Tag 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


Filed under Hanyu

2012 Tokyo Bar Show

This past weekend was the Tokyo Bar Show held at Roppongi Midtown. Although I initially thought it was purely a bartender/cocktail event there was a very heavy whisky presence at the event. In fact the special bottlings for this event were all whisky – specifically Japanese Whisky. Five expressions were bottled to commemorate the event:

Karuizawa – a vatting of 1999 and 2000 casks. Aged in sherry butts and bottled at 61.6%ABv

Chichibu – cask #287. Distilled in 2009 (3 y/o) aged in Chibidaru barrel (Chichibu’s original quarter cask. Bottled at 61.8%ABV

Yamazaki – Single cask, Distilled 1999 (12 y/o), aged in a puncheon. I couldn’t find it’s bottling strength unfortunately.

Hanyu – single cask # 349, Distilled in 2000 (12 y/o), aged in Chibidaru quarter cask, bottled at 58.4%ABV

Karuizawa – another vatting of sherry butts Distilled in 1999 and 2000. Bottled at 61.7%ABV

These are some interesting and rare bottlings that you won’t want to think about for too long if you are even remotely interested in liking them up. You can purchase them online here

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Whisky World News

Win a Trip to Scotland from the Glenrothes:

The Glenrothes is launching the a brand new video to coincide with the second-annual Vintage Maker competition (running now till Jan 31). The Are You The 2012 Glenrothes Vintage Maker? video can be found here.

A little more about the competition:

The Glenrothes®, the preeminent vintage distilled single malt Scotch whisky, is launching its second annual Vintage Maker contest. This bespoke dram, which prides maturity over age, (you won’t find any pre-determined age statements here) wants you to recall and share a game-changing or halcyon moment in your life. The winners will be the entries that in the opinion of the judges best represent the definition of a Glenrothes vintage moment: a perfect combination of time, place, people and/or occasion when everything comes together to create a moment that will stay in the memory forever. . .

Four of the most compelling stories will be selected from the US and the winners will be flown to the Speyside region of Scotland – home of The Glenrothes – in May 2012. Alongside The Glenrothes Malt Master, Gordon Motion, the winning four will nose a wide gamut of whiskies, before selecting the best casks to be laid down for maturation, to eventually be bottled and released as The Glenrothes 2012 vintage. This year’s Vintage Maker contest follows hot on the heels of over 10,000 budding whisky makers entering last year’s draw.

Morrison Bowmore Distilleries Appoints Rachel Barrie As Master Blender:

Morrison Bowmore Distillers (MBD), one of the major names in Scotch Whisky and producers of Auchentoshan, Bowmore and Glen GariochSingle Malt Scotch Whiskies, announces the appointment of Rachel Barrie to the newly created position of Master Blender effective immediately. Barrie will also head up the company’s Spirit Quality Control and laboratory functions. She will join Morrison Bowmore’s Operational Senior Executive Group and report directly to Andrew Rankin, MBD Operations Director and Chief Blender. Barrie joins the company bringing a vast amount of knowledge and experience having served many years in a similar role within The Glenmorangie Company.

Commenting on the appointment Andrew Rankin says, “Rachel is one of the most experienced Master Blenders in our Industry and I am extremely delighted that she will be joining our team here at MBD. We have a very strong blending team within the company and this appointment will massively strengthen and reinforce our commitment to producing the ultimate in quality single malt Scotch whiskies.”

Another New Release of Hanyu:

Not that we are complaining! Following up on their very successful single cask bottling of the now extinct Hanyu distillery, the Game, Shinanoya is slated to release another single cask bottling. This release will also be called the Game – distilled in 2000 and bottled in November 2011 at 59.4%ABV, Mizunara Heads Hogshead Finish. Shinanoya is taking reservations/orders on January 26th. Like all Hanyu malts, jump on this as soon as possible if you have the chance.

Update: this bottle is now available for purchase here

Update to the update: sold out now. That was faster than I expected

Leave a comment

Filed under News

New Release of Ichiro’s Malt Card Series

Ichiro Akuto recently announced the release of 4 additional expressions to his much acclaimed Card Series. The Card Series are from the now closed Hanyu distillery. As you can see the labels will be different from previous releases with different winter constellations in the background – the individual cards on each bottle will remain though. This will bring the total number of bottles in the Card Series to 48. The details of the 4 new expressions are as follows:

Ten of Diamonds: ~13650円/$182
Distilled 1990 Bottled 2011 @ 54.9%ABV
American Oak Puncheon Finish

Nice of Clubs: ~11550円/$154
Distilled 1991 Bottled 2011 @57.3%ABV
Bourbon Barrel Finish

Six of Spades: ~7700円/$102
Distilled 2000 Bottled 2011 @58.6%ABV
Oloroso Sherry Butt Finish

Four of Hearts: ~7700円/$102
Distilled 2000 Bottled 2011 @59.2%ABV
French Oak Cognac Cask Finish

These were just released in Japan and should be available overseas at a later date. A word of advice – do not wait on purchasing a bottle if you want one because they sell out extremely fast.

