Last week on the site, I sat down with Chichibu founder Ichiro Akuto to find out more about the innovative Japanese whisky distillery (read that here).
Following that interview, I had the opportunity to try two new Chichibu whiskies. The first, called ‘On The Way’ is made from a mix of one cask of whisky matured in virgin mizunara wood at around five years of age, along with 40 casks of whisky matured in ex-bourbon, American oak around three-four years of age. It’s been bottled at 58.5%. The second is the latest release of Chichibu peated. Below, I have compared it to the 2012 version.
I also had the rare chance to sample the last of the Card Series, released from his grandfather’s Hanyu Distillery. The project has been a labour of love and has included a single cask whisky release for each card in the deck. The Joker is the final release and, as a change, there are two versions. Of it, Ichiro says: “I’m very relieved to launch the final one in the Card Series. Nine years ago, I decided to release all of the cards to show off all the expressions of casks. I’ve finally done all of the
great casks. The normal card series is single cask releases, but I wanted to make the final one slightly more special so have released two versions: one is a mix of 14 casks from 1985, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1991 and 2000 vatted together to make 3,640 bottles. And a second one [which is adorned with a monochrome label] is a single cask from 1985.”
Here’s what I made of the two new Chichibus and the Vatted version of The Joker:
(n): Toffee and vanilla, salted taffy, peach skins, orange blossom, honey, lime peel, strawberries, some yellow fruits like pears and fennel. With water, more earthy notes come out like blackberries and oak.
(p): Earthy and bigger than expected, before melons and peaches, a slight cotton candy, vanilla note, a bit of menthol, cherries and slightly spirity at the tip of the tongue. With water, more buttery and leaves of berries (earthy, blackcurrant leaf), then red berries in cream and beeswax.
(f): Licorice and mint, green grass and black cherries – a mix of fresh and rich. With water, more black pepper.
In conclusion: very mouthfilling – a great show of how something like mizunara can take something that might be too sweet and give it some real roots and an earthy balance. A cracking dram and my favourite next to Chichibu the First & Chibidaru.
Chichibu Peated: 2012 vs 2013:
2012: Matured in Virgin oak casks; 50.5%
(n): Salty brine, tobacco, licorice, vanilla pods, brown sugar, magazines and orange peel. Also BBQ prawns (sweet & savoury smoke), red berries, hay and grass.
(p): Quite sweet and buttery with good earthy characteristics – almost sweet and savoury. Well balanced by the influence of peat. Honey, toffee, cigarettes and vanilla marshmallows. Slight ashiness, along with oak shavings and pepper.
(f): Toffee ice cream
2013: Matured in refill American oak casks: 53.5%:
(c): Pale straw
(n): Melting butter, toast, lemon peel, strawberries, peaches, honey – a more gentle peat on the nose than 2012 and also more floral.
(p): More intense than expected after slightly more delicate nose. Peat feels punchier and mixed with some notes of wet earth, vanilla, oak and citrus.
(f): Rubbery bouncy balls
Hanyu ‘The Joker’: Vatted version:
(n): Really powerful: lots of cedar and licorice to lead, then underneath a great splash of concentrated, wild strawberries – very scented.
(p): Bit lighter and creamier than expected on the palate. Beautiful mix of blackberries, figs, licorice, taffy and chocolate. Gorgeous balance of delicate fruit and richer vanilla-led influence.
Conclusion: Absolutely stunning and one of the best whiskies I’ve had in the last year.