Nate and Chris at The Whisky Wall beat me to the draw on a new blended whisky from Ichiro Akuto (by about a month). It is significant because Akuto sees bottlings like this as important to his Chichibu distillery's development at a time when its single malt is very young.
"The Card series (single malts from the old Hanyu distillery) tend to sell out as soon as they come out. However, they are single casks and limited," he says. "Our blended whisky is growing and we regard it to be of growing importance for the future."
I think this is the first grain and malt blend from Akuto, but it is part of a line of vatted whiskies from him reaching back to the Gingko (1,2) collaboration. In a similar way to the Gingko project, Akuto has been able to bring together malts from 9 distilleries and grains from distilleries. That is extremely unusual in Japan, where there is no established trade in whiskies between distilleries, but Akuto appears to have the pull and the commitment to do it. It is intriguingly titled "Ichiro's Malt and Grain White Label" in some of its marketing, which could be read as implying some different coloured labels in the near future.
The 46 percent ABV Malt and Grain is selling for a little bit more than 3,000 yen a bottle (38 dollars or 27 euros) for a 700ml bottle, which is pricey but not ridiculous given its provenance.