Chichibu Whisky Matsuri 2020

Rascal and Thorn X Japan Whisky Tours
Whisky maniacs with Ichiro Akuto

“Are you going to Matsuri?” and “How was Matsuri?” are questions you’ll have seen on Facebook recently. It seems for a lot of whisky maniacs, the word “Matsuri” (Japanese for festival) has come to mean the Chichibu Whisky Matsuri, not just any old festival. Funny how language changes, isn’t it!

The Matsuri itself has also changed, but just a little and definitely for the better. There are more international visitors, more street vendors selling local specialities and more locations to try malt rarities.

There was a slight fear that the Covid-19 coronavirus might impact the event, but it all ran smoothly. The only complaint made was about the huge crowds descending on the halls as the event opened, but descending is what crowds do at the Matsuri. See our reviews of 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Chichibu crowds 2020
Large crowds, as expected

As in previous years, it was the indies who dominated. Venture Whisky (Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu) had stands at two locations, in the main hall and the Big Tent, with long lines throughout the day. Their offered tastes of their new make from the new distillery, as well as a couple of single casks. Other stands had plenty of Chichubu on offer too, including the Kagoya and Whisky Bars of Scotland single casks.

Chichibu bottles 2020
Chichibu Whisky tasting treats

Mars (Hombo Shuzo) tasted their new Tsunuki Single Malt, to be delivered April 27th 2020, with 10,000 bottles expected. Eigashima (aka Akashi aka White Oak) sampled their new Sherry Cask (expect 4,000 bottles). Akkeshi, Kanosuke, Nagahama, and Yamazakura all had lots of offerings. Yamazakura’s Mizunara was impressive but at JPY36,000 (USD330), eye-wateringly expensive for a whisky of unknown provenance.

The Big Tent also hosted the whisky retailer Rudder, the new company of Tsuyoshi Kitakaji, until recently the head whisky buyer of Shinanoya.

Bar owners from leading whisky bars brought bottles to their booths, including Bar Kitchen, Club Qing, Highlander Inn, Mash Tun and Club Qing. Whisky festivals from other cities promoted their own events, in particular Hokkaido Whisky Fes, Nagoya Whisky Lovers and Fukuoka Whisky Talk. Dutch auction house Catawiki made its first appearance,  serving its legendary Hanyu Big Butt, amongst other whiskies.

Rudder now handles the bottle sales for the event. Besides the tombola drawing for the two festival Chichibu bottles, there was a Komagatake “Very Very Lightly Peated” along with five scotches. 

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Order form for Matsuri bottles

A whole host of other distributors and vendors were there. While there are too many to mention here, some of my favorites include Acorn, e-Power, and Whisk-e.  

Like other whisky festivals, there were a bunch of seminars from Ichito Akuto (Venture Whisky), Hideo Yamaoka (famed collector), Jota Tanaka (Kirin Whisky), Odin Chou (Whisky Find), and Tatsuya Minagawa (Highlander Inn), and many others.

As is the custom at the end of the festival, Yumi Yoshikawa and a backing band of Japanese whiksy luminaries belted out the classic cut “Whiskey in the Jar”, made famous by Thin Lizzy or Metallica, depending on your age. Overall, another fantastic whisky festival.

Here at Japan Whisky Tours, we assisted Rascal and Thorn with the whisky leg of their Japan Whisky & Ski trip. I strongly recommend U.S. readers take a look at their offerings.

The next event in the whisky calendar is the inaugural Japanese Whisky Festival in Ebisu (Tokyo) on Sunday 12th April.

Contact us at info@japanwhiskytours.com for more information.

 

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