Category Archives: Chichibu

Chichibu Newborn Cask Number 23

This Newborn was aged for a whopping 6 months in a new American oak hogshead. Dispite all of the grief craft distillers are getting here in the US for releasing young whiskies, I have enjoyed all of the Newborn releases that I have tried so far: Heavily Peated, Double Matured and Mizunara Cask.

This Newborn can currently be found at Liquors Hasegawa in Tokyo Station.

Stats of this Newborn are as follows:
Cask In: April 2008
Bottled: October 2008
Cask: New American Oak Hogshead
ABV: 62.9%
Price: 4,800 Yen

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Chichibu The First


Since the promising initial releases of Newborn expressions from Ichiro Akuto’s Chichibu distillery we have been impatiently waiting for the first fully matured distillery release. The Newborn expressions were all over the map from bourbon barrels, to heavily peated and even straight mizunara casks. With such a wide variety of whiskies we were curious to see what flavor profile Akuto San would take with his first release.

Chichibu The First~$115
Distilled 2008 Bottled 2011
7400 Bottles at 61.8%ABV
Vatting of 31 Bourbon Barrels

Color: Light yellow, gold

Nose: Buttery sweetness, slightly dusty, a very highland-like malt nose – fresh fruit, apples, light syrup, bright, hints of sarsaparilla spice

Palate: Sweet candies, sugar coated, spices, tight and balled up though, too much alcohol to get a good taste neat. Cardboard dullness on the back end, green skinned fruits – apples, grapes. Some light bitterness.

Finish: Medium, grainy aftertaste.

With Water
Nose – opens up more mizunara oily fragrant wood notes, something metallic though, even brighter, apple tart

Mouth – mellows out more, more filled out green fruits with a nice natural sweetness, tons of malty and grain, chewy.

Comments: A great malt that shows that Chichibu has a lot of promise. I was surprised that this was the route that Akuto San decided to go down though as it was fairly tame and middle of the road – not that it is a bad thing. I’m really looking forward to future release, I do hope that the prices don’t spiral out of control though as they are getting expensive and harder to purchase before they sell out. – Chris


Another take: A thin, grassy yellow, the color took to sunlight well. The nose was not what I expected.  Heat and chocolate, barely and bread with a dash of iodine and wood.  Varied grain-based notes rose to the top of the body.  Baked goods with sweet butter, roasted malts, ground grains and  spiced apple.  An airy, easy-to-enjoy quality permeated the varied starches.  Still, at cask strength, an intense, lingering mid-to-dark sugarines settled in to stay.  Not what I expected from Ichiro, and this was some enjoyable unpredictability.  A touch of water unearthed some sharp floral notes but did not dilute the flavor…  adding a little spring to the darker warmth of this one. –Nate

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Chichibu The Floor Malted

Another interesting new release from Chichibu and I am definitely not complaining…well the wallet is a little but I am sure that I will overcome its protests. Here in the US craft distillers get a lot of praise for their innovation and attention to detail – rightfully so. Ichiro Akuto should be acknowledged as well for what he is doing at Chichibu. This currently release is Chichibu The Floor Malted. Which as the same suggests is made with barley that is floor malted – a characteristic of one of a whisky’s primary ingredient that is getting to be more rarified.

There will be 8800 bottles of this release coming in at 50.5%ABV. It is an interesting combination of primarily bourbon casks as well as puncheon and Chichibu’s own original quarter casks called “Chibidaru”. This is supposed to go on sale this month so keep an eye out for it because I expect it to sell out almost immediately like most Chichibu and Ichiro’s Malts releases.

**Update** Some more insightful details about this bottling over at the Japanese whisky authority Nonjatta here.

Clint over at Whiskies R Us reviewed and provided his tasting notes on The Floor Malted here.

Where to buy:  You can order a bottle from Claude Whiskies Japan here.  They do speak English and ship outside of Japan as well.  Tokyo’s Liquors Hasegawa also has bottles for sale now too.


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Breaking New Ground With A Classic Touch: Chichibu’s Ichiro Akuto (Part 2)

This is the second part of our interview with Akuto San. You can read the first part here.

WhiskyWall:   You are growing your own barley, sourcing local peat and growing Mizunara trees.  Is it your goal to make a 100% Japanese whisky – similar to Kilchoman’s just released 100% Islay whisky?


