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Chichibu Distillery

Visionary Ichiro Akuto founded Japanese whisky distillery Chichibu in 2008, just 4 years after his family’s famous distillery, Hanyu, was dismantled. It took a lot of legwork to convince the bank and investors that there was a future in Chichibu Distillery, because at that time interest in Japanese whisky had been in freefall for 25 years. Fortunately for whisky lovers the world over, it worked out. Before Chichibu opened, Ichiro had trained at distilleries such as Benromach, Kilchoman, BenRiach and Karuizawa, and the quality was top notch right from the start. Today he is considered the most influential (living) person in Japanese whisky.
The malt comes mainly from England (and a little bit from Germany), but they have also started using local barley, Japanese varieties even, grown as little as 5 minutes from the distillery. Since local barley is approximately 5 times more expensive than the malt from England, it only makes up approximately 15% of the annual production. Every summer, before the distillery is shut down for maintenance, a bit of strongly smoked (50+ ppm) malt is distilled. Chichibu is also particularly known for experimenting with different types of casks, and they have used, among other things, tequila casks, calvados casks, cognac casks, beer casks and casks made of the special Japanese oak, mizunara.
One of Ichiro Akuto’s traits is that he always thinks about the next generation – a great quality to have as a whisky maker. Outside the distillery, for example, he has planted Japanese oak trees, mizunara, ready to be made into casks in approximately 200 years.

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