Chichibu Distillery

  • Japan
  • World’s Best Blended Limited Release, 2009 Best Japanese Blended Malt
Phone Number
  • +81494624601
  • Chichibu, a city in Saitama Prefecture, Japan

Wooden barrel with

History of Chichibu Distillery

The Chichibu Distillery, established by Venture Whisky, marked its inception in 2008, becoming Japan’s first new independent distillery in over three decades. The distillery’s founder, Ichiro Akuto, hails from a lineage with a 21-generation history in alcohol production, dating back to 1625 when Akuto Shuzo began making sake in Chichibu, Saitama. The transition to whisky was initiated by Ichiro’s grandfather, Isouji Akuto, who, after moving the company to Hanyu in 1941 and renaming it Toa Shuzo, launched their whisky business in 1948 with “Golden Horse,” initially using imported whisky before moving on to distill their own.

Overcoming Adversity

Despite initially having no intention of joining the family business, Ichiro Akuto left his sales job at Suntory at the age of 28 to assist with Toa Shuzo’s whisky operations in 1995. However, the downturn in Japan’s whisky market led to Toa Shuzo’s bankruptcy in 2000, and by 2004, the company and its assets, including its whisky stocks, were sold.

Facing a bleak outlook for whisky in Japan, the new owners planned to discard Hanyu Distillery’s aging stocks. In response, Ichiro Akuto founded Venture Whisky to save his family’s legacy, including the whisky and equipment.

The Birth of Chichibu Distillery

With support from Fukushima’s Sasanokawa Shuzo, Venture Whisky’s establishment was a pivotal moment for Japan’s craft whisky scene, leading to the iconic Card Series and providing Chichibu Distillery with a foundation of aged whiskies for blending. Ichiro Akuto’s commitment to ensuring a future supply of whisky led to the creation of the Chichibu Distillery, aiming to perpetuate the flow of Japanese craft whisky for generations.

Current Status and Impact

Today, Chichibu Distillery is recognized both within Japan and internationally for producing some of the finest Japanese whisky. The distillery’s success story is a testament to a small company’s ability to gain international acclaim through dedication to craft, innovation, and respect for tradition. Chichibu Distillery is credited with spearheading Japan’s craft whisky movement, inspiring numerous other craft distilleries across Japan to follow in its footsteps.

Commitment to Craft and Innovation

Chichibu Distillery is renowned for its hands-on approach to whisky production, from barley growing to floor malting and even establishing an on-site cooperage. The distillery’s dedication to the local economy, use of locally grown barley, and commitment to innovation, such as the all-mizunara washback lineup, underscore its unique position in the Japanese whisky industry.

Looking to the Future

As Chichibu Distillery continues to evolve, it remains focused on producing a wide variety of high-quality whiskies that cater to diverse tastes. The distillery’s story is one of resilience, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to the craft of whisky making, ensuring its place in the annals of Japanese whisky history.

Awards Won by Chichibu Distillery

World’s Best Blended Limited Release: Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Japanese Blended Whisky Limited Edition has won this prestigious title three times at the World Whiskies Awards. This recognition is for a blend that exclusively uses whiskies distilled in Japan, with the blend ratio changing every year.

Best Japanese Blended Malt: In 2009, Ichiro’s Malt Double Distilleries (DD), a vatting of only malt whiskies from Hanyu and Chichibu distilleries, was awarded “Best Japanese Blended Malt” at the World Whiskies Awards (WWA).

Chichibu Distillery Tour Information and Experience

The Chichibu Distillery, while renowned for its exceptional Japanese whisky, is not open to the public for regular tours. However, there are specific avenues through which interested visitors might have the opportunity to explore the distillery:

  • Direct Contact for Special Arrangements: The distillery has been known to arrange tours for industry members and press upon direct contact. This suggests that while not broadly advertised, there may be opportunities for special tours arranged directly with the distillery under certain conditions.
  • Joining a Group Tour: It’s possible to visit the distillery by joining a group that has pre-arranged tours. These groups might be industry-related or part of whisky enthusiast communities.
  • Private Tours: There may be opportunities to arrange private tours, likely for those with significant industry connections or under special circumstances.
  • Chichibu Whisky Matsuri: The distillery participates in the yearly Chichibu Whisky Matsuri, a festival celebrating whisky. While not a tour of the distillery per se, attending this event could offer unique insights into Chichibu’s whisky production and the chance to experience the distillery’s offerings in a festival setting.

Key Points:

  • Not Open to the General Public: Regular tours are not available, emphasizing the distillery’s exclusive and craft-focused nature.
  • Special Arrangements Required: Visits can potentially be arranged through direct contact, especially for those within the whisky industry or press.
  • Participation in Whisky Matsuri: The annual festival represents a unique opportunity to engage with Chichibu Distillery’s products and philosophy.

