Ichiro’s Malt and Grain Whisky Review

Producer: Chichibu. Distillers: various. ABV: 46.5%. No age statement. Blend: undisclosed. Price: $100.

Talk about heritage…Ichiro Akuto’s family has been in the booze business in Japan for 21 generations. His grandfather founded the Hanyu Distillery, which shut down in 2000, but from whose stocks Ichiro drew the sensational Deck of Cards single malt series.

Ichiro has since founded the Chichibu Distillery, located near Tokyo. As he matures his own distillate, he’s benefitting from the wider Japanese whisky boom and the wild success of the Deck of Cards series–but he’s constrained by them too. Expectations couldn’t be higher, and demand is through the roof. What does he sell while he’s perfecting his own malts?

Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Whisky is one answer. It’s a “true world whisky”–a blend by Ichiro of his own young malt & grain whiskies with juice from 8 other distilleries from Scotland, England, Ireland, the U.S., and Canada. The proportions and ages are undisclosed, but it’s unquestionably an intriguing project.

I grabbed a bottle from Mash + Grape to give it a go. It took 3-4 or so drams over a few weeks to properly unfold, as many things do. The nose has young bourbon notes, some sweet tobacco, graham cracker, and a softness that reminds me of the Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye–a good thing. Just when it threatens to be a bit too simple, deeper cedar and potpourri box notes emerge, along with some fresh white oak. The palate leads with Meyer lemon. Then lemon pepper, mint, and grapefruit bitters. Medium-light body. The finish is medium-short, and drier than expected. And there’s the slightest hint of waxy white smoke that floats in and out throughout the proceedings.

The more time I give this one, the more interesting it gets. There’s a subtle alchemy that makes it more than the sum of its parts–one of the tests of a good blend for me.

If I get lucky, some loved ones I gave a shopping list on their way to Japan will come back with something special soon. In the meantime, I’m glad I’ve got this to tide me over.

Kanpai, friends! – BO

Buy Chichibu Japanese Whisky at Mash + Grape

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