**Update: Because this is such a new release most of the online shops do not have them listed yet. So far we have found one online shop that has them available. http://www.sake-hosoi.co.jp/

Leave a comment

Filed under News

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.


Filed under Chichibu, Chichibu

Breaking New Ground With a Classic Touch: Ichiro Akuto (Part I)

The craft distillery movement has been gathering a lot of steam lately.  It has definitely hit here in the Northern California, with the likes of St. George,  Charbay, Old World Spirits and Low Gap.  Although larger, one can make an argument that Kilchoman on Islay falls into this category as well.

Craft distillers are appreciated for their keen attention to detail and hands on approach.  There is also some personality and a sense of connectedness with the distiller as you can identify the specific person who is actually distilling the whisky.  The craft distillery movement is not limited to the United States (or Scotland if one throws Kilchoman into the mix) though.  One of my favorite distilleries, for many of the same reasons people like craft distilleries, is Chichibu located in the prefecture of Saitama, Japan.

Chichibu was only recently established in 2008 by Ichiro Akuto (officially Venutre Whisky).  Akuto San set up the distillery with the meticulousness and attention to detail that you would expect from a distiller/owner.  The passion that he has is clearly discernible in his approach and methods of making whisky and it all culminates in the expressions that he releases.  Simply put, Akuto San is doing some very cool things at Chichibu.  You can follow the details of his work on his twitter feed.  Although he tweets in Japanese he often includes pictures, which recently included his trip to some of the US distilleries and their cooperages.  For some additional pictures of the distillery and equipment check out this site.

We have been fortunate enough to drink some of the spirit from Chichibu and found them both promising as well as tasty.  We have also been intrigued with Akuto San’s history of distilling whisky as well as the details of his new venture at Chichibu so we set out to ask him a couple of questions.  This is the first series of questions and responses, the second series will be posted shortly.

WhiskyWall:  Your family has a long history of brewing sake, what got you started in distilling whisky?


Akuto San:  祖父が1941年に羽生に本社工場を設立し、1946年にウイスキー免許も取得しました。1980年台にはスコットランド式のポットスチル2基を使い本格的なウイスキー造りを始めました。しかし、2000年になるころには経営が悪化し、父は2004年には会社を手放すことを決めました。しかし、新オーナーはウイスキーに興味がなく、期限を設定し、引き取り手がなければ、設備もウイスキー原酒も廃棄することを決定しました。この原酒を引き取ることを決め、将来ウイスキー造りを再開することを決意いたしました。

My grandfather opened the sake business/main factory in Hanyu in 1941 and got a license for whisky distilling in 1946.  In the 1980s we bought 2 Scottish pot stills and started to invest for making whiskies.  However, in 2000, our business started to go downhill and my father decided to sell our company.  The new owner was not interested in whisky distilling and decided to discard all the equipment and whisky if no one claimed it within a limited time.  I decided to take the whisky and was determined to resume whisky making in the future.

WhiskyWall:  Who are some of the biggest influences in your career of distilling whisky?


Akuto San:  歴史上の人物として竹鶴正孝や鳥井信治郎があげられます。また、新しい蒸溜所としていろいろな方からアドバイスをいただきました。とりわけ、現在の状況に至った背景として祖父や父の存在は大きかったと思います。

Masataka Taketsuru and Shinjiro Torii.  Also, many people have given precious advice to us as a new whisky distiller.  But the biggest influence is my father and grandfather who led me to this career.

WhiskyWall:  How would you describe your philosophy for making whisky?


Akuto San:  ウイスキー造りにトリックはありません。当たり前のことを積み重ねていくということです。

There’s no trick to making whiskey.  Just do what I have to do one day at a time.

WhiskyWall:  Chichibu is a new distillery, do you see this as a continuation of what you were doing at Hanyu or a completely new and different beginning?


Akuto San:  造り方の基本は同じです。しかし、環境、設備、人が異なりますから異なるシングルモルトが生まれています。羽生の経験を生かし、さらに細かいところに注意を払っています。また、羽生では使用していなかった樽も使用しています。

The basics are the same for making whisky, but environment, equipment and people involved make  a difference for single malt.  Based on what I learned through my Hanyu experience, I’m trying to be more cautious in the details.  I also use casks I never used at Hanyu.

WhiskyWall:  The expressions that have been release from Chichibu are very diverse from heavily peated to Mizunara – how would you describe Chichibu’s style of whisky?


Akuto San:  現在、さまざまな取り組みを行っています。目的は秩父スタイルの探求です。最初にスタイルを決めてしまうのではなく、回り道のように感じるかもしれませんが、5年、10年と歳月を重ねることにより、秩父に適した樽やスピリッツが出来上がっていきます。徐々に秩父のスタイルが完成してゆくのだと考えています。

Currently, I am variously engaged with this. The goal is to pursue a Chichibu style.  There was not an initial settling upon a style.  Not taking any short-cuts as I make whiskies for the next 5, 10, or more years, I will create suitable casks and spirits for Chichibu.  Gradually, the Chichibu style will be perfected, I think.

