Chichibu Whisky Festival 2023

Elliott
5 min readFeb 20, 2023

I attended Chichibu Whisky Festival (秩父ウイスキー祭) yesterday, which was a great time, with some whisky pals from Tokyo and a surprise visit from an old friend from NY! The basic cost to attend if you are in Tokyo will be around ¥8,492 (~$60 USD) departing from Ikebukuro Seibu station:

  • ¥5,500 — Whisky festival ticket
  • ¥710 x2— ちちぶ9号(ラビュー)limited express ticket
  • ¥786 x2 — ちちぶ9号(ラビュー)basic fare

You will want to bring some cash on-hand for paid tastings, although there are perfectly numerous bottles available from major brands to try free-of-charge.

it’s best to start your day with a train tall-boy

I also highly recommend reserving your limited-express ticket online in advance on the Smooze ticketing site for peace of mind so that you don’t find yourself without a seat on the day.

Arriving on site in Chichibu, we start at the Seibu-Chichibu station, but the festival itself occurs in the Chichibu shrine and station, which is maybe a ten minute walk away. Just follow the crowd.

Chichibu shrine, Ichiro’s Malt lanterns on the walk over, and the glass / ticket issued

Once inside the main exhibition area in the Shrine, it’s time for whisky. Also: don’t forget that across the street are two more venues, one inside the Chichibu station (I think? I did not make it to that one) and a big tent.

SMWS Japan was the first booth I ran into

As a member of SMWS Japan, they will give you three drink tickets, so I tried 53.389, a 30 year old Caol Ila in refill sherry, which was excellent but not to my taste, and 66.210, a 12 year old Ardmore that I loved.

Akkeshi x JWRC 20th Anniversary, The Glover private Shizuoka, and a Shizuoka private cask

Akkeshi single casks are very rare, so it was nice to try this. It’s perfectly Islay, a little bit un-mature, but good stuff. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t crack this stunningly dark looking Shizuoka from the BlackAdder, but I tried later this K+W still private cask which was nice.

Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Classical Edition, a (new) Talisker 10 highball, and a Suntory Ao highball

In the blended “Japanese” whisky section we tried Ichiro’s Malt & Grain: Classical Edition, which I was not fond of, and then it’s off to a highball comparison: Talisker 10 (new) vs Suntory Ao. For style, Talisker added a dash of their peated peppercorn, and Suntory poured highballs out of a custom machine. For taste, I’d go with the Talisker, it’s still classic.

I also need to post a shoutout to this unknown madlad who was running around the festival pouring free drams of his own Kavalan Solist that he’d brought!

Kingsbarns Lowland Single Malt — Limited Release, Glendalough Calvados XO Finish, and Clynelish G&M 2008
Whisky Jury 1996 Ben Nevis, Cooper’s Choice Littlemill 1985 29 Year Old

Here are some of my favourite bottles from the show:

Lochlea, Garnheath 44 year old single grain, Waterford

Here are a few I didn’t enjoy so much — Lochlea and Waterford, are, in my opinion, a little too young to really enjoy yet. Give ’em time! This single grain was interesting, but also, somewhat disappointingly uncomplex for something that’s been in the dark for 40+ years.

Arran, Michters, Kilchoman, Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte

We had the usual industry drams, I tried the two Arran which I’ve never had before, and the 10 year was surprisingly good. Michters’ Rye is also not bad, so looking forward to cracking the one I have at home.

So, after a long day of whisky, it’s time to go rest up, drink water, and sleep.

breakkie -> back home

Then it’s hotel breakfast and back on the train home.

If I can improve my whisky-festival going in the future, I will try to focus on a few things:

  • avoiding trying anything I suspect is not great — why waste liver-capacity on processing bad whisky? Lots of festivals will have spitoons for this, but Chichibu didn’t. I guess you could just dump into the trash, although that’s a bit messy…
  • avoiding some of the industry booths a little more (although this is dual-edged because they can be fun, or have a neat gimmick which always get me)
  • sign up for some of the master classes — often a lot of the really good stuff is hidden behind doors
  • visiting all of the venues — I’m slightly sad I only made it to 3/4, but that’s something we can fix for next year
  • drink more water — I didn’t end up with a hangover, but I could have done better on drinking water

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Elliott

Personal interests in literature, SF, and whisky/whiskey/scotch, Software Engineer by Trade