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Hanyu Distillery was located in a town of the same name, 70 kilometres north of Tokyo. The original company was founded from a family business originally established in 1626 by the Akuto family, sake makers in the town of Chichibu. In 1941 Isouji Akuto, representing the 19th generation of the Akuto family, built a factory in Hanyu to produce alcohol and obtained a licence to do so in 1946. In 1980, serious attempts to produce whisky of the Scottish type began and two pot stills were obtained. However by 2000 the business was in trouble and the Akuto family decided to sell, but the new owners did not show any interest in producing whisky. Thus the distillery closed in 2000 and was subsequently dismantled. Ichiro Akuto, the grandson of the founder, acquired 400 casks of the remaining whisky stock and has been releasing them ever since. This 13-year old was finished in Mizunara cask #1302 and bottled in 2013 for Shinanoya, a well-known food and spirits retailer in Japan. The total outturn was 299 bottles.
The nose is rich and aromatic. Fudge and vanilla flavours come first, then after a while there are notes of oranges and grapefruits. With water the orange flavours become more prominent and are followed by apricots, marzipan and a hint of cinnamon. Sandalwood is in the air, too. A very complex and pleasant nose, quite impressive!
The palate is very hot and spicy. There are some notes of vanilla and honey that mostly get drowned by the massive alcohol impact. Adding water brings some relief: I now got lovely notes of sandalwood and liquorice, together with ginger and some leather.
The finish is of medium length. Notes of oranges and grapefruits last to the very end.
This is a very aromatic and self-assured Hanyu that brilliantly shows the effects of a Mizunara wood cask finish. I loved the nose but found it challenging to crack open the palate. This is liquid history now – if you see a bottle, grab it.