Akuto San:  たぶん、ウイスキー造りをしている人間ならだれでも、同じような夢を持つのだと思います。高品質のウイスキーを造ることが最優先事項ですが、もし国産原料のみで実現できればとてもうれしいですね。どのくらいの数量が出来るかはわかりませんが、ぜひ実現したいと思っております。

I think probably anyone making whiskey has a similar dream.  Of course I always try to make the highest quality whiskey, but it would be even better If I could do that with all domestic materials.  I don’t know how much I could produce, but I want to make a 100% Japanese whiskey one day.

WhiskyWall:  Your washbacks are made of Mizunara, why did you decide to do this?


Akuto San:  当時ウオッシュバックをステンレスにするか、木製にするか、迷っていました。たまたま木桶を造るメーカーに友人が勤めていて、良質なミズナラ材が使用できるという情報を得ました。ウイスキー蒸溜所でオーク材をウオッシュバックに使用しているところはありませんでした。専門家の意見も聞いたうえで、導入を決めました。

I was debating whether to use stainless steel or wood for our washbacks.  Then, one of my friends who happened to work in a coopery business told me I could use Mizunara.  No distiller uses oak wood for washbacks, but I decided to use Mizunara after checking with a specialist.

WhiskyWall:   Chichibu releases have been primarily single cask expressions, do you plan on having a standard chore range of expressions?


Akuto San:  今年は2008年の原酒が3年を迎えます。数量は限定になりますが、世界的にシングルモルトウイスキーとして発売を計画しています。年に数回、発売をすることになると思います。

The distribution may be very limited, but I’m planning on releasing a single malt made in 2008 that has reached 3 years world wide this year, several times a year.

WhiskyWall:  What are some of the challenges for you as a relatively small distillery?


Akuto San:  スタッフの人数が少なく、顧客の要望に十分応えることが出来ないことはあります。しかし、今取引があり顧客は十分理解を頂いておりますので、特にデメリットは感じていません。

We do not have enough staff to fully satisfy our customers’ needs.  But our customers are also very understanding, so we do not feel bad about not being able to fully meet customers’ demands.

WhiskyWall:  What are some of the benefits?


Akuto San:  原料仕入れから製造、熟成状況などのすべての工程を把握することが容易です。また、一回のロットが少ない分仕込みを頻繁に行うため、若い製造スタッフたちのスキルが急速に向上することも大きいです。

All of our staff are involved in the whole process, we make a small quantity at one time, but do it frequently.  So young staff learn and get better at making whiskey in a short period of time.

WhiskyWall:  Unfortunately, here in the US we do not have access to your whisky, do you have any thoughts of ever bringing your whiskies here?


Akuto San:  ぜひとも、そうしたいと考えております。

Definitely.  I am planning on selling my whisky in the US in the future.

WhiskyWall:  What bottles of whisky do you have at home now?


Akuto San:  私はバーで多くの銘柄を試したいという気持ちから、ボトルのコレクションを積極的には行っていません。本気で集め始めると大変は出費になりますから。しかし、時々気になるボトルや限定ボトルを購入するこはあります。キニンビーのヘーゼルウッドやラフロイグ21年、ボウモア22年、古いスプリングバンク30年や21年、その他のスコッチの古いボトルも少々あります。理想を言えば、オフィシャルボトルであっても買っておけば、原酒構成が時代とともに変わるので大変貴重なサンプルになります。

I like to go to bars and try different whiskeys, so I don’t try to collect bottles and don’t have much at home. Kininvie’s Hasel Wood, Laphroaig 20 yrs, Bowmore 22 yrs, Springbank 30 yrs and 21 yrs, and other old Scotch whiskeys.  Even official bottles will become precious samples as it ages over the year.

WhiskyWall:  Are there any whiskies that just amazed you? Which ones?

あなたが今まで出会ったウィスキーで、ただただ感心させられたものはありますか? いくつか挙げられますか

Akuto San:  まだ、ウイスキー経験が浅かった頃、「ウイスキーがこんな味がするのか!」と思ったボトルとして、濃厚な香水のようなブレーバーを感じたエドラダワーがあります。60年台ボウモアの南国果実のようなフレーバーにも驚嘆しました。また、グレンモーレンジのアーティザンカスクもホワイトオークのフレーバーにも大いに興味を惹かれました。しかし、それ以外にも、多くのボトルが個性的でとにかくウイスキーの奥深さと多様性を感じさせてくれます。

When I didn’t have much experience, as for bottles where I thought “Whisky can have this flavor!” I felt Edradour had a flavor of dense perfume.  I also admired Bowmore in the 60s for its passion fruit-like flavor.  I was also fascinated by Glenmorangie’s Artisan Cask for its white oak flavor.  Still, other than those, I have had the privilege of many bottles with individuality, whiskies with depth and diversity.

