Hanyu was founded by the Akuto family who have an incredible history of brewing dating back to 1600. However, it took them a while to tun their attention to whisky. The first 350 years were focussed on primarily on Sake until the license to use large amounts of alcohol was granted in 1941. In 1941, Isouji Akuto, who belonged to the 19th generation of the Akuto family, built the Hanyu distillery, and received a license to produce alcohol in 1946. The Hanyu distillery was founded in the Japanese city of the same name, Hanyu. Hanyu lies on the Tone River, which is the second longest river in Japan after the Shinano. The city of Hanyu is located northwest of the Japanese capital Tokyo and has about 50,000 inhabitants.
There under the eyes of Isouji Akuto (Ichiro’s grandfather), Ichiro Akuto gained experience in manufacturing and produced his first whisky in 1980. In the 90s it happened: Hanyu released his first single malt whisky. At that time, the consumer was mostly asking for blended whisky. This has now shifted more clearly towards malt whisky. Unfortunately, Japanese whisky was only distilled in the Hanyu distillery until 2000. The pot stills and distillers were dismantled four years later.
Since its stills were turned off in 2000, Hanyu has become one of Japan’s most sought after single malts. An economic recession at the turn of the millennium forced the distillery to shut its doors, and the remaining casks of its unblended whisky stock were purchased by Venture Whisky, a firm established by the Hanyu distillery founder’s grandson, Ichiro Akuto, in 2004. In 2005 he bottled his first single casks under the Ichiro’s Malt label. He later cemented his legacy with the opening of the acclaimed Chichibu distillery, but his finest achievement will surely always be considered to be the Hanyu ‘Card’ series. The bottles are a collection of 58 releases, each displaying one of 52 playing cards on the label, two jokers, and a second batch of follow up releases to the original 2005 Ace of Spades, Queen of Hearts, King of Diamonds, and Jack of Clubs bottlings. Each unique in its own right, every one of these have become a true collector’s piece and an important moment in the history Japanese whisky.