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One famous Japanese whisky I have not talked about so far is Ichiro’s Malt, the famous whisky from Venture Whisky owned by the charismatic Ichiro Akuto. Ichiro’s Malt is very popular overseas, but it is also popular among Japanese whisky fans.
It can be a bit difficult for bartenders to evaluate this whisky, while some love it each and every bottle has great individuality. Ichiro’s Malt is also meant to be drunk straight, not mixed, and we bartenders are constantly focusing on mixing.
In the 1990s, it was mainstream for Japanese whisky drinkers to drink whisky on the rocks, so sweet whiskies with a strong aroma were popular. Around that time, the Hanyu distillery, run by Ichiro Akuto’s father, closed down. It distilled its last whisky in 2000 and shuttered in 2005.
The whiskies made at the Hanyu distillery had a strong, distinctive flavor and were therefore not suited for mixing with water. On the other hand, they were extremely delicious when drunk unmixed and straight.
After the Hanyu distillery closed down, Ichiro Akuto, who was working for Suntory at the time, wanted to go into the whisky business for himself. In a very Japanese fashion, he prepared by going from bar to bar, trying out whiskies and asking people what they liked in whisky. One of the things he discovered was that the whiskies from the Hanyu distillery would in all likelihood be popular among Japanese whisky fans. So in 2007 he founded Venture Whisky and introduced Ichiro’s Malt to the world.
In my view, Ichiro still has not managed to reach the taste he is aiming for. He is in fact still experimenting, and it will take some time for him to reach his goal. Today the best Japanese whisky is the Yoichi; however, if any whisky will overtake the Yoichi in the next 10 years, it will certainly be Ichiro’s Malt. But for now it is too early to declare it a winner.
Ichiro’s Malt whiskies are best unmixed, drunk straight. It will be very interesting for whisky fans to see how this whisky progresses in the next few years. Read more about it here!