Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New releases > Chichibu 'The First'

The youngest distillery in Japan has released its first single malt, named The First. Chichibu (pronounced chich-e-boo) started production in 2008 and was the first new distillery to be built in Japan since the 1970s. The distillery was the brainchild of Ichiro Akuto, a legendary figure in the Japanese whisky industry. It is located in the town of Chichibu, which is around 80km to the north west of Tokyo. The distillery has a number of interesting features, including rare washback tanks made from Japanese oak.

This three years old single malt is the first official whisky from Chichibu and follows on from two releases of new make spirit (one very young heavily peated version and one older non-peated version) . The First is constructed from just 31 specially selected ex-bourbon casks, which have yielded 7,400 bottles at a cask strength of 61.8% ABV. These will be sold through selected specialist whisky retailers in Japan, the UK and France for £90/€115 per bottle. The product was launched at Whisky Live in Paris at the end of September and in Japan on 10 October.

Our tasting notes
The colour of The First is a bright golden yellow and the nose is fresh and full of immediate vanilla and honey aromas.  Then comes some spicy oak notes, which are reminiscent of pencil shavings mixed with a pinch of nutmeg and ginger.  The nose is obviously sweet and has other delicious aromas which develop with time - think of vanilla custard, green apples and a hint of lemon zest.  On the palate, this replicates the gorgeous concentration of notes from the nose - especially the vanilla, honey and wood spices.  It feels creamy and a little oily with a pleasant softness that belies its high alcoholic strength.  The only hint of the 61.8% ABV is a bit of peppery heat burn in the background.  Lovely notes of coconut and dried mango come through also.  The overall feeling is surprisingly delicate.  The finish begins sweetly with the honey note prominent, before becoming drier with plenty of woody oak spice.  The addition of water accentuates the vanilla and makes the palate even creamier, without any of the peppery burn.

What's the verdict?
The friend that we were tasting this with commented almost immediately, "how can this only be three years old?" We have to agree - this is so gorgeously delicious, complex, developed and balanced (even at 61.8% ABV) that it deserves to be sampled by all whisky lovers.  If the results are this amazing at this point in time, you have to ask the question - how good are the next and older releases of this single malt going to be?  There is a new whisky on the block - it's name is Chichibu and it has arrived with a bang.


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Skogs Trollet said...

I tried with some friends this evening a 18 weeks old bootle from Chichibu (2009) and i am totaly agree with you, it tastes like it is much older and has a smokey tusch that is perfect in perfect balance with taste from oak barrels.

Mats Sjögren - Sweden