The Japanese whisky distillers put a tremendous amount of effort into staying true to the Scottish ways of making whisky. For example, Nikka Whisky still holds on to the technique of direct coal firing their stills. However, there is one very unique element that isn’t found in Scottish whisky – the use of Mizunara (Japanese Oak). Suntory has a specific Mizunara cask expression of Yamazaki. Also, the standard line up of Yamazaki 12 and 18 both have components of whisky that was aged in Mizunara casks.
Another big user of Mizunara is Ichiro Akuto, who now distills at Chichibu. I have touched on some of the details of the relatively new Chichibu distillery before. But not enough can be said, or written as the case may be here, about the craftsmanship and art that goes into the spirit that is made at Chichibu. This is not your large commercial distillation facility where there are probably more stills than Chichibu has employees. Akuto San takes a hands on approach and is sensitive to every minute detail in the process of making his whisky. Just take a look at the label. I would love to get that level of detail from every bottle of whisky that I drink. Chichibu reminds me of some of the craft distillers that we have here in the US or the micro-brewers in the beer industry. There is something in me that pulls for the little guy and wants them to do well. But enough with the love-fest, the bottom line is the whisky has to be good. The truth is in the liquid.
Distilled February-March 2008, Casked in April 2008, Bottled February 2009 (~10 months old). Jason from Guid Scotch Drink brought up an interesting question about this recently: Where is the spirit stored after distillation but before casked in? There is some time in between the two processes. I’ll see what information I can find and let you know.
Cask: New Japanese Oak (Mizunara) Hogshead, Appears to be a vatting of Cask #9 and #10. (Gotta love the low cask numbers)
Bottled at 63.3% ABV
No Chillfiltration or artificial colour
Color: 14K gold, light yellow with a glimmer of orange.
Nose: Vibrant with a the the big raw alcohol bite up front, buttery sweets, sandalwood, an interesting spice that I just can’t seem to place, after giving it some time it opens up more with creme brulee and grain sweetness.
Palate: Malty, chewey and viscous, nutty, grain sweetness like the nose, sharp biting oak, little too much alcohol burn neat.
Finish: Medium, raw alcohol and oak.
Comments: Obviously this is a young whisky, it needs more time but it is off to a good start. I can’t wait till it gets another 5-10 years in a cask as there is some good stuff going on underneath it all. This is a whisky that presents some interesting and different flavors from the use of the new Mizunara casks. I am still trying to familiarize myself with these flavors and associate them with things that I am more accustomed to.