Popularity is a dangerous thing. Everybody wants to drink Japanese whisky, but the Japanese just don’t have enough of the stuff. It’ll be years before the industry can meet demand. In the meantime temporary solutions are chased.
Many of those solutions are aimed at importing whisky from elsewhere and selling it under the name of a Japanese brand, or often selling it as Japanese whisky outright. Suntory does as much with their Suntory Ao, a world blended whisky.
But a few years before they launched their world whisky experiment, Suntory gave us The Chita, a single grain Japanese whisky. Honestly, I find most grain whisky — especially young grain whisky — shouldn’t be bottled outright and only has its place in a blended whisky. But needs must and all that…
We’ve seen it with the smaller independent bottlers of Scottish whisky. Five or so years ago they had trouble sourcing malt whisky which led to an influx of single grain whisky. Launching The Chita was Suntory’s equivalent — a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ moment.
Just as the Suntory Ao, to me The Chita is only here as a stopgap until production catches up with demand and we’re finally going to see proper Japanese whisky again. With any luck somewhat affordable as well, but that’s probably a bridge too far.
The Chita Single Grain Japanese Whisky (43%, OB, 2019)
Nose: Faint notes of wood glue, varnish and vanilla essence, with a touch of wood shavings and cornflakes too. Finally a hint of banana, but it also has a floral side. Soft and gentle. Taste: Surprisingly oily (bonus points), although the oak (wood shavings and varnish) is a bit more present here. Was virgin oak used? Hints of butterscotch, apples and caramel, but also ginger and a pronounced amount of cloves, pepper and bitter oranges. Finish: Short and barely noticeable.
It certainly has some character, which has to be because of some skillful cask maturation. The Chita is mostly a balanced whisky, especially on the nose, but the cask influence does go a little overboard at times.
Overall a pleasant whisky but not entirely in tune with its price. I can see it working well in a number of cocktails, but you can get many nice whiskies (malt or grain) for a multitude of uses below 50 quid. In short: It doesn’t stand out.