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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The First Of Many

2011 has seen the debut of some extraordinary whiskies; from established favourites (Ardbeg Alligator) re-discovered classics (MacKinlay's 'Shackleton') and coming of age gems (Bruichladdich 10 year old)
2011 has also seen the birth of one or 2 dogs, but on the whole, it's more than refreshing to see just how many well received whiskies are now out on the market.

The Japanese whisky world can also give itself a hearty slap on the back too. Thanks to the tenacity of The Number One Drinks Company, scores of priceless Karuizawa casks have been rescued, which will now see the light of day they so richly deserve. It's also a superbly exciting time for new Japanese distilleries. Ichiro Akuto, founder of the Hanyu Card Series and the widely regarded saviour of this lost classic distillery has reached the pivotal moment, which he has been waiting for, for the past 3 years; the birth of his very first Chichibu single malt.

Continuing his success, Ichiro Akuto began distillation at the brand new Chichibu distillery in 2008, which can be found about 80km to the North West of Tokyo. Presently using a mixture of imported malt from Germany and England, Akuto-san aims to locally source his raw materials for the future, including Japanese peat. The wooden wash backs he currently uses are manufactured from Japanese oak, so a distinctly home-grown theme is emerging.

To date, Chichibu has released 2 editions of Malt Spirit, (a 14-month old double-matured bottling & a heavily peated 3-month old) both of which has been highly commended by the international whisky community. Now Ichiro's first 3 year old single malt- triumphantly titled 'Chichibu The First' has arrived... and the great news is that it's absolutely superb.

Chichibu - The First - Japanese Single Malt Whisky -distilled 2008 - bottled 2011 -61.8%

Nose: 3 years old? How can it be this complex?? Honey, light floral notes of honeysuckle, sweet peas, mix beautifully with vanilla notes, white pepper and milk chocolate, to give this a dusty, but wonderfully rounded aroma.

Palate: Again, the mouthfeel of this whisky defies its youth. Lemon grass notes, fresh limes and coconut milk take hold of the palate first, followed up with lashings of sweet vanilla, marshmallows and apricots, before ascending into some more highly perfumed notes. For a whisky of 61.8% it is amazingly delicate. Adding water certainly brings out the vanilla notes, but this is perfectly drinkable at cask strength.

Finish: Lingering notes of vanilla, some light oak notes and dried apricots give this first real Chichibu some lengthy complexity, way beyond its years.

Overall: Absolutely inspired whisky making, from a man, who is in our opinion, a shining light in the world of Japanese whisky - and for that matter whisky, wherever it is made. A triumphant first bottling and hopefully the first of many!