose to present at their annual festival celebrating the distillery, then look no further. This is the set for you.

Ichiro’s Malt – Hanyu Red Oak Hogshead &  Chichibu 1st Fill Bourbon Barrel

Ichiro’s Hanyu releases are some of the most sought-after, rare, and extremely limited bottlings that Akuto’s company, Venture Whisky Ltd, has bottled to date.

These bottles contain well-aged whisky, taken from the remaining stock of the Hanyu distillery after it shut down. Firstly, we have a Hanyu release distilled in 2000 when the distillery shut down, and aged in Red Oak for 15 years, before being bottled by Akuto in 2015, at 56 per cent cask strength. The second bottle in this awesome collection is a Chichibu release distilled in 2010 and matured in a 1st fill bourbon barrel, which imparted tremendous intensity and flavour in just a few years of maturation. 

This set is a great way to start your Chichibu/Hanyu collection, as it contains some of the most sought after bottles in existence. These bottles are truly a work of art, and no Japanese whisky collection is complete without at least one Ichiro’s Malt bottle… or in this case, two!

Cult Classics

Ichiro’s Malt – Newborn Heavily Peated 2009

This one is truly unique, and we guarantee that you won’t have tasted anything like it.

It was distilled in 2009, and bottled after 2 years of maturation, in 2011. Chichibu skilful, short maturation practises come through beautifully here, as the balance of the dram is phenomenal.

What’s more, the whisky is heavily peated, making it the perfect treat for Japanese whisky lovers who also enjoy the intensity of smoke and wood.

How did Chichibu manage to create such a balanced, gorgeous dram, with high peat levels and only two years of contact with the oak? Abundant talent and skill that’s how! If we could do it too, we’d be the rockstars of the Japanese whisky world, and not Chichibu!

Ichiro’s Malt – Chichibu Port Pipe 2009

Experimenting is what Chichibu does best, and this port-aged release is a perfect example. Port barrels are large, meaning the whisky comes into less contact with the wood than it does in a smaller cask. Port is extremely sweet, and can easily take over a whisky, making the flavours overwhelming.

But, as they do, the Chichibu team have done it right, and let the whisky age for just enough time (4 years) for all the lovely, succulent, rich port flavours to come through without it being too much.

Distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2013, this is a unique expression that will leave even the most seasoned whisky connoisseur intrigued.

Ichiro’s Malt – Chichibu On The Way 2015

Ichiro Akuto is a great distiller, but also a bit of a poet. ‘On The Way’ was so named to describe the entire Japanese whisky industry. Nowhere near the size, and age of the Scotch whisky industry, Japan has only entered the scene dynamically in the past few decades. But, with the continuous success and beautiful bottlings they are making, the industry is truly on the way, and not stopping anytime soon.

This bottle also had a wonderful journey, moving from a bourbon cask to a Japanese Mizunara oak cask, before being bottled at a whopping 58 per cent cask strength.

Ichiro’s Malt – Double Distilleries

This gorgeous bottle contains a wonderfully balanced blend of whiskies from both the Hanyu and Chichibu distilleries.

For a reasonable price, one can experience what had made the Akuto family legendary in the whisky community, and truly “taste” the history and toils Ichiro has gone through to bring these whiskies to life.

Ichiro’s Malt – Mizunara Wood Reserve

Did you know that the Chichibu team grow Mizunara oak trees right in front of the distillery? They know how to handle the oak from their homeland, and know just how to use it to make a dram sensational.

The Mizunara Wood Reserve from the Ichiro’s Malt range is a classic bottle that will give any drinker a great idea of the flavours that come from the famous oak from Japan. Comprising of whiskies from both Chichibu and Hanyu.

Mizunara oak is one of the rarest and most expensive types of oak in the world and one that is distinctly Japanese. We have previously covered the wonders of Japanese mizunara oak on the dekanta blog. Many whiskies feature a Mizunara cask finish, but few comprise of whiskies matured in the oak. Ichiro never disappoints, and this bottle proves that point time and time again. Taste Mizunara, taste Chichibu, and taste Japan.