Tag Archives: japanese whisky

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Chichibu, News

Shinanoya Does It Again…

*Image taken from Shinanoya’s Facebook Page*

Well at least they are going to on July 26.  As we all know Karuizawa bottels are getting harder and harder to find these days.  And surprisingly even more so in Japan.  Shinanoya who’s The Game Hanyu bottling I loved is releasing their private cask bottling of Karuizawa on July 26.  You can get a preview taste of it at the Osaka Whisky Festival on July 15.

1995 Karuizawa 16 y/o 12,900 Yen
Shinanoya Private Cask 5th Anniversary
Japanese Wine Cask 69.3% ABV

1 Comment

Filed under News

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

4 Comments

Filed under Hanyu

Chichibu The Floor Malted

20120321-215041.jpg
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.

4 Comments

Filed under Chichibu, News

Suntory Hakushu Sherry Cask

We thoroughly enjoyed the Yamazaki Sherry Cask bottling last tear, as did many others. Now we finally get the combination we have been waiting for: Hakushu + sherry casks! Hakushu tends to be on the lighter more refreshing spectrum so it will be interesting to see how it will hold up against the bold robust sherry casks. This is a somewhat “limited” release of 4,300 bottles and like the Yamazaki release this is also bottled at 48%ABV. The Hakushu Sherry Cask is scheduled to be available for purchase from Sake Brutus on February 28 for 8,560円. However, there may be other shops releasing it earlier. We will update this post as we get more info.

Image taken from the Sake Brutus website

**UPDATE ** Official Suntory Press Release

3 Comments

Filed under Hakushu, 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

US Release of Suntory Hakushu

As you probably noticed it has been rather quiet around here lately.  This silence has been primarily due to a whole lot of work – leaving very little time to work on getting tasting impressions and posts out.  However, don’t be fooled into thinking that booze hasn’t been consumed.  It has, actually a lot has, but more for utilitarian purposes.

So it was with much joy that I was able to attend a tasting this afternoon hosted by Suntory’s Mike Miyamoto and Neyah White to sample some of the soon to be released (end of October) Hakushu 12.  That’s right, finally another Japanese whisky expression will be released in the US.  The Hakushu distillery flavor profile is one of my favorite and the 12 just sings with fresh forest crispness.  We posted our impressions of the Hakushu 12 here.

You also really get a sense of the distilleries location in the whisky.  Every time I drink Hakushu 12 it brings me back to the storage warehouse at the distillery.  You can read a little more about the distillery here in Part 1 and Part 2 of my visit there.

Hakushu is completely different than its Yamazaki brother.  I think this bodes well for whatever your opinion is of Yamazaki.  If you like the Yamazaki releases, you will be treated to an additional and different whisky in Hakushu.  If you aren’t a big fan of Yamazaki, maybe Hakushu will be more to your liking.  Either way I highly recommend that you seek out a bottle/dram of Hakushu and give it a try.  – Chris

3 Comments

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?

あなたは、自身で麦やミズヌマ材を育て、地元のピートをお炊きになると聞きます。あなたのゴールは、キルホーマンが最近発売した純アイラ・ウィスキーのような、100%国産のもののみを使用した、純国産ウィスキーを作ることですか?

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?

なぜウォシュバックにミズナラを使用することにしたのですか?

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?

いままでの秩父からのリリースは主にシングルカスクですが、今後定期的にリリースする銘柄などの計画はありますか?

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?

比較的小さな蒸留所であることのデメリットはどのようなことですか?

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?

逆に、小さな蒸留所であることのメリットは?

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?

残念なことにここアメリカでは、現在あなたのウィスキーを入手することが出来ませんが、将来アメリカで販売することをお考えですか?

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?

あなたが今お家でお持ちになっているウィスキーのコレクションは、どのようなものですか?

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?

まだ日本のウィスキーに馴染みの薄い人々に、伝えたいメッセージはありますか?

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.

3 Comments

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?

ご家族は永年造り酒屋を営まれていたということですが、あなたがウイスキーの蒸留を始めたきっかけは何ですか?

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?

あなたのウイスキー蒸留のキャリアの中で、多大な影響を与えた人物は、どのような方々ですか?

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?

あなたのウイスキー作りの哲学とは?

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?

秩父は新しい蒸留所ですが、あなたの中では、ここで羽生で培ってきたことを継続して行うところですか、それともなにか別の、新しいことを行うところですか?

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?

秩父からリリースされているボトルは、へヴィリー・ピーテッドからミズナラまで様々なものがありますが、あなたは秩父スタイルのウィスキーをどう表現しますか?

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?

ニューボーン・へヴィリー・ピーテッドとニューボーン・ダブル・マチュアードともに、短い熟成期間のウイスキーにもかかわらずすでに濃厚なフレーバーがありますが、短時間でウィスキーにあのようなフレーバーを持たせる秘訣は何ですか?

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?

秩父ウィスキーで成し遂げたいことは何ですか?

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.

2 Comments

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

3 Comments

Filed under News