In preparation for this Saturdays World Whisky Day event, I have managed to gather quite an interesting line up of whisky from further a field than Scotland and I thought a quick introduction of each might be helpful. I’ve already posted about the South African examples Bain’s and Three Ships, so now it is the turn of the very special Ichiro’s malt, The Floor Malted.
When people talk about whisky, they often ask me about Japanese examples and are rather surprised to hear that Japan has quite a long history of producing whisky. One of the people accredited with being most influential in the Japanese whisky movement was Masataka Taketsuru. Studying and working in Scotland at the beginning of the 20th century, he later created a distillery in Japan in 1934, know as Yochi, part of the Nikka distilling company. Luckily, the Japanese already had extensive knowledge of brewing sake which helped secure a small movement of whisky distilleries across the country. One of these, the Hanyu distillery is linked to the review today.
Hanyu distillery, situated in the town of Chichibu, was established in 1626 by Isouji Akuto and was a sake brewery. Akuto began distilling malt whisky with his son after purchasing a pair of stills from Scotland in the 1980′s but unfortunately at this time demand for single malt whisky was not where it is today and the Hanyu distillery was sold in 2000. Distillation of whisky was not continued by the new owner and the stills were dismantled, the stock sold on. Isouji’s grandson, Ichiro, managed to secure some casks of the old stock and established a new distillery in 2007 on a new site in Chichibu. ‘Ichiro’s Malt – The First’ was, as the name may suggest, the first whisky to be released by the distillery in 2011 (distilled 2008). The distilleries second release, ‘The Floor Malted’ was distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2012.
This particular release has been made using traditional floor malted barley turned not just by hand, but by the hands of the team from the Chichibu distillery at the Crisp’s malting in Norfolk, England, before shipped back to Japan for the fermentation, distillation and eventual maturation process. Matured in American oak barrel and puncheon as well as Mizunara (Japanese) oak for 3 years and released at 50.5% abv, it is said to have ‘mild and soft’ character. Let’s find out.
Ichiro’s Malt – The Floor Malted
Chichibu distillery, Japan
Distilled 2009 Bottled 2012
Appearance: Pale straw, yellow gold
Nose: Soft and floral with a sweet note of honeysuckle. Deeper elements of vanilla fudge with soft fruits turning almost toward pineapple in the end. There is a good warm cedar structure overall.
Palate: Richer than expected from what the nose promised. Good full creamy texture with sweetish fruit and balanced spice of rolling tobacco and hints of cured leather which became more pronounced and nutty with the addition of water.
Finish: Lingering cedar wood/cigar box spices and nutty vanilla fudge.
Summary: Well worth trying if you can find a bottle as there are very few available. Its a delicate whisky, perhaps more suited to pre-dinner than post to fully appreciate the complex yet light character.