It’s not often that I get to taste Japanese whisky that actually makes sense. That’s quite a bold statement, but my case is this:
A lot of contemporary and available Japanese whisky are cheaply made and try to profit of the stellar reputation the style got ten years ago. The great Yamazakis, Yoichis, and dare I say Karuizawas boomed the Japenese whisky to a number one position.
Currently, most (not all) available Japanese whisky is a blend of things that aren’t really tasty. Heck, a lot of them aren’t even Japanese. They sometimes have an age statement, but that too is no indicator of quality.
However, when a Yamazaki comes out, or a Miyagikyo, or anything from the old brands, it still is quite good. Sometimes great, but mostly quite good.
And then there’s Chichibu.
On one hand it is a new brand. It’s been around for about 15 years. On the other hand, the brand was conceived by Ichiro Akuto. The same man who ran Hanyu for the last years of its existence. A great brand if there ever was one, and for many on par with Karuizawa.
After a very justified comment by Niels Viveen (a Japanese whisky connoisseur), I have to add that Ichiro Akuto didn’t run the Hanyu distillery. His grandfather did. Ichiro Akuto was heavily involved in selling the whisky in the years after the distillery closed, though.
So, while it’s new, it’s run to the standards of old. And while that feels a bit ‘Last of the Mohicans’ and a dying breed, it’s far from without merit. I fondly remember an IPA Cask from some years ago. I’ve had others too, but never reviewed them.
Let’s see where this one sits!
Some oak, some straw, some vanilla. Not an awesome lot of smoke, but there definitely is some! A bit of seaweed and brine. Unripe pear, pastry cream.
Not very strong, but it is quite dry. A hint of straw and hessian at first. Some vanilla sweetness, pastry cream. Banoffee pie, smoke, some oak shavings.
The finish continues with the sweetness, the banana cream, some caramel toffee. Of course there’s some smoke.
It becomes sweeter after a while, which isn’t uncommon in peated whiskies. The sweetness pushes the more complex flavors to the background.
While it’s not my favorite Chichibu, it’s a step in the right direction. This has mostly to do with the slightly lower ABV. Some years ago, these peated whiskies all clocked in at 60-odd%, and as a result it would by default be the last thing you’d taste that day until you brushed your teeth.
With this one that’s no longer the case, and with some more years of aging they’re really on the right track.
Currently available for some € 400, but that’s the case with all ‘proper’ brands of Japanese whisky