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Ichiro Akuto's family have been making sake in Chichibu for 21 generations, since 1625, and continue to do so to this day. Pronounced 'Chit-Chi-Boo', the lies close to the city of Saitama, about two hours to the north west of Tokyo.
In 1941 his grandfather set up a distillery and in the 1980s started to make whisky. The Hanyu Distillery (also known as the 'Golden Horse' or 'Chichibu Distillery') sadly closed in 2000 and was finally dismantled in 2004. Ichiro Akuto purchased the remaining 400 or so casks from the old distillery and in 2005 started selling the rare whisky.
A graduate in brewing and distilling, Ichiro Akuto decided to following his grandfather's footsteps and in November 2007 started to build his own distillery in Chichibu. Distilling commenced in March 2008 and, while continuing to sell the precious remaining stocks from the Hanyu Distillery under the 'Ichiro's Malt' label, he is now also blending whisky from the old and new distilleries, as well selling the whisky from his own distillery.
The pair of pot stills for the new distillery were made by Forsyths of Scotland (3,000 litre wash stills). The mash tun was purchased from a local brewery and each mash is 2,000 litres (425kg malt). Unusually, the tiny washbacks are made from Japanese wood and are hand-stirred. The distillery has a capacity of around 120,000 litres per year.
Presently the casks are mainly American oak but Ichiro has engaged a local cooper to make Japanese wood casks. He has also purchased a small number of sherry and cognac casks. These are aged in two traditional soil floored dunder warehouses. Presently most of the barley used is imported from the UK but the long plan is to only use locally grown barley and to malt and peat this using peat from Japan's Saitama area. Eventually Akuto also hopes to use exclusively Japanese malt.