Thursday, August 25, 2011

First Chichibu whisky due

The first proper whisky from Ichiro Akuto's Chichibu distillery in Saitama will be released in Japan on October 10.

It will be called "Ichiro's Malt Chichibu the First" and will be a 61.8 percent alcohol, cask strength bottling from a bourbon barrel, according to Akuto-san. Looking forward to it

A new Ichiro blend

Nate and Chris at The Whisky Wall beat me to the draw on a new blended whisky from Ichiro Akuto (by about a month). It is significant because Akuto sees bottlings like this as important to his Chichibu distillery's development at a time when its single malt is very young.

"The Card series (single malts from the old Hanyu distillery) tend to sell out as soon as they come out. However, they are single casks and limited," he says. "Our blended whisky is growing and we regard it to be of growing importance for the future."

I think this is the first grain and malt blend from Akuto, but it is part of a line of vatted whiskies from him reaching back to the Gingko (1,2) collaboration. In a similar way to the Gingko project, Akuto has been able to bring together malts from 9 distilleries and grains from distilleries. That is extremely unusual in Japan, where there is no established trade in whiskies between distilleries, but Akuto appears to have the pull and the commitment to do it. It is intriguingly titled "Ichiro's Malt and Grain White Label" in some of its marketing, which could be read as implying some different coloured labels in the near future.

The 46 percent ABV Malt and Grain is selling for a little bit more than 3,000 yen a bottle (38 dollars or 27 euros) for a 700ml bottle, which is pricey but not ridiculous given its provenance.

Whisky Wall interview with Ichiro Akuto

The WhiskyWall is a must-read for anyone interested in whisky, with some really interesting features and tastings. They have just posted a very interesting interview with Ichiro Akuto at Chichibu distillery. I heartily recommend it: Part 1, Part 2.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

No. 1 Drinks acquires all of Karuizawa stock

One of No. 1's Karuizawa "Noh" bottlings
Update 26.8.2011: This does not contradict the original piece but, just for the sake of clarity, Marcin Miller at No. 1 says: "The intention is to bottle as many casks as possible at the (Karuizawa) distillery, but we will also be transferring some stock to Chichibu."
All of the remaining inventory of the Karuizawa distillery has been bought by an Asian firm working on behalf of Number One Drinks.
A statement released by No. 1 on Aug. 11 said the casks would be moved to a warehouse at Ichiro Akuto's distillery at Chichibu.
Basically, this news appears to sound the death-knell of the Karuizawa distillery (1), which stopped distilling in 2001 and, apart from a few distilling runs for maintenance purposes, has not been active since. Kirin took over the distillery’s owner Mercian in 2007 and is clearly not interested in keeping one of the most charismatic and historically significant Japanese distilleries as a going concern. No company that had any serious interest in keeping a distillery going would sell its entire inventory. Instead, Kirin is concentrating on its mass-market operation at Fuji Gotemba.
Thank goodness the stock has ended up in the right hands! No. 1 has played a major role in raising the profile of Japanese single malts globally and some of its recent Karuizawa bottlings have been quite outstanding.

A statement released by No. 1 said: "Of the 12 Gold Medals awarded by the Malt Maniacs in 2010, four were for whiskies sourced by Number One Drinks (including three Karuizawas) and the Best Japanese Whisky in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2011 was a 1967 single cask from Karuizawa."
Marcin Miller, managing director in Europe of Number One Drinks, said: “As well as the release of Chichibu ‘The First’ and the on-going bottling of the Vintage Series single casks from Karuizawa, we are looking to release an 11-year-old single malt at 46 percent from Karuizawa. These are exciting times for fans of Japanese single malt whisky.”
The firm's Tokyo-based managing director David Croll said: “The sherry-matured, rich and complex single malt of Karuizawa was an undiscovered jewel. We have taken great pleasure in introducing the whisky to enthusiasts throughout the world. This acquisition will give greater flexibility in terms of what we release when and the possibility of launching a private cask scheme.
A statement from No. 1 stressed the importance of the company's relationship with Chichibu distillery in handling the Karuizawa whisky: "As well as bottling the iconic Vintage Series at Karuizawa Distillery, the acquisition will see Number One Drinks working more closely with Ichiro Akuto as casks will be moved to a new warehouse at Chichibu Distillery. Number One Drinks is planning a global launch of the eagerly-awaited Chichibu three year old in September of this year, with attendance at Whisky Live Taipei, Whisky Live Paris, the Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival and London’s Whisky Show (The Whisky Exchange). "

Mars Iwai Tradition

Review by Nonjatta contributor - Dramtastic:

Mars Iwai Tradition. 40 per cent alcohol.
Nose: Thick Manuka honey. Soft oak, sweet orange peel, dry sherry and toffee.
Palate: Sweet, oily moth feel. Manuka honey, raisins, all spice, dry sherry, toffee and a little smoke
Finish: Short, bitter-sweet with loads of honey.
General comment: Would be a great session whisky or everday drinker if it wasn't so rare.

Mars Single Cask Vintage Malt "Komagatake" 1992

Review by Nonjatta contributor - Dramtastic:

Mars Single Cask Vintage Malt 1992 46%
Nose: Soft notes of sandalwood, sherry, lavender, teak, leather and mollasses
Palate: Milk chocolate, sherry, walnuts, toffee, salt, nutmeg and wood spices.
Finish: Medium. Nicely balanced with wood spices, mollasses, leather and toffee.

Mars Single Cask # 904 Aged 15

Review by Nonjatta contributor - Dramtastic:

"Mars Single Cask # 904 Aged 15 Years. 43 per cent alcohol.
Nose: Fairly light, with apricot, walnuts, fresh cut timber, sandalwood, caramels and lime.
Palate: Peanuts, walnuts, wood chips, wood spice, caramels, lime, cinnamon and coconut
Finish: Shortish with nuts mixed with Werther`s originals and lime.
General comment: There are some nice flavours there but you have to dig hard to find them.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Outdoor whisky festival

For anyone in the vicinity of Nagawa, Nagano Prefecture on Saturday 17 September between 1pm and 8pm, there will take be a very tempting outdoor whisky fest for you to try. About 150 Japanese and foreign whiskies will be available to try and instead of a sweaty indoor location, you get to sup them in the great outdoors. Sounds great! Advance tickets cost 1,500 yen (2,000 yen on the day) and can be obtained from these chaps. The Scotch Whisky Research Center, the people behind the Whisky Festival (Sunday 20 November at the Hotel Nikko, Tokyo this year), are involved in organising it, so it should be a good show.