10 facts about Chichibu
- Isouji Akuto was the 19th generation of his family making sake in Chichibu since the 1600’s
- In 1941, Isouji set up a distillery in Hanyu, gaining a license to produce spirits in 1946.
- The production of [Scotch style] whisky only started in the 1980’s.
- Due to lack of demand for Japanese whisky at the time [oh how times change], the Hanyu distillery closed in 2000 and was fully decommissioned in 2004.
- Isouji’s grandson. Ichiro Akuto who had previously worked for Suntory [as a brand manager], and was president of his father’s company at the time, managed to salvage Hanyu’s remaining stocks with the financial help of a Sake company called Sasanokawa Shuzou.
- Under Ichiro’s new company ‘Venture Whisky’, he began bottling Hanyu’s remaining stock as ‘Ichiro’s Malt’. [He also acquired the remaining Kawasaki stock].
- In 2007 he realises his dream and starts his own distillery in Chichibu, which by as early as 2008 is producing barley spirit. At the time, Chichibu was the first new Japanese whisky distillery to be built since the 1970’s .
- Ichiro’s emphasis is on quality and provenance and he ultimately aims for Chichibu to be 100% Japanese. He currently sources the majority of Chichibu’s barley from Warminster but also a small percentage of locally grown barley. His distillery has an in-house floor maltings [for their local barley], are sourcing local peat, have their own bottling facility and a cooperage.
- The cooperage, local to the distillery was owned and run by a 87yo Japanese cooper who wished to retire. Ichiro bought the cooperage and employed the former owner to train the new coopers.
- In 2011 he releases his first single malt, ‘The First’