WhiskyWall:  For those people that are not familiar with Japanese whisky, is there anything that you would like to tell them?


Akuto San:  ウイスキーは蒸溜所ごとによる味わいの違い、熟成環境による味わいの違いを楽しむのがその醍醐味の一つだと思います。日本のウイスキーはスコットランドともケンタッキーやテネシーとも異なる環境で育まれてきました。その独自の環境で熟成されたウイスキーは楽しんでいただける価値があると思っています。ぜひとも、ご自身の鼻と舌でその独自性を感じてみてください。

To enjoy different tastes and different distilleries and environments is on of the ways to appreciate whisky.  Japanese whisky has grown in a different environment from Scotland, Kentucky, and Tennessee.  Therefore I believe it is worth is to enjoy whisky that is specific to a unique environment.  I highly recommend that on tries the unique flavors using one’s own nose and palate.


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A New Addition to the Chichibu Newborn Series: Mizunara Cask

The Japanese whisky distillers put a tremendous amount of effort into staying true to the Scottish ways of making whisky.  For example, Nikka Whisky still holds  on to the technique of direct coal firing their stills.  However, there is one very unique element that isn’t found in Scottish whisky – the use of Mizunara (Japanese Oak).  Suntory has a specific Mizunara cask expression of Yamazaki.  Also, the standard line up of Yamazaki 12 and 18 both have components of whisky that was aged in Mizunara casks.

Another big user of Mizunara is Ichiro Akuto, who now distills at Chichibu.  I have touched on some of the details of the relatively new Chichibu distillery before.  But not enough can be said, or written as the case may be here, about the craftsmanship and art that goes into the spirit that is made at Chichibu.  This is not your large commercial distillation facility where there are probably more stills than Chichibu has employees.  Akuto San takes a hands on approach and is sensitive to every minute detail in the process of making his whisky.  Just take a look at the label.  I would love to get that level of detail from every bottle of whisky that I drink.  Chichibu reminds me of some of the craft distillers that we have here in the US or the micro-brewers in the beer industry.  There is something in me that pulls for the little guy and wants them to do well.  But enough with the love-fest, the bottom line is the whisky has to be good.  The truth is in the liquid.


Distilled February-March 2008, Casked in April 2008, Bottled February 2009 (~10 months old). Jason from Guid Scotch Drink brought up an interesting question about this recently: Where is the spirit stored after distillation but before casked in? There is some time in between the two processes. I’ll see what information I can find and let you know.

Cask: New Japanese Oak (Mizunara) Hogshead, Appears to be a vatting of Cask #9 and #10. (Gotta love the low cask numbers)

Bottled at 63.3% ABV

No Chillfiltration or artificial colour

Color:  14K gold, light yellow with a glimmer of orange.

Nose: Vibrant with a the the big raw alcohol bite up front, buttery sweets, sandalwood, an interesting spice that I just can’t seem to place, after giving it some time it opens up more with creme brulee and grain sweetness.

Palate: Malty, chewey and viscous, nutty, grain sweetness like the nose, sharp biting oak, little too much alcohol burn neat.

Finish: Medium, raw alcohol and oak.

Comments: Obviously this is a young whisky, it needs more time but it is off to a good start. I can’t wait till it gets another 5-10 years in a cask as there is some good stuff going on underneath it all. This is a whisky that presents some interesting and different flavors from the use of the new Mizunara casks. I am still trying to familiarize myself with these flavors and associate them with things that I am more accustomed to.


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Ichiro on the Horizon

So I thought it would be a good idea to line up a little tribute to Ichiro’s lesser sample whiskies outside of Japan.  And that might happen… but I couldn’t wait to drink some of his superlative expressions.  Or one in particular, as it is.  So let’s revisit the Single Malt Newborn Double Matured, straight outta’ Chichibu and pouring.  This is one of those whiskies I knew I would like before I ever tried it.  Self-fulfilling prophecy?  Maybe.  But true nonetheless.  With a nose of muted sugars and restrained heat, you can’t help but wonder just where the 61.3% is locked up.  Few can pull that off.  61.3% and under two years of age?  Only one person pulls that off: Ichiro.  Dense plum/apricot, dark grains and bright edge-of-the-tongue presence.  Less than two years but somewhere between a bourbon barrel and some new American oak Ichiro delivers… and lush-but-subtle caramel and spice stick around.  And still the heat holds back, building nicely on the back of the throat.  And I don’t remember eating barbeque tonight but I can taste it somewhere.  I’d like to say more… but I’m going to drink more instead.  More on Ichiro soon.

