[Review]Ichiro’s Malt Double Distilleries Chichibu x Komagatake 2021

Ichiro's Malt

This is a blended malt whisky made by exchanging the raw materials of Chichibu Distillery and Shinshu Mars Distillery. This is the first initiative of its kind in the Japanese whisky industry.

The Chichibu distillery started operations in 2008 and the Honbo Shuzo Mars Shinshu distillery resumed distilling in 2011.
This project was started in the hope that the exchange of raw spirits, which is commonly done in Scotland, could be realized in Japan.
This project, launched by two highly motivated distilleries in pursuit of new possibilities for Japanese whisky, began six years ago in April 2015 with the exchange of each other’s raw spirits (new pots).
The Chichibu distillery is rich in nature, with the benefit of the Arakawa River and the temperature differences unique to the basin, while the Mars Shinshu distillery is surrounded by beautiful forests at the foot of Mount Komagatake in the Central Alps.
The raw materials that were matured in these two different environments were blended in each place and expressed as a new character.
The soft and transparent fruity taste, and the layers of aroma carefully layered little by little, create a depth that can be felt slowly over time.
It is bottled with a high alcohol content, non-chill filtered, and natural color to take advantage of its characteristics.
This is a bottle filled with the charm and potential of Japanese whisky, which has many possibilities.

“It’s a great way to secure raw spirits that we can’t make ourselves, and to see how the quality of those spirits changes with the environment. The joint project was not just a simple sake exchange, but also a way for blenders and brewers to hone their skills. We believe that improving each other’s skills as a manufacturer will lead to the improvement of the technical level and quality of Japanese whiskey” (Mr. Ichiro Akuto, President of Venture Whiskey)

1. Maker

Venture Whiskey Co.

EstablishmentEstablished in 2004
Head office location 49 Midorigaoka, Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture, 368-0067 Japan
Distilleries ownedChichibu Distillery, Chichibu No.2 Distillery

2. Distillery

Venture Whiskey Chichibu Distillery

Location 49 Midorigaoka, Chichibu-shi, Saitama 368-0067
Start of operations 2007

Single malt whiskey production is rooted in the climate of Chichibu.
The founder of the distillery, Mr. Ichiro Hido, takes pride in producing Japanese whiskey, and is committed to handcrafting malt whiskey using small mills, mash tuns, Quercus fermenters, and pot stills made by Forsyth in Scotland.

The area around the Chichibu distillery is rich in nature, with clean air, good quality water, high temperatures and humidity in the summer, and cold temperatures that reach below freezing in the morning and evening. The difference in temperature between the two regions has a profound effect on the maturation of the whiskey, resulting in a fruity and well-balanced whiskey despite the short maturation period.

Established in September 2004.
The Chichibu distillery was completed in 2007.
In February 2008, a license to make whiskey was issued and we started making whiskey at the Chichibu distillery.
In October 2019, the second distillery will begin operations.

This distillery was established after Suntory Hakushu Distillery and Kirin Fuji Gotemba Distillery, which were established in 1973. This is the first distillery to be established in Japan in 35 years, at a time when the whiskey slump is coming to an end.
The annual whisky production is only two days’ worth of the Glenlivet distillery in Scotland.

The second distillery, which has been in operation since the fall of 2019, produces a whopping five times as much as the first distillery. The pot still is the same shape as the first distillery, but it is much larger so that it can distill five times the amount of malt. It is made by Forsythe and uses a gas direct flame distiller.

For more information on the Chichibu distillery, see also.

Mars Shinshu Distillery

Address 4752-31 Miyata-mura, Kamiina-gun, Nagano 399-4301 Japan
Start of operation in 1985

It was in 1949 that Honbo Shuzo, which had been striving to make shochu, a Japanese distilled liquor, in Kagoshima, obtained a license to produce whisky. Since then, the company has been holding onto the dream of one day producing a genuine whiskey that takes advantage of the Japanese climate.
In 1960, after several years of whisky production in Kagoshima, he established the Mars Yamanashi Winery

in Yamanashi, a factory for wine and whisky production. Then, in order to engage in whisky production in earnest, they searched for an even more ideal location.

The natural conditions for whisky production are very severe, including a cold climate with clean air, as well as moderate humidity and good quality water.
After searching for a site that met these conditions, we opened the Mars Shinshu Distillery in 1985 at an altitude of 798 meters at the foot of Mount Komagatake in the Central Alps of Nagano Prefecture, in search of the best environment for whisky production.
In 1992, the distillery stopped distilling due to sluggish demand for whiskey. Later, as Japanese whisky began to be appreciated worldwide, the demand for whisky began to recover in 2009.
In September 2020, the distillery will be completely renovated for the first time in 35 years. The investment will be approximately 1.2 billion yen.

From May 2019, the whisky distillation building (including barrel storage) will be newly constructed for the purpose of renovating aging facilities, building barrel storage facilities with an eye to increasing whisky production, and observing whisky production, and the visitor building will be newly constructed for the purpose of selling original whisky and goods, and existing facilities and equipment will be renovated.
The new whisky distillery building has a total floor area of 1,996 square meters (including a barrel storage room that will hold approximately 2,500 barrels), and the visitor building has a floor area of 746 square meters.
Reference: Honbo Shuzo official website

■Production capacity: 1.1 tons of raw malt/day
■Production capacity: approx. 700L/day, approx. 185KL/year (to be determined in FY2020)

■Brewing capacity: approx. 700 liters/day, approx. 185 kl/year (planned for FY2020)
Major equipment: 1 malt grinding machine, 1 mash tun reuter (saccharification tank) 6KL x 1, stainless steel fermentation tanks 6KL x 3, Douglas fir wooden fermentation tanks (relocated) 6KL x 3, first distillation kettle (relocated)

For more information about Mars Shinshu Distillery, please see here↓.

3. Product name and photo

Ichiro’s Malt Double Distilleries Chichibu x Komagatake 2021

4. Characteristics

 As a result of the joint project, the two companies exchanged the raw materials and matured them at the new pot stage, which broadened the range of expression for the brewers and enabled them to have a richer variety of raw materials. In addition, confirming changes over time during the maturation process provides experience and helps blenders and brewers to improve their skills. We have a deep understanding of the characteristics of each other’s raw materials, and it is only through the presence of the raw materials of both companies that we have been able to express our tastes. Both companies have taken the first step to take on a new challenge to achieve the ideal taste, which was made possible by the mutually trustworthy quality of the raw materials of Ichirose Malt and Mars Whiskey.
The two companies hope that this initiative will bring new recognition to the diverse appeal of Japanese whiskey, and that the exchange of raw spirits between whiskey makers will lead to improvements in technical standards and quality, and provide an opportunity to further enhance the quality of Japanese whiskey. We will continue to exchange raw spirits in the future. Through this joint project, we hope that many people, including whiskey fans, will be able to learn about the new possibilities of Japanese whiskey and enjoy it.

Quotes: Ichirose Malt and Mars Whiskey whiskey whiskey joint project to be released

4-1. Tasting Notes

AromaRefreshing fruit aroma with a sweet maple syrup-like scent.
TasteA fruity sweetness like green apple, muscat and white peach stands out.
AftertasteAfter the sweetness, it turns into a savory taste like burnt bread.

4-2. Product Specifications

Alcohol content53% alcohol by volume
by alcoholBlended malt
Barrel type
Contents700ml
Number of bottles soldLimited to 10,200 bottles
Suggested retail price16,500 yen (tax included)
Release dateApril 2021

5. Awards

There is no award history at this time.

6. Price

6-1. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price

Product nameIchirose Malt Double Distilleries Chichibu x Komagatake 2021
Capacity700ml
Suggested retail priceTax included: 16,500 yen

6-2. Resale price on Mercari

The resale price on Mercari is around 120,000 yen to 150,000 yen.(*As of May 7, 2021)

6-3. Sold price on Yahoo Auction

The lowest bid price on Yahoo Auction was 100,000 yen, the highest was 167,000 yen, and the average was 128,257 yen(based on statistics for the past 120 days from May 7, 2021)

6-4. Rakuten, Yahoo Shopping, Amazon

The price ranges from around 150,000 yen to 200,000 yen at mail order sites. (*As of June 3, 2021)

6-5. Price offered at BAR SHINKAI

At “BAR SHINKAI”, which is operated by this website, a singleglass is offered at 45ml: 4,950 yen, 30ml: 3,300 yen, 15ml: 1,650 yen.

7. Summary

The release of new products from the Saburoumaru Distillery and Nagahama Distillery on March 30, 2012, through an exchange of raw spirits, was also just a hot topic within the Japanese whiskey industry.
This time, the Komagatake x Chichibu blended malt was a joint project that had been underway since 2015, six years ago, and it seems to have been a new attempt after many years. While the exchange of malt has been a common practice in Scotland, it is an initiative that defies common sense, something that had never been considered in Japanese whisky before. A new history has been written in the history of Japanese whisky. I am sure that the Japanese whisky industry will become more and more exciting as more and more such efforts are made in the future.
At the moment, there are only a limited number of distilleries in Japan that can produce grain malt, but I am hopeful that the day when blended whisky can be produced by exchanging malt and grain malt is not far off.

■Please check out the other articles about Ichirose Malt.

Finally: Recommended Books on Japanese Whisky

If you want to know more about Japanese whisky, which is a global trend, and want to learn more about it, we highly recommend these books.

(1). Japanese Whiskey as an Education for Business

This is a book written by Mamoru Tsuchiya, a world-famous whisky critic and representative of the Whisky Culture Research Institute, titled “Japanese Whisky as a Culture that Works for Business.”
The book covers the basics of whisky, the introduction of whisky to Japan, the birth of Japanese whisky, advertising strategies and the rise of Japanese whisky, and the current rise of craft distilleries. This is a book that summarizes Japanese whisky in a very easy to understand way.

(2). Whisky Galore Vol.25 April 2021

The April 2021 issue of Whisky Galore, published by the Whisky Culture Research Institute.
This issue of Whisky Galore, published by the Whisky Culture Research Institute, features the definition of Japanese whisky and a list of 24 distilleries as the latest in Japanese whisky. It also includes an interview with Suntory Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo, making it a must-have for Japanese whisky fans.

created by Rinker
¥5,100
(2021/09/24 12:56:01時点 Amazon調べ-詳細)

(3). Whisky Rising

This is the Japanese version of Whisky Risng, published in the US in 2016, with much updated content. Not only does it describe the history of Japanese whiskey in detail, but it also includes data on all the distilleries in Japan, including the craft distilleries that have been founded in recent years. The book also includes descriptions of the legendary bottles that have been released, as well as information on bars where Japanese whiskey can be found.

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