Whisky Advocate

Whisky Advocate Award: Japanese Whisky of the Year

February 5th, 2012

Chichibu The First, 61.8%, £90

It has been a quiet year on the Japanese front. Stocks at the larger distillers are under pressure, the result of short-term production twelve to eighteen years ago, and while this is being managed capably by producers, it also means that they aren’t exactly embarking on a program of multiple new expressions. With Mars only just reopened, Gotemba extremely quiet, and Karuizawa silent, there was one distillery that rose above all of this. It’s Japan’s newest, and the smallest.

2011 was the year when Chichibu came of age. Owner Ichiro Akuto built the distillery after the enforced closure and demolition of his family’s previous plant, Hanyu, and did so in the same town where his ancestors started making sake 500 years ago.

He and his young team are crafting a new presence, or rather, by exploring all parameters of whisky making, are allowing a new being to come into existence. Three styles are made, light, heavy, and peated, and there are plans to malt on-site (using local barley and peat) and build a cooperage.

This first official release of whisky (rather than maturing new make) is of the quicker-maturing light style and shows typical Japanese clarity along with genuinely ‘Eastern’ aromas of citrus and fragrant spices, and a soft, unctuous feel. It shows enormous promise and demonstrates that there is hope for smaller distillers in Japan. Important in so many ways. —Dave Broom

Be sure to visit here tomorrow. We’ll be announcing our New World Whisky of the Year Award.

No Responses to “Whisky Advocate Award: Japanese Whisky of the Year”

  1. Vince says:

    Are you acknowleding the distillery or the whisky? Not alot of information on the quality that’s in the bottle. I guess it is a slow year for Japanese Whisky’s.

  2. OudErnest says:

    So how is the whisky?

  3. dave broom says:

    er …. I don’t mean to either cause offence or appear dense, but I’m not quite sure how you’ve manage to misunderstand what’s written above, but the reason this is the best Japanese whisky is obviously to do with its quality as well as its significance. As to what is it like … read the tasting notes above and in the magazine! I gave it an 81

    • mongo says:

      hmmm if the rating is 81, then it would appear it *is* the significance of the distillery rather than the quality of the whisky that’s driving the award. if not, then it must indeed have been a slow year for japanese whisky if a 81 point whisky is the japanese whisky of the year.

  4. OudErnest says:

    None taken; just looking for more detail. I’ll dig up the mag and read it. Most likely breezed over it after seeing the pound sign and knowing I won’t find it in the States.

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