WhiskyWall:  Both the Newborn Heavily Peated and Newborn Double Matured are very young whiskies but they have so much flavor already, how are you able to get that amount of flavor in such a short period of time?


Akuto San:  なにも特別なことをしているつもりはありません。スピリッツの品質を日々吟味し、良質な樽を選ぶ努力を繰り返しをしているだけです。あとは秩父の環境が熟成を育むんでくれているのだと思います。

We don’t do anything special.  I check the quality of spirit everyday and try to find the best cask each time.  The rest of the flavor is nurtured to maturity by Chichibu’s environment, I imagine.

WhiskyWall:  What are some of your goals for Chichibu’s whisky?


Akuto San:  個人的な目標ですが、30年ものの秩父シングルモルトを楽しむことです。

It’s my personal goal, but I want to enjoy a 30 yr old Chichibu Single Malt.


Filed under Chichibu

Ichiro Releases a Blend

Ichiro Akuto (Hanyu and Chichibu) has released a blended whisky.  This is different from his normal single cask releases from Hanyu and Chichibu that we have come to expect.  There is a blend of Hanyu and Chichibu as well as a vatting of Hanyu that have been released though.  Unlike their Scottish counterparts, it is practically unheard of for Japanese whisky companies to share or trade barrels of their whisky with each other.  You will not find a blend of Nikka and Suntory malts.  This blend being released by Akuto San is a blend of 9 different malt distilleries and 2 different grain distilleries.  It is non-chillfiltered at 46%ABV and comes in at roughly $40 (Damn exchange rate!).    We know Akuto San has some serious distilling skills, let’s see how the blending skills are. I am going to pick up a bottle and try it out. – Chris


Filed under News

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

1 Comment

Filed under Hanyu, Whisky Impressions

Whisky Tasting – Japanese Malts

April 21st marked the third Thursday of the month and that meant it was whisky tasting time again! In March we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with some Irish malts. In April we decided to go in another direction with some Japanese malts. There wasn’t any particular reason for why we went with Japanese whiskies other than we didn’t have the self-control to leave these whiskies’ flavors a mystery to us. The whiskies we decided to pour were available here in the US only via check in baggage. Nate brought these bottles back in February and we couldn’t wait any longer to open them.

We were lucky to have a good turn out of enthusiastic whisky folks to enjoy the whisky with. We decided to start off the evening by doing a quick comparison between Japanese whisky and Scotch whisky: a Singleton of Glendullan 12 and Yamazaki 12.  It wasn’t the most scientific and there were probably better whiskies to use to compare, but hell it was what we had available to us.

After that we moved into the more serious whisky.  We started with the Suntory Hibiki 50.5.  Hibiki is a blended whisky – a mix of malt and grain – and as the name indicates it is bottled at 50.5% ABV.  The Hibiki 12 is probably familiar to those in the US but this particular Hibiki was aged for 17 years.  After the Hibiki we dove into the first single malt of the evening, a single cask Hakushu, distilled in 1996 and bottled in 2008 at 62%ABV.  Hakushu is Suntory’s other distillery located in Yamanashi Prefecture.  The last expression of the evening was one of Ichiro Akuto’s Card Series:  3 of Hearts.  The Card Series bottlings are whiskies that were originally distilled in the now closed Hanyu distillery.  This particular expression was first aged in a Hogshead and finished in a port pipe and ultimately bottled at 61.2%ABV.  It was a great whisky to finish on!

…or at least we thought.  For those that stuck around and got really comfortable in their seats, an additional two Japanese whiskies made their appearances.  White Oak/Eigashima is one of Japan’s lesser known distilleries.  The majority of their distilling efforts are spent on shochu and sake, but they do release a couple of expressions.  We decided to try their Akashi 5 and 12 year old whiskies.  Definitely different, bordering on funky was my impressions.  Of course this was after a couple of hours on sipping on the three previously mentioned whiskies.

Overall it appeared that everyone had a good time (which is the most important thing) and enjoyed some different whiskies.  We will post up more detailed tasting impressions of the whiskies shortly.  Till next tasting! – Chris      


Filed under Tastings

Some “New” Hanyu

Just a quick hitter here.  Ichiro Akuto has for some time been slowly releasing his stocks of Hanyu, mostly in the form of the popular card series.  Well this week saw a release of four more “cards”.  Hanyu is in high demand and one shop that I normally shop at has already sold out of their supply.  – Chris

Ten of Harts:  6,980円/~$85, Cask number 463, 295 bottles, 61% ABV,  First cask: Hogshead, Second cask Madeira hogshead

Four of Diamonds:  6,980円/~$85, Cask number 9030, 546 bottles, 56.9% ABV, First cask: Hogshead, Second cask: Pedro Ximenez sherry butt

Two of Spades:  10,500円/~$127, Cask number 477, 290 bottles, 55.8% ABV, First cask: Hogshead, Second cask: Port hogshead

Eight of Clubs:  17,800円/~$215, Cask number 7100, 561 bottles, 57.5% ABV, First cask: Hogshead, Second cask: American oak Puncheon

Leave a comment

Filed under News