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.

Want even more Whisky Lady posts? Follow this blog on:

A perfect partner… Suntory’s Toki 43%

After our rather interesting evening exploring Rampur from India, Royal Lochnagar 12 year and the remarkable aged grain Girvan 28 year…. we had an opportunity to pick anything from our hosts floor to ceiling whisky cupboard…

My eye spied Suntory’s Toki… like Hibiki,Toki is made from Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita.

Suntory’s Toki 43%

  • Nose – Cheese, lemon miringue pie, light peaches or crisp apples, simple
  • Palate – Exceedingly smooth, very drinkable, think custard, hint of ginger, light citrus, fresh and clean
  • Finish – Short, sweet, a little spicy, simple yet pleasing

Our immediate reaction is this would pair well with a cheese and fruit platter – think a nice range of old cheddar and applies. Or desert – something light not heavy. Or even an arugula salad with blue cheese and caramel walnuts.

I brought the glass with us for the dinner… our desert was a baked lagan nu custard. And the Toki paired with it? Perfection! Just the right interplay between the different elements and an ideal way to close the evening.

Here’s what the folks at Suntory have to say:

  • Color – clear gold
  • Nose – basil, green apple, honey
  • Palate – grapefruit, green grapes, peppermint, thyme
  • Finish – subtly sweet and spicy finish with a hint of vanilla oak,
    white pepper and ginger

Also from our evening:

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Japanese tasting session – take 2!

In February 2015, I shared tasting notes of four delightful Japanese whiskies:
After the 1st session, I had an opportunity to ‘revisit’ with one member (who missed the original tasting) together with his partner (who joined the original tasting) and two new folks.
It was worth doing a 2nd time and this is certainly my preferred practice:
  • Sample with a fresh bottle.
  • Revisit the same bottle after some time – perhaps a slightly different setting – either with new company or solo.
Four key observations from this revisit:
  • Timing is everything! Just as we found in the original session the Taketsuru Pure Malt absolutely needs time to breath, the Chita should be quickly savoured as the complexity settles into a singular note after an hour.
  • Size does matter! We sampled exactly the same whisky in exactly the same Glencairn glass yet there was a dramatic difference whether we were nosing a few drops versus a proper dram. With a small quantity, two of us delightedly exclaiming about discovering prominent overripe banana notes with the Chita whereas those with a fuller glass were puzzled as there was no hint of banana initially. So we exchanged and found the difference in nose remarkable!
  • Open, shut and open again – Cracking open a fresh bottle is a very different experience than one that has had time to evapourate… The Taketsuru Pure Malt was initially a massive disappointment not just due to the order and minimal time to breath but also as it was just opened. Even the 1st whiff poured the second night was far more interesting. Similarly the lemon we originally found in the newly opened Chita and Ichiro’s Malt 46.5% (possibly Houou-uhi) were completely absent the second time.
  • When you get the order right, it is just right! We were much better able to appreciate the Taketsuru Pure Malt when it followed the Chita rather than the robust Chichibu. We then tried the Ichiro’s mystery malt (possibly Houou-uhi) before closing with the Chichibu French Oak cask. Muuuuuuuch smarter!
Our Japanese collection revisited!

Our Japanese collection revisited!

