It’s Day 8 of our 10 day dekanta anniversary countdown, and today we’re honouring one of Japan’s fastest rising brands and distilleries. Yesterday, we looked at Yamazaki (if you missed that you can catch up right here), and we hope you all grabbed yourself a nice bottle at a discounted price.
Today, we’re looking at a brand and distillery that have picked up countless awards since their inception and have led the way when it comes to transparency and honesty in the Japanese whisky industry. Of course, it’s Ichiro’s Malt and the Chichibu distillery.
Ichiro’s Malt & The Chichibu Distillery
Since its inception in 2008, the Chichibu distillery has quickly risen to become the most well-known and loved small whisky distiller in Japan. Led by founder and whisky legend, Ichiro Akuto, the team strive to create the most flavourful, high-quality expressions they can, as they constantly experiment and evolve as a distillery.
Akuto is of rich pedigree. He grew up in the industry – his grandfather built the legendary Hanyu distillery – and he went on to study Brewing Studies at University before working for Suntory, picking up tricks of the trade and developing a great understanding of the industry along the way. In 1995, he joined his father at the Hanyu distillery, where he worked until its closure in 2003.
Since then, Akuto has been managing and releasing the remaining Hanyu stock, including the record-breaking Card Series, while building the Chichibu distillery from the ground up and leading the Ji-whisky movement at the same time.
Today, Ichiro’s Malt and Chichibu have become famous for releasing top quality whiskies sold under the “Ichiro’s Malt” brand name, from a range of unique single cask single malts, to superb blends.
On top of that, Ichiro Akuto and his company have maintained an honesty and transparency throughout, coining the term “world blended whisky” and offering extensive information on how their expressions are produced – a practice that’s not often seen in Japan.
They also strive to use local ingredients and promote the Japanese craft through innovative and attentive production processes. The team, wanting to tackle every aspect of whisky production, has even built its own cooperage near the distillery, something unusual for small distillers in Japan.
In Japanese whisky, most of the mizunara oak used for casks is sourced from up north, in Hokkaido. According to insiders, Chichibu will soon begin using mizunara sourced from the Chichibu area, moving further forward in its mission towards producing 100% local whisky.
All of these things have combined to quickly shoot their whiskies to popularity with fans around the world, and their rarest single cask and limited edition expressions are now highly sought after by whisky aficionados and collectors everywhere.
The bottler and distillery continuously receive awards at both local and international spirits competitions for their expressions.
Most notably, the Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu Edition 2019 won “Best NAS Japanese Single Cask Single Malt” in 2019, while the annual “Ichiro’s Malt Japanese Blended Whisky” releases have won “World’s Best Blended Limited Release” at the World Whiskies Awards for the past three years running.
Given the prestige of these awards, and the stiff competition they had to beat to win them, it’s fair to say that Ichiro’s Malt and Chichibu are currently producing some of the best whiskies in the entire world.
Whether you choose an award winner, a unique single cask expression, or a more readily available distillery release (such as the Chichibu On The Way) you definitely won’t be disappointed.