Ichiro’s Malt & Grain

Ichiro's Malt and GrainProducer: Ichiro’s Malt (Venture Whisky)
Country: Japan
Age: No age statement
abv: 46%

The latest bottling from the excellent Ichiro’s Malt stable, Malt & Grain is – as the name would suggest – a blended whisky. But it’s got a few tricks up its sleeve. Because it’s not just any blended whisky. It’s a World Blended Whisky. What this means is that whisky from other origins was shipped to Japan, where it was married with whisky from Ichiro’s Chichibu distillery. And let’s be honest, usually that’s bad news. There are countless examples of Japanese whisky on the market that don’t contain a single drop of spirit distilled in Japan.

Continue reading

Ichiro’s Malt Wine Wood Reserve

Ichiro's Wine Wood ReserveProducer: Ichiro’s Malt (Venture Whisky)
Country: Japan
Age: No age statement
abv: 45%

When Akuto Ichiro set up Chichibu distillery in 2008, most people thought he was crazy. Japanese whisky sales were at their lowest level in decades, causing distillers such as Nikka and Suntory to cut production massively. In hindsight though, Ichiro’s timing could not have been better. Although few saw it coming, the popularity of Japanese whisky skyrocketed around half a decade later. While his competitors were struggling to meet demand, Ichiro’s warehouses were full – and he was ready to capitalise on this new whisky boom. What of course helped immensely was the quality of his product.

Continue reading

Super Nikka – Rare Old

Super Nikka ReviewProducer: Nikka
Country: Japan
Age: No age statement
abv: 43%

Super Nikka was launched as far back as 1962, during a decade of great optimism in the Japanese whisky industry. Nevertheless, these were sad times for Nikka founder Masataka Taketsuru, whose Scottish wife Rita had passed away the previous year. As a way of dealing with his grief, he poured all his energy into creating a new blend, which he would title Super Nikka. To honour his late wife, he meant for it to be something special. Super Nikka was the company’s most expensive product to date, retailing at ¥3000 per bottle, at a time when a college graduate could expect to earn around ¥18000 a month. The glass bottles were hand blown, each fitted with a glass stopper to add an extra touch of class. The bottle alone reportedly cost ¥500 to make, an extravagance given that many whiskies were retailing for less. As mentioned though, this was a time when whisky was booming in Japan and consumers sure were interested. Around 1000 bottles of Super Nikka were produced each year. All of them sold.

Continue reading

Bar Kage in Tokyo's Ginza district

Bar Kage

I’m sure we’ve all experienced these little twists of fate that inexorably draw us towards a place we hadn’t intended on. So it was when I found myself in Tokyo’s Ginza district, ready to immerse myself in the local bar scene. Before coming to Japan, I had read Stefan van Eycken’s excellent Whisky Rising, which features a chapter on the best whisky bars in town. Clearly Bar High Five was the place to go, or so I thought. Alas, I’ll never know (or at least not until my next trip to Tokyo), for High Five was jam-packed, with a line stretching all the way to the elevator. Fortunately, another of the book’s recommendations was just around the corner. We almost missed the entrance (a sliding door in a dim alley), but once inside we were able to descend the stairs into the bar.

Continue reading