Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
Today, we’re starting a mini series about Hanyu releases that very few people will know about, but that are linked – in some way – to Ichiro’s iconic Card Series. At the same time, it’s part of our “Whisky Labels from Japan” series (1, 2).
After Akuto-san had rescued the few hundred remaining Hanyu casks from being poured down the drain (2004-2005), he knew he couldn't just sit on them and wait for interest to grow. He knew he had to go out and bring the liquid to the people, and in order to do that, he needed the help of professionals in this field: bartenders. He started visiting bars in every nook and cranny and tried to interest bars in selling his (family’s) whisky. To make this appealing to them, he offered small, private bottling schemes: the numbers were low enough to make it a financially viable project for those bars, but significant enough to keep the money coming in and build a brand (Ichiro’s Malt) and a reputation, in the process.
this brief introduction makes for interesting reading. “Hanafuda” are strongly associated with illegal gambling and organized crime here in Japan – film buffs, check out Masahiro Shinoda’s “Pale Flower” (1964) – so there’s a bit of a dark side to it. However, visually, they’re far more appealing than the ace-to-king deck we’re all familiar with. Each “hanafuda” suit consists of 4 images referring to a particular flower or tree associated with a particular month of the year.
For the Bar Salvador bottling, the following images were chosen:
- “Pine with Crane” from the “Pine (Matsu)” suit [January]
- “Cherry with Curtain” from the “Cherry (Sakura)” suit [March]
- “Pampas with Full Moon” from the “Pampas (Susuki)” suit [August]
- “Willow with Poet” from the “Willow (Yanagi)” suit [November]
- “Paulownia with Phoenix” from the “Paulownia (Kiri)” suit [December]
For each label, there were 10 bottles (a total of 50 bottles) and for the remaining 10 bottles they used a special label combining the five cards above.
Read more about Hanyu Distillery here.