Spirits of Salud – Ichiro’s Finest

Today I won’t be reviewing just any odd bottle of whisky, today it’s time to taste something truly special and unique. A product made by and for those with the greatest passion for the golden dram. Spirits of Salud is an extra rare bottling of Ichiro’s Malt & Grain, finished in a Château Gruaud Larose cask. And in this blog, I hope I’ll be able to confer to you, just how special that is.

To understand and appreciate Chichibu’s Malt & Grain series we need to delve into the history of Ichiro Akuto for a little bit. It all started with the demise of the Hanyu distillery. Unfortunately, in the 90’s not many people were drinking Japanese Whiskies, and many smaller distilleries went bankrupt. Amongst those distilleries was Hanyu, the distillery where Ichiro Akuto’s grandfather worked as master distiller. In the year 2000 the distillery went belly-up and by 2004 it was decided that the remaining stock would be used to make cheap supermarket blends.

Ichiro regarded the remaining stock of 400 Hanyu casks as his grandfather’s legacy, and he couldn’t sit by and watch it disappear in mediocre blends. And thus, he scraped together a large enough sum to purchase the casks for himself. But he wasn’t going to use these casks willy nilly… he was going to create art with them. To honour the legacy of his grandfather Isouji Akuto.

To do so, Ichiro decided he needed to learn whisky making not just in Japan, but in each of the big five whisky countries. And so, he travelled, across Scotland, Ireland, Canada, the United States, and Japan. While learning the art of distillation through every different style of whisky, Ichiro fell in love with every single category. Each country had something unique and spectacular to offer. And at this point in Ichiro’s history, the first idea to create his now famous World Blends sprouted.

Skipping forward toward 2023, Ichiro has been making World Class World Blends for many years now. Whiskies that win award after award and are highly praised for their stunning craftmanship. The blending skill of Ichiro is regarded as one of the best in the world and it’s no surprise that he recently was admitted to the Hall of Fame from the World Whisky Awards. When it comes to his blends, Ichiro manages to capture each unique style, all in one single glass.

Personally, I always like to compare his blends to an orchesta. An orchestra of flavour. Blending whiskies from all over the world seems like a daunting undertaking when you take a moment to think about it. An American whisky and an Irish whisky are miles apart when it comes to flavour profile, and how Ichiro manages to capture both style of spirit perfectly still baffles me to this day. When it comes to music, a well composed piece will not only sound stunning as a whole, it will also highlight the individual quality of each artist and their instrument. And the same can be said for Ichiro’s Malt & Grain. Every single whisky in this blend contributes to one amazing experience, but when you pay a little extra attention you can still taste each style as their own unique quality shines through.

In 2023 Salud Spirits was lucky enough to get their hands on a single cask expression of Ichiro’s Malt & Grain. A passion project from the man behind the brand, whose passion for creating blends goes far beyond creating something delicious. I said it before, and I’ll probably say it again at some point, but what Ichiro does with his Malt & Grain series, is creating art! For this special passion project Ichiro gave himself free reign. He was going to make the best whisky possible, without looking at price, time, or effort.

For this Spirits of Salud Single Cask World Blend Ichiro selected the finest whiskies he could get his hands on. Both Malt and Grain whiskies from 10 to 40+ years old were used to create the perfect harmony of flavours. Including some of the oldest stock of Chichibu themselves, stock from the more than 20 years closed Hanyu distillery, and the very best malts and grains from Scotland, Ireland, Canada and the United States.

But according to Ichiro a blend this unique, deserved an extra special finishing touch. And thus, he travelled to France, to taste wine instead of whisky. Because Ichiro decided a wine cask finish would elevate this already stunning dram even more. But not just any wine finish would do. He travelled from Château to Château to find the perfect wine for his whisky… and he found it, at Château Gruaud Larose.

At the Château the people were taken aback a bit by Ichiro’s wish to purchase the cask. Stating that the cask would be far to expensive to use for a profitable whisky. But Ichiro didn’t care. After all, he wasn’t making just any whisky, he was making whisky art. He ended up purchasing the cask and upon arrival back in Japan he filled it with his prized blend. And inside that cask he let each component marry for no less than 3,5 years!

Now hear me out…  I understand this might all seem like a fairytale story, or to some perhaps a well spun tale of marketing. But to those who know Ichiro, and those who have been fortunate enough to experience his creations, to the biggest whisky lovers across the globe… this is an ultimate piece of art that we’d love to have on our shelves! Because in the end it’s not about what’s on the label or where it’s from, it’s all about what’s inside the glass. It’s all about the magic of flavour. And this amazing dram, has an entire world of flavour to discover.

Tasting Notes: Spirits of Salud

ABV: 59,8% (119,6 proof)
Age: 10-50 years old
Distillery: Chichibu
Bottled for: Salud Spirits
Chill-filtered: No
Natural Colour: Yes

Strawberry wine and cherry topped sundaes. Freshly made hot mulled wine on a cold day at a german Christmas Market.  Roasted chestnuts, with oak shavings and hot fudge. Chocolate truffles and tiramisu topped with dried and sweetened cranberries. This is a nose that keeps on giving and invites you to explore.

A velvety soft mouthfeel that overflows the palate with a whole scala of notes which are somehow both overwhelming and perfectly balanced at the same time. Dark flavours such as molasses, cacao, charred oak, cured meats, and freshly rolled cigars meet notes of grass, strawberry, cherry and blueberry. Adn then some vanilla, hibiscus, and green tea. The mere fact that all these lighter notes are still discernable, amongst all those beautiful heavy weights of flavour, proves that I’m drinking a true masterpiece.

The finish is long, and one to truly savour. The cigars turn into old cigar boxes. The cacao into dark chocolate, the molasses into apple syrup. The fruit turns into confectionary, with especially a blueberry pavlova coming to mind. The vanilla and tea notes bring back memories of my mom baking in the kitchen when I was a child. And no, that’s not a note that might mean something to you, but the fact that this dram packs enough of a punch to evoke such strong memories, says it all.

This whisky is a piece of art!

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