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Issue 132 - Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Whisky Magazine Issue 132
December 2015


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Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Chichibu and a history dating back to 1625

Chichibu Distillery is rapidly becoming an iconic example of a David and Goliath story. In just seven years, the whiskies emerging from this tiny distillery are winning international competitions against both foreign as well as the two big distilleries in Japan. Remarkably, with no clear advantage, either in methodology or history, is creating top whiskies that are far better than most.

That's the good news. The bad news is, of course, that low production and sensational demand makes the best of both hard to find as well as extremely expensive.

“Our single malt products have already sold out,” said company spokesperson Yumi Yoshikawa. “However our pure malt are not sold out.”

While Chichibu was founded officially as a distillery in just 2008, by Ichiro Akuto, the actual history preceding the foundation of making alcoholic beverages goes back much further. As is true with most products in Japan, whether it's chef's knives or single malt whiskies, there is improvisation on a tradition that pre-existed yashoku (Western) modernisation. With Chichibu the story begins in 1625 when Akuto's family started the production of sake, and continues to 1941, when the family founded the Hanyu Distillery in order to produce shochu. Then to 1946 when his grandfather got a license from the government (still under US military occupation) to make whisky. Whisky was popular with the foreign troops who preferred it over sake.

Akuto's grandfather's first attempt to produce whisky...

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