Category Archives: Hanyu

Hanyu “The Game” bottled for Shinanoya

*Image from Shinanoya’s Rakuten Site*

As you probably know already, Hanyu is one of the now silent Japanese distilleries. As the stocks dwindle away the demand rises accordingly. The majority of Hanyu expressions come in the form of the Ichiro’s Card Malt Series. A fun and often eclectic mix of different age statements and cask types are intermittently released by Ichiro Akuto. This Hanyu expression was specially bottled for one of Japan’s best whisky retailers – Shinanoya. This is the follow up from their first The Game bottling and it went fast. I believe it sold out in pre-order and didn’t even make it to the stores. Akuto-San played around with the finishing cask some by replacing the bourbon barrel heads with Mizunara heads. This means the original staves from the bourbon barrel remained the same but now some Mizunara wood was being integrated into the aging/finishing process with the heads (top and bottom of the cask) being replaced with Mizunara wood.

Hanyu The Game bottled for Shinanoya ~$85
Distilled:  2000
Bottled:   November 2011 @59.4% ABV
Cask:        No. 917 Mizunara Headed Hogshead
Bottle Number 37 of 309

Color: Medium yellow and gold
Nose: Big oily incense notes, sweet, cedar wood, earthy, each time I nose it there is something else, cola/soda, layers and layers of spice and fragrant wood, nutmeg, old wood furniture.
Mouth: Wow! – that about sums it up…An initial layer of natural sugar sweetness, followed up by the intense fragrant wood flavors, again layers of it, spices and a nice malty backbone.

With water
Nose:  Dustiness, same fragrant wood, a little sharper on the spices.
Mouth:  More on the malt, loses some of the fragrant wood/incense, heading more towards the familiar flavors of a Scottish Whisky now, drying.

Comments:  This is one of the better malts that I have had in recent memory.  A feisty youngin’ but with an amazing depth of flavor.  The touch of the Mizunara influence really added another dimension to this one.  I wish I was able to pick up more of this one.  – Chris


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Ichiro’s Malt Card 3 of Hearts (Hanyu)

This is one of the whiskies that we tried at our Japanese whisky tasting in April.  An interesting expression of the now closed Hanyu distillery – stocks are now being stored at Ichiro’s new Chichibu distillery location.

3 of Hearts ~$90
Distilled 2000, bottled 2010 at 61.2% ABV
1st Cask: Hogshead (Cask No. 465), 2nd Cask: Port Pipe
Bottle 463 of 807

Color:  Medium-dark copper with some red and pink

Nose:  Rutty, dirty, Mizunara oiliness, smoke, earthy, then a fragrant sweetness, caramel candy, meaty, seems disjointed at first but after letting it sit for some time it actually starts to come together in a weird way

Palate:  Silky sweetness, then a big hit of Mizunara spices: sandalwood and incense, the youth of this whisky is fairly obvious, oak char, like biting into a dark cherry/strawberry jam filled crepe while catching a waft of fresh cigar smoke – weird but it works

Finish: Medium/long, leaves an airy fruit and spice flavor, port seems to add a gentle sweetness – wonder how long it was in the port pipe?

Comments:  Just a touch of the port so it is not overpowering.  It does remind me a lot of the 2009 Final Vintage of Hanyu.  I would definitely let this one sit and take some time to get its act together though.  Everyone liked it, well at least the empty bottle (as pictured above) leads one to believe that they did. – Chris

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Ichiro’s Five of Clubs

This dram was generously provided by the fine folks at the Master of Malt.  The Master of Malt provides a great service that allows you to purchase whisky by the dram instead of having to invest in a whole bottle.  You can also find the Master of Malt on Facebook and Twitter.

Ichiro’s Five of Clubs (Hanyu Distillery):
Distilled in 1991, finished in Mizunara cask, 57.4%ABV

Nate’s Impressions:

Ichiro has the whisky equivalent of the Midas touch.  When he gets his hands on a whisky it typically transforms into liquid gold.  In this case the color was more of a deep honey with some long, healthy legs.  The nose, of which I couldn’t get enough, delivered and then some.  Dark orange, heat, molasses, beef jerky, parmesan, and cola.  A wild ride and it all worked.  One sip and I got what the doctor ordered: smoke, tobacco and chewing gum (an inexplicably fun combination), a slight numbing tingle, sweet char, and rich roasted-grains stolen from a porter (the beer, not the person who carries your bags).  All this in the eventual grip of an oily, chewy heat that instead of flaming out, lingered like warming embers.  Harkens back to some of the best imaged memories of a traditional whisky from the Isles, in this case the Japanese ones.  Amazing.

Chris’ Impressions:

Color:  Darkcopper and orange

Nose:  Strong alcohol vapors, hidden peat with a dash of smoke, leather, oranges, some tobacco

Palate:  Dark fruit sweetness, tinge of peat, oily, mizunara tones (sandal wood), incense, burnt orange peels, spice, full bodied and chewy.

Finish:  Long, peat and tobacco leaves.

Comments:  Intense and excellent stuff.  The depth of flavor is amazing.  Although there are layers and layers of flavor they are not too difficult to find, they just seemed to come to me.  Another winner of a whisky distilled by Akuto San.  You can purchase a dram of the Five of Clubs here.

肥土 伊知郎さん、あなたの壮大な夢が託され、あなたの熱い情熱が篭った最高のウィスキーを、私達は感謝の意を忘れる事なく、これからも永遠に美味しく頂きます!

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The Final Vintage of Hanyu


Damn that sounds dramatic!  The “Final Vintage!” Final, no more、最後。Hanyu is the distillery that the much acclaimed Ichiro Akuto (肥戸伊知郎) worked his magic at before closing it up and starting the new Chichibu distillery – by the way, the Mizunara washbacks there are way cool.  This was actually my first Hanyu I have tried, I am looking forward to trying some more soon though!


10 Years old, distilled in 2000
Single Cask, Cask No. 6092
Bottle 165/462
No chill filtration, no coloring
60.1% ABV

Color:  Copper
Nose:  Dark red fruits, sandal wood, rum raisins, cherries
Palate:  Chewey, waxy, oily, cinnamon, dark fruit sweetness, there is a big presence of sandal wood, it reminds me of Japanese furniture – Tansu(箪笥)。A tinge of bitterness on the end, but it doesn’t distract much.
Finish: Medium, a sandal wood lollipop with a simple syrup coating.

With water:  Water turned down the alcohol and made it more approachable.  It amplified the sweet fruit tones some but over all it didn’t make that much of a difference and I preferred it without water.

Comments:  Ichiro must have some extremely active casks in his repertoire.  There is a good depth of flavor in here for 10 years.  However, you can still tell it is a relatively young whisky and everything hasn’t quite come together.  This is a tough one to describe as the dominant presence in this whisky is what I associate with Japanese furniture – maybe a slight similarity to incense? This is for those that do like sweeter whiskies, however I found it solid for a 10 year old.  The cask strength also helps for me.

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