Over DECADE ago, during a downturn in the whisky world, one man pursued his dream of whisky making and created a distillery.
That man is Chichibu Distillery's Ichiro Akuto, of Ichiro's Malt fame.
With the second distillery now fully online from October 2019, we look back at Akuto-san's goal of whisky making over the past 10 years, and ask about his vision for the next 10 years.
Photos: Ayumi Fujita
Translation: Whiskey Richard
This article originally appeared in Japanese in Whisky Galore Vol.13 / April 2019.
Mamoru Tsuchiya (below, MT): In the inaugural issue of Whisky Galore, the main feature was called "The Dawn of Japanese Craft," and you were on the cover. It's been only two years, but it feels like there have been some major changes since then. So today, of course I'd like to discuss in detail the changes the craft industry has undergone. But I also want to touch on what knowledge you have gained, what challenges you have faced, and why you wanted to build a second distillery. I'm just going to throw this out there: were you secretly planning to build a second distillery, even at that point two years ago?
Ichiro Akuto (below, IA): Haha, well, yes actually we had already begun meeting with Forsyths by that point. Since they are extremely busy, we wanted to put in an order quickly so we could secure our place in line.
MT: I see, I suspected that much. When did you begin thinking about building the second distillery?
IA: About three years ago. We began distilling in February 2008, so it was right around the time that we felt we had gained the necessary know-how and experience about what kind of spirits are created here in Chichibu, and how they change in casks. Looking to apply that experience to the next 10 years, we thought we could do so at the second distillery.
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Mamoru Tsuchiya is Japan’s foremost whisky critic. He is the Representative Director of the Japan Whisky Research Centre, and was named one of the “World’s Best Five Whisky Writers” by Highland Distillers in 1998. He served as the whisky historian for NHK’s Massan and he has published several books such as The Complete Guide to Single Malt Whisky, Taketsuru’s Life and Whisky, and The Literacy of Whisky. He is the editor of the bimonthly Whisky Galore, Japan’s only print whisky magazine.