A delightful, delicious yet alas discontinued dram – Cambus 24 year grain 51.9%

Every once and a while there is a chance to sample a piece of whisky history. In this case from a Lowland grain distillery that shut its doors in 1993. Before that, Cambus produced grain from early 1800s, with a hiatus from 1913 to 1938 when a fire destroyed much of the original distillery before it was rebuilt.

Like most grains, it mostly went into blends and you won’t find any official bottles. However – if you are lucky – you may come across a few select independent bottles… such as the one from Signatory that I snagged in Singapore at Whisky Live.

Cambus Single Grain 24 year (1991/2015) Cask 55891 51.9% (Signatory Vintage), Bottle 22 of 447

  • Nose – Floral, tempting, subtly complex, honey lemon, shifting between a heady perfume and light ginger, cinnamon, butterscotch and rich vanilla cream
  • Palate – Spice, with a great mouthfeel, cream like Amarulla with a bit of a hazelnut too, fruity, there was depth and character yet with a soft touch
  • Finish – Lightly bitter, closing on more of that delicious vanilla
  • Water – Brings out even more vanilla and toffee, think of a butterscotch ice cream

Overall it was exceedingly tasty… and far far far too easy to drink! It was hard not to say things like “Really nice!” and other happy murmurings.

And that’s just the thing about this whisky – it is simply delicious! A happy companion for a pleasant evening. It doesn’t challenge you but it does have enough substance and spice to make it a sprightly delightful dram.

What else do we know? It quietly matured for 24 years in a single refill butt and was bottled at cask strength.

While I didn’t find any tasting notes from the bottlers, I did check out what the  chaps at Master of Malt had to say:

  • Nose: Yep, that’s yummy grain – thick vanilla, summer fruits boiled sweets and gentle oak spice.
  • Palate: Spicy and honeyed, more vanilla and red fruit, almond pastries and a touch of treacle.
  • Finish: Quite long with a fruity tang.
  • Overall: Mid-twenties grain with a little fruity cask influence.

This bottle was purchased at Singapore Whisky Live 2017 (La Maison du Whisky) after sampling it at the Signatory kiosk. While not readily available, I paid SGD 203 / USD 150 / INR 10,800 in November 2017 and we opened the bottle in September 2018.

Since then I will admit to taking another nip or two as it is simply a rather enjoyable whisky. I keep telling myself to stop and keep it for others to try a sip of history but it sits in my cabinet temptingly tasty. And did I write more tasting notes? No… it was simply too tasty a treat to do anything but enjoy.

What else did the Whisky Ladies try in their Grain evening?

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

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Whisky Ladies Grain – The Chita 43%

Most would be familiar with Suntory’s popular Hibiki blend which brings together the Chita grain with Hakushu and Yamazaki. For many years, Suntory kept Chita nearly ‘secret’ in Japan – with no exports available.

I remember when I first picked up a bottle in Tokyo  (July 2014) – our tasting group in Mumbai were astounded by its exquisite, perfumed and nuanced character. Before featuring it in an article on Japanese whiskies, I reached out to the folks at Suntory to ask if they had any plans to market Chita outside of Japan. That was mid 2015 and the answer was “not yet” with plans clearly afoot to change that state sooner than later.

So when the NAS export version “The Chita” became available at Singapore duty-free a year later, I was excited to try it! Thanks to a “speed dating” sample sip at the airport, I had this chance, however didn’t discover much of what made our original experience so interesting.

Since then we’ve had more grains and know to calibrate expectations. And as always, the best thing about exploring whiskies with a tasting group – in this case the Whisky Ladies – is the different impressions which includes those who come with a fresh open approach not coloured by past experiences.

So what did we collectively think?

The Chita 43%

  • Nose – Light banana, vanilla, soft wood, almond, light perfume, honey
  • Palate – Lemon and pepper, sweet, pleasant, uncomplicated, more of that light perfume in the flavours and definitely more honey too
  • Finish – Simple, sweet yet satisfying

Overall we pronounced this one for the “easy drinking” category. Completely pleasant and one that could be brought out as an enjoyable uncomplicated option. One lady shared  she generally keeps a bottle of The Chita stocked and prefers it with ice and a splash of water for a simple refreshing wind-down drink.

What is interesting to note is that while the age is not stated, part of the character comes from the grain aging in a variety of casks – American White Oak, Spanish Oak and wine. This combination is given credit to producing a grain that is mild and smooth.

Suntory shares that they’ve produced grain as “dashi” or a broth base for their blends since 1972.  Yet only with the craze for Japanese whiskies globally and a growing interest in grain as a category on its own has The Chita become available since 2016.

And what do they have to say?

Shinji Fukuyo describes The Chita Single Grain Whisky as the “serenity of Japanese whisky.” Like the misty, calm seas of the Chita Peninsula on a day of elegant stillness, this airy whisky has a presence that is unmistakably serene.

“There is a quiet confidence and tenderness in our grain whiskies. These qualities allow them to be their own heroes, whether in a blend or featured as a single grain whisky.”

From the House of Suntory Whisky, a mild, smooth single grain whisky with unparalleled sophistication and a clean, clear finish.

  • Colour: Bright gold
  • Nose: Creme brûlée, cardamon, acacia honey, blossoming rose
  • Palate: Mild and smooth, hint of mint, deep honey
  • Finish: Clean and clear, spiced oak with subtle bittersweet notes

And what would a bottle of The Chita set you back? You can find it at Changi airport in Singapore for approx SGD 80 / USD 60 / INR 4,250. By Asian standards that is quite reasonable and more importantly, it is available in several airports in the region making it easy to pick up too. From that perspective, it is an easy buy for an easy drinking alternative.

PS – Photo credit goes to our whisky contributor Paula McGlynn

What else did the Whisky Ladies try in our Grain evening?

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

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Grain Whiskies – Haig, Chita, Nikka, Cambus

Though the humble grain is mostly found in blends, the Whisky Ladies are no stranger to exploring grains…

Just a couple that come to mind include….

All of our earlier grain experiences were mingled with trying malts or blends, so when it came time to decide a theme anchored by Suntory’s grain whisky Chita, we decided to go all out with grains!

We put out the word and here is what turned up!

And here is a selection of other grain tasting experiences:

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

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