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A Quick Note Re: New Chichibu Release

As you know Chichibu is still a new distillery and thus its stock of whisky is very young.  So far I have tasted the Newborn Heavily Peated and the Newborn Double Matured both excellent and surprisingly flavorful for such young whiskies.  Well a new Newborn (can it get any newer?) has been released.  This time they use a Mizunara cask – Japanese Oak.  I have enjoyed many other Japanese whiskies that used Mizunara Casks and look forward to trying this new Chichibu release.  It is being sold in Japan for ~4,400 Yen (~$55 US – Damn exchange rate!).

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Ichiro’s Chichibu Single Malt Newborn Double Matured

I have actually had this bottle for some time – enjoying its contents without posting any notes or impressions. A result of one part laziness and infinite parts procrastination.  Since Chichibu is a very new distillery, only producing whisky since 2008, all releases are extremely young. See my review of the Newborn Heavily Peated here.

Although Chichibu is a new distillery, its founder Ichiro Akuto is by no means new to whisky making. He formerly produced his whisky at the Hanyu distillery which is now closed. It was at Hanyu that Ichiro produced his well known card series. Much more in-depth information on Hanyu, Chichibu and Ichiro Akuta can be found at Nonjatta – the authority in all things related to Japanese whisky.


Chichibu Newborn Double Matured

Distilled: April – May 2008
1st Cask In (Bourbon): May – June 2008
2nd Cask In (New American Oak): June 2009
Bottled: June 2009
Cask #: 445
Bottle 337 of 359
61.4% ABV
Non-chill filtered
No artificial coloring

Color – Dark amber and orange. Really? No artificial coloring?

Nose – Wow! Definite new make youthfulness, but at the same time deep caramel, toffee, dates, dark fruit jam, sandal wood is very pronounced, some black tea in the back.

Palate – wicked alcohol singe up front (ouch!), sweet almost syrupy, heavy wood influence, cinnamon, dried dates, neat is it really hard to get through all of the alcohol.

Finish – The alcohol just dominates, dry, oak, a little bitterness

With water:

Nose – Much better…a buttery toffee comes through, tames the alcohol nicely but doesn’t rid itself of its youthfulness, the dark fruit jam is still there as well as the sandal wood. It just seems better integrated now.

Palate – Again, much more pleasant, the water successfully tames the alcohol and you can actually get through and taste more of the whisky, taste more of the cinnamon maybe even some nutmeg, sweet with a lot of oak, some of the bourbon flavors start to come through as well: leather and tobacco, some orange.

Finish – oak, still a little bitter, bourbon

This one is definitely a challenge. It is feisty and does fight back; the punk music of whisky as compared to the classical overtures of Highland Park. Not one that I would pick up to sit back and relax with. It is fairly sweet so it seems like an after dinner dram. I am simply amazed by how much flavor has been packed into this malt given its limited time in the casks. I am almost afraid to taste what would come out if it sat in the same casks for a couple more years. I like this one, but have to be in the mood for it.


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Chichibu Single Malt Newborn Heavily Peated Review #Whisky


Distillery:  Chichibu

Distilled June-July 2009

Cask In: July 2009

Bottled: November 2009 (Yes that makes it about 4 months old!!!)

Chichibu Single Malt Newborn Heavily Peated Label

Alcohol: 61.4% (Screamin!)

Chichibu Single Malt Newborn Heavily Peated

I found this bottle while perusing through a Japanese liquor website.   Heavily peated and only 4 months old – I had to try it.  The price wasn’t bad either (~$55).  I fully expected it to taste like new make and not have a whole lot of flavor at all.  It is still very one dimensional, but I was truly surprised how much flavor it had.  “Had” is the operative word…as you can see from the picture there isn’t much left at all.  I do like it enough that I am ordering another bottle of it.  Along with a bottle of the Double Matured Newborn.

Color – Amber orange

Nose:  Peat with a capital P! You definitely get huge wafts of sweet peat when you first nose it and it hides the high alcohol content well.  After awhile it opens up with a little maltiness.

Palate: A stiff jab of peat with that 61.4% alcohol following right up after.  It does fade rather quickly though.  You can tell it is a youngin’ and that it needs more time – but only 4 months old?  Really?  A hint of nutmeg/spice.  It is not all that complex, straight forward peat as advertised.  More of a nasal and back of the tongue alcohol feeling.

Finish:  Short and fades fast.

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