In 1941 Isouji Akuto built the now fabled (and sadly demolished) Hanyu distillery, obtaining a license to produce alcohol 5 years later in 1946. Following a period of deep recession and a huge downturn in the Japanese whisky market, the distillery closed shortly after the turn of the Century. Ichiro Akuto, grandson of Isouji purchased the remaining stocks of Hanyu and warehoused them with local sake maker Sasanokawa Shuzo whilst founding a new company – Venture Whisky.
The rest almost seems long history now even though it’s really not – Ichiro bottled and released much of the remaining stocks of Hanyu, including into the now legendary ‘Ichiro’s Malt Card Series’ (54 unique vintage bottles with labels drawn from a pack of playing cards). At the same time, he laid his sights firmly on building a brand new distillery, and in 2004, Chichibu was born (with distilling taking place since 2008). The reputation of this new Japanese distillery has been growing ever since with releases flying off the shelves almost before they’ve hit them and a huge amount of interest and excitement whenever Chichibu exhibits their expressions at shows worldwide.
There’s been four versions of Chichibu’s The Peated to date. Two three year olds (2009 + 2010) and two four year olds (2011 + 2012) all of them bottled at cask strength. The 2010 bottling indicated on the label a PPM level of 59.6, which when you consider that over in Islay, Ardbeg clocks in at around 55 and Laphroaig at 40, means that Chichibu is using some pretty heavily peated barley. Of course, the actual level of phenols drops off considerably during distillation and processing, but nevertheless, when Chichibu says ‘The Peated’ they really does mean it.
Our version is the most recent release, distilled in 2012 and bottled in 2016. It comes in at 54.5% ABV and was a release of only 6350 bottles.
Nose: Peat and err…meat. Smoke is immediately obvious and is both medicinal (TCP, iodine, tinctures etc.) as well as quite meaty (ham, bouillon and broth). There’s still some liveliness here from apple and lemon peels, vanilla and a gentle touch of berry sweetness. Vegetal and pine notes are supported by mild aromas of baked goods all making for a pleasant but smoky start to proceedings.
Taste: Quite the journey. Initial candy sweetness and alcohol on the lips, then moving steadily into ashy smoke and sweet barley. A very progressive development moves quickly through toffee into citrus and ends with a nutty umami flavour. A fascinating and ever evolving experience. The peat is present throughout, sharp, semi-sweet and medicinal in nature, but never truly overpowering, there’s more than enough ‘non-peat’ flavour here to back things up.
Finish: Long and evolving into the dying embers of a wood fire. Slight astringency leaves the mouth dry, but salivating for more.
There’s a lot of excitement and hype surrounding Chichibu and consequently most bottles are extremely hard to find, some selling out before they’ve even moved far from the distillery. Fortunately, The Peated 2016 is a little easier to obtain for those outside of Japan – and that’s a good thing as it’s a lovely young whisky which, whilst still quite fiery, has some incredible qualities that only make me more excited for future releases from Chichibu.
Alas, with excitement, hype and good quality comes an associated high price – particularly in this instance for what is a four year old whisky. As of writing, this is available in the UK for £120. Ouch! Japanese whisky is never cheap nowadays and this is no exception – it is however a very good release from a distillery that is already showing its class. Well worth seeking out a dram.
But don't take our word for it..
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