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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Here are some of my favourite bottles from the show:
- Kingsbarns Lowland Single Malt —eeriely like a younger Daftmill
- Glendalough Calvados XO Finish — reminds me of some of the stuff I liked about Blue Spot Irish Whisky
- G&M Clynelish 2008 13 Year Old — this is perfect ex-bourbon Clynelish
- 1996 Whisky Jury Ben Nevis —fruity, astringent, somewhat dry
- Cooper’s Choice Littlemill 1985 29 Year Old —beautiful, grassy Littlemill, done as an exclusive for Shinanoya Japan, and as a bottle from 2014, not something you see floating around much
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.
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.
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