The Chichibu Distillery’s approach to tours is consistent with its boutique, craft-oriented ethos, focusing on quality production over mass visitor experiences. For whisky enthusiasts and industry insiders, the potential for arranging a visit underscores the distillery’s prestige and the exclusivity of its offerings.

Flask & Barrel Review of Chichibu Distillery

As someone who’s been around the block a few times with distillery tours, I’ve got to say, Chichibu Distillery is something special. Nestled in the heart of Saitama, Japan, this place isn’t just a distillery; it’s a pilgrimage site for whiskey lovers. My visit there was nothing short of remarkable, and here’s why I’m giving it a solid 4.7 out of 5.

First off, the setting is breathtaking. Chichibu, with its serene landscapes and a hint of rural charm, sets the stage for an unforgettable experience. The distillery itself is a blend of traditional craftsmanship and modern innovation, a theme that resonates through every sip of their whiskey.

The tour was an eye-opener. Unlike some of the larger, more commercial tours I’ve been on, Chichibu offers a more intimate, detailed look into the art of whiskey making. It’s clear that they’re not just about quantity; the quality and craft behind each bottle are where they shine. The staff’s passion and knowledge were evident, making the experience both educational and personal. They dive deep into the nuances of whiskey production, from the selection of grains to the intricacies of aging, which, for a collector like me, was pure gold.

Tasting their whiskey was the highlight, of course. Each sample was a testament to the distillery’s commitment to excellence. The flavors were complex, rich, and varied, showcasing a range of profiles from peaty to fruity, each with its own story. It’s this attention to detail and dedication to the craft that sets Chichibu apart.

Why not a perfect score, you might ask? Well, no place is without its quirks. The distillery’s exclusivity and focus on small-scale production mean that not everyone can experience it firsthand, which is a bit of a bummer. Plus, getting there can be a bit of a trek, especially for international visitors. But let me tell you, it’s worth the effort.

What To Do Nearby Chichibu Distillery

Hitsujiyama Park

Just about 2 miles from Chichibu Distillery, Hitsujiyama Park is famous for its stunning Shibazakura (moss phlox) bloom in spring. The park’s floral tapestries create a breathtaking view against the backdrop of Chichibu’s mountains, making it a must-visit for nature lovers.

Chichibu Shrine

Located roughly 1.5 miles from the distillery, Chichibu Shrine is a venerable site with over 2,100 years of history. This shrine is not only a spiritual center but also hosts the Chichibu Night Festival, one of Japan’s top three festivals featuring floats and fireworks.

Nagatoro Valley

Approximately 12 miles from Chichibu Distillery, Nagatoro Valley offers a scenic escape into nature. Visitors can enjoy rafting down the Arakawa River, surrounded by lush greenery and striking rock formations, making it a perfect adventure for outdoor enthusiasts.

Mitsumine Shrine

Situated about 20 miles from the distillery, Mitsumine Shrine is one of the most famous power spots in the Kanto region. Nestled atop the mountains, it provides a serene atmosphere and stunning views, ideal for those seeking peace and spiritual rejuvenation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What restaurants are near Chichibu Distillery?

  • Paris Shokudo: It has a Google Maps rating of 4.0 stars. You can find them at 19-8 Banbamachi, Chichibu, Saitama 368-0041, Japan for a delightful dining experience.
  • Angelina RestaurantIt has a rating of 4.5 stars on Google Maps. You can contact them at +81494626280 and their address is 1640-5 Minano, Chichibu District, Saitama 369-1412, Japan.
  • 茶房レストラン春夏秋冬 (Shabou Restaurant Shunkashuutou): It boasts a 4.4-star rating. They’re situated at Miyakawacho, 1−7 地場産センタ 2F and their contact details are +81494213388.

What hotels are near Chichibu Distillery?

  • NIPPONIA 秩父 門前町: This resort hotel has a rating of 4.8 stars on Google Maps. Their address is 17-5 Miyakawacho, Chichibu, Saitama 368-0046, Japan and their contact number is +81494539230.
  • Wado: Rated 4.2 stars, this Japanese inn offers a serene hot spring experience. Their address is 813 Kuroya, Chichibu, Saitama 368-0001, Japan and their contact number is +81494233611.
  • ホテルルートインGrand秩父 (Hotel Route-Inn Grand Chichibu): With a 4.3-star rating, this Japanese-style business hotel promises a comfortable stay. For booking, their contact information is +815052115831 and address is 4628-2 Omiya, Chichibu, Saitama 368-0023, Japan.