Ichiro Akuto opened Chichibu distillery on the main island of Honshu, in the foothills of the Chichibu Mountains in early 2008.
A small malt whisky distillery equipped with five small Japanese oak washbacks and just two small stills. Spirit is filled into a range of casks including Japanese Oak and matures in on-site warehouses. The Newborn spirit which has reached our shores in small quantities has been singled out as an ace in the making.
And so, three years after the first spirit trickled from the stills, the first bottling of three year old Chichibu launches in Japan on 10th October 2011. "Ichiro's Malt Chichibu The First" is matured in ex-bourbon barrels, just 7,400 bottles have been released bottled at 61% ABV.
The Whisky Barrel asked Akuto-san to reveal the secrets of his new Japanese whisky.
Q. Which types of wood do you use for maturation and which are giving the best results with Chichibu spirit?
A. We are using many types of wood, such as Bourbon, Sherry, White Oak, Red Oak, Mizunara, and so on. Bourbon wood is fine. Mizunara is very characteristic. Rest of them are also interesting. We are on the way to find best wood for Chichibu.
Q. What can we expect from the style of whisky from the much anticipated Chichibu 3 year old release?
A. I think Bourbon barrels are good to taste to find Chichibu spirit character.
Q. What is the source of water used at the distillery and what are its special qualities?
A. It is the source of headwaters of Arakawa River. Hardness (45-50) of the water is very good for whisky making. It is between Hakushu (around 30) and Yamazaki (around 90).
Q. The quality of Japanese whisky is regarded as highly as Scotch in Europe. How do you consider Scottish whisky in comparison with Japanese whisky today?
A. Japanese whisky learned a lot from Scottish whisky. Character of Scotch whisky varies. Japanese whisky is getting more character than before like Mizunara. Maturation circumstances are a bit different. In Japan, more differences of temperature between summer and winter makes more deeper breath of the casks. As a result, deeper maturation occurs, I guess.
Q. Do you expect any long-term consequences or effects on Japan's distilleries following the earthquake?
A. I hope not.
Q. Which Japanese and Scottish whiskies are you enjoying now?
A. Recently I like to find Mizunara character from Japanese whisky. I also like to taste fruity flavour from around 60’s Scottish whiskies. But I try drams of new releases, official bottles and independent bottlers ones. I love to enjoy different characters between whiskies!
Chichibu The First will be avilable to buy in the fall of 2011.