Chichibu has a cult-following, and has had one for years now. Although it undoubtedly helps, it’s not just because it is a Japanese whisky. The quality of whisky produced at Chichibu is of a very high-level, and owner Ichiro Akuto is one of the most influential persons in Japanese whisky today.
Especially single cask Chichibu is extremely sought-after. The distillery has only been in production since 2008, and they produce just about 90,000 liters a year. So there’s not much out there, and what is available, is still very young. However, that doesn’t seem to matter much. I’ve only tasted a handful of Chichibu so far, but each was mature beyond its age.
Anyway, today I review two releases, one from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, matured in a first-fill ex-bourbon barrel and nicknamed ‘Tropical Thunder’. The other is from a sherry hogshead, bottled for Dr’ Jekyll’s Pub in Oslo.
Chichibu 2010 8 Years Old (60.9%, SMWS, C#130.2)
Nose: Pretty dense. A touch of polished leather initially, followed by a wave of tropical fruit. Ripe mangoes for the win, but kiwis are very prominent too, as well as lime. There’s a touch of sweet and floral honey. Some candy hearts are here, followed by a whiff of vanilla. Pretty complex. Taste: A hit of ginger initially, as well as oak and sandalwood, and a fair amount of cloves, cumin and pepper, as well as pine resin. Finish: Some tropical fruits appear on the finish, after the spicy and woody flavours have subsided.
Chichibu 2010 7 Years Old (59.6, OB for Dr. Jekyll’s Pub, C#2649)
Nose: This is on a different level. The fruity aromas are similar to the SMWS release, but then also extremely well integrated with the influence of the sherry cask. Dark chocolate, blueberries, damp oak, figs, plums and brown sugar. A touch of soy, finally. I could go on. Love the complexity here. Taste: Lots of dark and somewhat bitter coffee notes. More espresso than cappuccino. Intense honey and bitter caramel as well, but also tobacco, raisins and licorice. Subtle spices. Finally, even some star anise, as well as mocha. Finish: More of the same. Long.
Big difference here between the two. Same vintage, and I could definitively smell the similarities, but especially when it comes to taste I never would’ve guessed these to have come from the same distillery.
The Chichibu for Jekyll’s Pub has more to offer on the palate. Yes, there are subtle spices, but nothing compared to the intense spiciness of the SMWS release. Because that’s where it loses me. I still quite like the ‘Tropical Thunder’, mind you. Finishing an entire bottle might be somewhat of a challenge though.
Thanks to Dirk & Noortje for sharing, and for the photo as well!