The Bonding between TOASHUZO and Ichiro
The Ichiro family of TOASHUZO has started sake business in Chichibu shi of Saitama ken since 1625. In 1941 they moved to Hanyū shi at the time the Hanyu distillery was established. At the beginning it dedicated in producing Sake and Shochu, with HAREGIKU Tokubetsu Junmai-shu and神之泉 being the most renowned product. It was until 1946 that the distillery officially got the license for making whisky. Since then, it produced whisky in parallel with Shochu, mainly using continuous distillation to produce grain whisky
By the year of 1980, the Hanyu distillery introduced two cooper pot stills for making malt whisky. TOASHUZO would blend its own whisky with Scotch whisky, resulting in a blended whisky style. The resultant whisky was sold as Golden Horse. Unfortunately this has taken them to court as its similarity to the brand name of ‘White Horse’. The British DCL Group lodged an official complaint (it’s weird indeed as golden is obviously different from white), and the judgment was given against DCL.
With the rise of a single malt whiskey, Hanyu distillery released single malt whisky under its name at 1990. By 1996, a new member join the management of TOASHUZO - the founder of TOASHUZO, but this couldn’t help it from being declined in the impact of economic crisis. In the end, Hanyu distillery stopped operation at 2000, and was taken over by King Jozo, a giant famed of large-scaled sake production. The new management was not keen on whisky production and finally closed it in 2004 and planned to discard 400 barrels of whisky.
The close of Hanyu doesn’t mean the doom day of Toashuzo. Actually the Golden Horse didn’t stop their production until 2004. The brand reborn two years later and repackaged as Busyu and Musashi Golden Horse Whisky, which is a pure whisky and a malt whisky respectively. Differ from the previous Champagne-like bottle the new Golden Horse was more like Scotch one. I was honored to host a whisky tasting event at SAFE & BUBBLE, where I shared with SMWS members whiskies from three distilleries. One of them are Busyu and Musashi Golden Horse Whisky.
Of course, TOASHUZO is closely attached to Ichiro. During the early year of Chichibu, Ichiro also relied on the sale Golden Horse until the new Chichibu was matured enough and ready for release. These two new version of Golden Horse are both NAS. Without any influence from Sherry or barriques, they are light, quite young, and delivers flavors of nectar and grain. Busyu displays flavors of spice and fresh Green tea, while the Musashi exudes rich fruit flavors and hints of smoke. In terms of price, Musashi is comparable to Taketsuru Pure Malt. The Busyu is quite regional in style, which distinguish itself from the usual Scotch.
到了1980年羽生蒸餾所引入了銅製的兩台壺式蒸餾器，並開始釀造麥芽威士忌。東亞酒造會把自家蒸餾的穀物威士忌與蘇格蘭進口的威士忌調在一起，造成混調威士忌風格，這種威士忌以金馬(Golden Horse)品牌發售。不過這個名字卻令東亞酒造惹上官非，因為跟世界知名的混調威士忌品牌-白馬(White Horse)名字十分相似，並遭到英國DCL集團提出訴訟 (真的有點兒吊詭，顏色全不一樣，是否霸道了一點?)，結果是DCL敗訴。
隨著單一麥芽威士忌的興起，羽生蒸餾所亦於1990年左右開始推出以「羽生」命名的單一麥芽威士忌。到了1996年，東亞酒造的管理層添加了一位新成員，他就是東亞酒造創辦人的孫兒伊知郎。雖然有新成員加盟，羽生也逃不過時代巨輪的衝擊，逃不過自九十年代開始日本經濟衰退帶來的危機。最後羽生蒸餾所被迫於2000年停產，而且東亞酒造也遭到易主， 由以生產廉價清酒的大集團King Jozo正式接管。可惜新的經營者對釀造威士忌並沒有太大的興趣，所以在2004年他們決定把羽生蒸餾所關閉，並計劃將400桶的威士忌原酒丟棄。
當然東亞酒造和伊知郎血濃於水，何況這是家族物業，當年伊知郎成立秩父，成酒須時陳年， 也會把金馬灌瓶出售。這兩瓶新一代金馬產品，屬於NAS不列年份風格，酒色較淺，相信酒底較年輕，沒有雪利桶或小型橡木桶影響，簡單清純，花蜜和穀物香味，武州帶點辛辣和清新綠茶味道，武藏帶豐盛乾果和些少煙燻味道。武藏價格與竹鶴Pure Malt相約，前者富民間色彩風味，這又和竹鶴的蘇格蘭神韻有所不同，這些地酒口味確有其可取之處。