Venture Chichibu Distillery
One of the Best Japanese Whiskeys
Venture Whisky is a Japanese whiskey distillery located in Chichibu City, in the north-west of Saitama prefecture. Founded by master blender Ichiro Akuto, it has been in operation since February 2008. Its star product Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu provides interesting aromas and is one of the most sought-after whiskeys in Japan and in the world.
Venture Chichibu Distillery’s flagship whiskey Ichiro’s Malt expanded its market shares over the past few years, on an already internationally successful Japanese whiskeys production. In less than 10 years, this 100 % artisanal liquor has already received several awards:
- "Best Japanese Blended Malt Whisky" for the Mizunara Wood Reserve (MWR) at the World Whiskies Awards in 2010. The blend is a mixture of previous years whiskies and only aged in Mizunara wood casks; and,
- "World’s Best Blended Whiskey" for Ichiro's Malt & Grain Limited Edition World Blended, in the "Limited Editions" category at the 2018 World Whisky Awards.
A young production born form a family tradition
The prize list highlights the know-how and most importantly the passion of Ichiro Akuto, the founder of the distillery and of Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu, the whiskey brand bearing his name. The story began in 1941 when his grandfather Isouji Akuto opened the Hanyu Distillery. Isouji’s background was also a multiple generations family of sake 🍶 and shochu brewers.
In the early 1980s, the Akutos invested in 2 traditional stills to produce a single malt, that is to say a whiskey only made in one distillery, which often has more complex aromas. However, the trend at the time was to blended whisky, and the distillery was not successful enough. Hanyu Distillery eventually closed down in 2000.
On the verge of being destroyed, the manufacture’s buildings were taken up in 2004 by Ichiro Akuto, Isouji’s grandson, who was then a representative of the famous Japanese brand of alcoholic beverages Suntory. He reused Hanyu’s 400 liquor casks as well as the facilities and in the line of the family business, he launched his own whisky production Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu in February 2008.
Ichiro’s work was quickly rewarded by national and international success, notably due to his strategy to offer a 100 % artisanal whisky, using casks made for the distillery with wood from the surrounding forests. Unconventional and unique in Japan, Venture Chichibu’s whisky is a drink to enjoy slowly and that continues to provide flavors a few minutes after tasting it.
Excessive drinking put your health at risk. Alcoholic beverages should be consumed in moderation.
Discover the making process in a confidential tour
While it is quite easy to find representatives of the brand at the many whiskey fairs in the world, the visit of the distillery is a rare opportunity. It is indeed only opened to professionals and to the 120 lucky visitors who get to register to the Venture Whisky Open House Day that takes place each year in mid-February, at the occasion of the Chichibu Whisky Matsuri festival.
Nestled at the edge of Chichibu mountain village, a hundred of kilometers in the north-west of Tokyo, the distillery offers its guests to discover how Ichiro's Malt whisky is made. The tour starts with the overview of the necessary ingredients to make the liquor, mainly the malt on its germinating stage, before it is ground in a mill imported from Scotland.
In the factory, the saccharification process takes place in a large tank and results in a mash. Once it is naturally cooled down, the mash is placed in wooden casks with 10kg of yeast for fermentation process through the action of the lactic bacteria. These tall casks are made from Mizunara wood, a specific Japanese oak tree first used by the Akuto family and that fosters enzymes stimulation.
At this moment of the tour, it is possible to climb a ladder and have a glimpse on the fermentation process and already smell the first aromas of the wort. In the same room, there are also 2 impressive copper stills that are used in later steps of the distillation process.
Lastly, the beverage enters the maturation process, and is placed in barrels stored in a large warehouse next to the making facility. Pyramids of barrels are laying still so that the liquor can develop its taste and its warm colors. Chichibu’s extreme weather is also a key factor to create the unique aromas of Ichiro's Malt whisky, thanks to its dry and cold winters and its hot and humid summers.
The guided tour ends by a tasting at the small distillery shop. There, it is possible to purchase a couple of bottles of this young Japanese whiskey that can boast all the qualities of well-established brands.