One of Japan’s Young Master Whiskey Distillers
Meet Ichiro Akuto, the founder of the Chichibu distillery in Chichibu, a city about two hours by train and taxi from Tokyo.
Born into a 350-year-old sake brewing family, Mr. Akuto worked for Suntory before joining the whiskey distillery that his grandfather started in 1946. After sales faltered, his father sold the company.
Mr. Akuto, though, acquired the 400 casks in inventory and started his own company, Venture Whisky. (Many Japanese distillers use the Scottish spelling of whiskey, without the e.) To buy time, he bottled his father’s whiskey and went bar to bar in the Tokyo area to win over bartenders.
It took Mr. Akuto two years to sell his first 600 bottles. But after he started winning awards, his whiskeys shot up in price. He makes everything in small batches with an obsessive attention to detail, and adds some interesting twists, like a fermentation tank called a washback made of mizunara oak, a wood indigenous to Japan that is typically used for casks.
“As for my dream or motivation, I want to drink 30-year-old whiskey,” he said. “It will take 22 more years. If I can drink it, I think I’ll die having lived a good life.”
From “In Japan, With Whiskey as a Guide” by Ken Belson for the New York Times, 2016; Photo by Ko Sasaki
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