When I spotted this cask strength Chichibu in the Isetan Department Store in Shinjuku, Tokyo in July 2014, our whisky tasting group had never tried anything from this distillery before. As my quest was to find something ‘different’ and ‘difficult to source’ outside of Japan, a recent release from Ichiro’s Malt seemed to meet the criteria perfectly!
Now, clearly great minds think alike as another Chichibu – specifically the 3 year ‘The Floor Malted‘ – was sourced by another of our whisky tasting members. We sampled it in October 2014 and it could easily hold its own against older whiskies.
So what about this particular whisky? Well… here is where it gets interesting!
Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu 2009 French Oak Cask 63.1%, Cask number 2357, Bottled in 2014
First impression – solo interpretation
Confession time – I lost patience waiting from July 2014 to February 2015 for my next turn to curate our whisky evening… so I cracked open the bottle early and here is what I discovered:
- Colour – Bright gold
- Nose – A delightful burst of notes – strong sweet vanilla, tropical fruits, overripe banana, a deeper hint of chocolaty mint and cinnamon
- Palate – Something slightly ‘rancio’, the fruits having an overripe quality, woodsy, a tinge oily and very chewy, the chocolate re-emerging
- Finish – Spicy, nutty, slightly disappointing – sense of being a bit brash and ‘young’
- Water? – Most certainly!
Second impression – group effort
Now here is what happened when I shared the same bottle with our intrepid tasters:
- Nose – Medicinal, sweet perfume but with more depth and fruit than the Chita, pronounced pears, the more it aired the more we discovered – a whiff of grain, warm breeze on grass… then French vanilla… after sipping could smell dark molasses and cinnamon
- Taste – Immediate sense of an aged whisky bursting with character, had punch, spice, very chewy, leather, bit of brine, woodsy
- Finish – Coffee, bitter yet warm, hint of nuttiness and dark chocolate
- Add water – This was definitely one we wanted to add water… Even dryer, woody elements emerged, almost like eating rose petals, the French vanilla also became even more pronounced
- Has ‘teeth’ and a ‘bit more alcohol’ than the Chita… perhaps 48%??
- Also gave the sense of age given its robust character – something to feast on!
- One suggested it was so chewy you felt like you could eat it!
- Very deceptive… absolutely unbelievable that it is cask strength at 63.1%
- Also had the range and depth one would expect from an older whisky – remarkable it is only 2009 i.e. 5 year
- I shared had opened it earlier so it had the advantage / disadvantage of a little bit of ‘air’ even before we sampled it together – in this case I believe it was an advantage
- Overall an impressive whisky
I revisited my solo tasting notes only when writing this post – you can see that much overlapped but also some differences – including the finish.
What is so delightful about having a small group of friends taste together is the different descriptions and reactions. As we taste blind, we are also not influenced by origin, age, packaging, what we may have heard about a particular whisky… or even a previous acquaintance with the same whisky! Only the host knows what we are trying and we take seriously being ‘mum’ to not influence our fellow tasters.
Taste is deeply personal yet I find it tremendously enriching to have company when exploring the world of whisky… and pleased could share something less readily accessible.
What others are saying:
- Nonjatta – Brief note on the French Oak Cask and Chibidaru Cask
- e-Ting – Mentions this release and the very same Isetan Shinjuku where I bought the whisky
- Whisky Saga – On visiting the Chichibu distillery
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