Many of the original tasting notes rang true, however there were a few notable differences which I’ve shared below.
  • Nose – Champion pungency vs overripe bananas… as it opened up, perfumed eraser and fresh cut wood. We completely lost the lemony element found in the 1st tasting.
  • Taste – Harsh then mellows, described by one as a very ‘technical’ whisky rather than ‘easy drinking’ whisky, superb body, honey water, hint of mint, muddle of clove, cinnamon and saffron
  • Finish – Shifted from short yet happy to spicy with a dash of bitter, sits well
  • Final observation – While the delightful perfume remained and this is still quite a unique whisky, it does not stand the test of time… the more it aired, the more the ranges of notes reduced to a single perfume. Not sure I would want to leave this on the shelf for long!
  • Nose – Smelly socks, figs, apricots that opened further into a meaty aroma, then over-burnt sugar
  • Taste – Meaty, spice, dried kopra, well balanced spice, like a pullao with kala eleichi, yet subtle too
  • Finish – Sooooo dry  initially, subtle and long
  • Final observation – The musky quality we originally observed is very much there as is its dryness. It really is a different beast with time to breathe. It also remained throughout the evening a whisky that could hold its own.
  • Nose – Vanilla, honey, flower, coconut, cognac yet none of the earlier lemon or nori
  • Taste – Gorgeous oaky flavour, Ghana bitter dark chocolate, cognac quality remained
  • Finish – Mature, lingers… really quite fabulous
  • Final observation – Phenomenal how the palate is as good as the nose, brilliantly balanced
  • Nose – Star anise, gentle, soft pulpy fruit, refreshing sea breeze, fig, hint of sourness… one member actually stepped out to independently to determine his key impression and settled on ginger. The moment he said it, there was a collective ‘Ah yes! That’s it!’
  • Taste – Magnificent, mixed peppercorns of red, pink, white and green, intelligent, complex, remained deliciously ‘chewy’
  • Finish – Long and strong
  • Add water – Fruit gum, ginger honey and spice
  • Final observation – The new tasters were as stunned as we were in the original tasting about the alcohol strength. It also gives the impression of being much older than 5 years.
This experiment re-inforced my appreciation of the ‘life cycle’ of a whisky bottle. It also was most enjoyable to revisit four such interesting whiskies with excellent company on both occasions.

Suntory Chita Single Grain Whisky 43%

I was in Tokyo for a few days in July 2014 for work – just enough time to both fall in love with the place and hunt down some interesting whiskies.

My quest was to discover whiskies less available outside Japan – and there was oodles of choice!

Alas I was restricted in quantity – my next stop was Shanghai before Kuala Lumpur and then finally home to Bombay. The solution was to pick up a few sample sized 180 – 200 ml options and not restrict myself to the impossible choice of just one.

While my initial thought was to stay away from Suntory, given its international success and pre-eminent status producing whisky in Japan, it was hard to miss! So I avoided the more accessible Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries and decided to give Chita a chance…

When you think of Japanese blends, one that immediately comes to mind is  Hibiki… And one of the key elements in Hibiki is whisky from Suntory’s Chita Distillery in Port Nagoya, Aichi prefecture, an area better known for its production of sake.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of a single element of Hibiki however was sufficiently intrigued, it made the final ‘cut’ for accompanying me across multiple borders.

After sampling it in this month’s whisky tasting session, I’m so pleased it did.

Simple packaging for a superb whisky

Simple packaging for a superb dram (Whisky Lady)

Chita Single Grain Whisky 43%
  • Colour – Pale straw
  • Nose – Fruit basket, lemony, spray of perfume or a refreshing cologne, sweet honey, hint of peat… like a fresh meadow bursting with the scent of flowers
  • Taste – A delight – smooth, subtle, honey, a bit dry on the tongue, a tinge of tumeric, light spice, in short it seemed bright, likely young but utterly superb
  • Finish – Short happy finish
  • Water? – One sacrificed to try however would not recommend adding even one drop! It is perfection exactly as is!
  • Everyone found it exquisite – very delicate, yet still rounded with lots of subtle nuances
  • As it was so light, it gave the impression of youth with a dash of sophistication
  • A bright splash of perfume! None could recall having a whisky with quite this pronounced a perfume…
  • Once the region was identified as Japan, one thought of Hibiki – and he was spot on!

While not stated on the bottle in English, the Chita Single Grain Whisky is known to be matured for 12 years. Given its delicate character, one can be forgiven for initially thinking ‘youth’ however in truth it is deceptively mature with womanly charms.

After our tasting, I began to think of the geishas of yore – trained in the arts not only of seduction but learned in all matters be it art, literature, dance, games, conversation… every detail refined with tremendous discipline behind its beauty and grace.


Simply Chita (Whisky Lady)

We tasted it together with Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu 2009 French Oak CaskNikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 YearIchiro’s Malt – possibly Houou-uhi.

Final verdict? While I’m generally not known for enjoying ‘ladylike’ whiskies, this is such a unique approach I would love to have a full bottle gracing my whisky cabinet.

Check out what others are saying about Chita:

PS Singapore Airport has a NAS Chita expression from August 2016

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on: