Being a good reviewer while not hurting new distilleries is a hard balancing act. One that I feel torn between.
I enjoy visiting new distilleries. I feel they are the ones who are trying new things. However unless you’re one of the lucky people out there who understand how Kilchoman does that crazy thing they do with young drams, it’s not going to be that complex.
This brings me to Chichibu, but not in a review sense. Chichibu is run by Japanese distiller Ichiro Akuto, the grandson of the man who setup Hanyu whisky. Hanyu is to Japanese whisky what Brora and Port Ellen is to Scotch.
Ichiro has slowly been starting Chichibu, all while bottling rare Hanyu whisky.
So why isn’t this called Hanyu or Chichibu? Well because it’s blends of Hanyu and Chichibu, While the amount of each in these is unknown, compared to the price of the card series (which is 100% Hanyu), this is affordable. Probably because Chichibu is still quite young.
So, while my scores may be lower than the average reviewers’, I still ask that you try these malts or try Ichiro or Chicibu in the future as they are still working on it.
Actually I ask you to do that for ANY new distillery, regardless. Whisky takes time, and supporting new ones means we get new whiskies in the future.
Thanks to /u/WDMC-905 for the sample
Ichiro’s Malt & Grain is up first. This includes Hanyu, Karuizawa, and new Chichibu malt. Maybe. No official statements on that. As well, it includes young malt and grain whiskies from 8 other distilleries from Scotland, England, Ireland, the US, and Canada.
So this interests me for multiple reasons. For one, it’s the second time I’ve ever had a World Malt. Take that Orbis!
Secondly I really enjoy trying new things. Ichiro’s family has been in the alcohol business for 21 generations. The Card series wowed so many people that I’m angry I’m not part of the 1% and try them all on my space yacht. This has the potential to be great… someday.
But you want to know about this today.
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Colour: 7.5Y 9/6
Nose: Grain, vanilla, banana, white sugar, floral, margarine
Initial nose is similar to a lot of blended Scotches I’ve had. It’s sweeter, with more vanilla than normal. I’m assuming that’s the actual bourbon in here.
Nothing too complex here, but nice nose none the less.
Taste: Cocoa, enough bananas to start a republic, yoghurt, butter, wheat
Lots of banana on this one. It’s quite strong, and goes with other flavours nicely, but… Wow it’s quite unbalanced with bananas.
Not too hot. Some cereal, but for something that has grain in it, not too rough.
Finish: Honey, even more bananas, pepper, cumin, hot chocolate mix, carrot muffin
Again, bananas take over, and there’s a raw element here on the finish. It’s starting to develop into something interesting, but I think it needs more time.
Conclusion: A nice blend. Frankly could replace Crown Royal Northern Harvest, Johnnie Walker Black, or even as a better replacement to Highballs that are also on the market.
That said, it’s unbalanced. There’s too much banana for me. The finish has some raw elements that I’m not in love with. I enjoy this, and am glad that they can sell something while waiting for more of the whisky ages. I look forward to trying something with more Chichibu. Oh wait, there’s more of these!
Thanks to /u/theslicknick6 for the sample.
Ichiro’s Malt MWR – Mizunara Wood Reserve is more than just an interesting way to try new Chichibu whisky mixed with Hanyu. No, this is a vatting that has been aged soley in Mizunara Wood.
No, I didn’t just sneeze while typing. Mizunara is Japanese oak, Quercus mongolica. Most whisky fans know of American oak and European oak, and the odd one of us geeks out at Hungarian oak. However Mizunara is usually used with other whiskies that have used other woods. So we don’t actually usually have a chance to try something that has solely been aged in it.
Other than this one, which I was setting up. So… that’s the bonus. Seeing what this wood actually does by making it the sole wood that goes in my mouth.
Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Colour: 5Y 7/8
Nose: Honey, grape, ginger, pear, wood
Nose has some floral notes that mix with the sweet aspects. Others have noted sandalwood, and I can see that. I think I missed it, however I can see where it comes in.
This reminds me of a more wood forward Lowland. Maybe if someone had a virgin oak version. Interesting.
Taste: Vanilla, wheat, olive oil, walnut, melon
Initial vanilla notes are strong, however they peter out a little bit. Tastes like a grain forward… Or rather, it’s like when you get a whisky with an unreactive cask.
I’m slowly starting to see why they might not do 100% Mizunara wood. Or maybe this is quite young, or filled with quite young spirit.
Finish: Butter, peanut, wood, grain
Very light finish. Nothing tastes too overt, goes quite quick. Reminds me more, again, of a virgin oak whisky. Which I assume this is what is used.
Conclusion: Bit weak. I’ve had other Mizunara wood whiskies that have punched above their weight class, and I think the wood doesn’t lend the overt vanillas of the American oak or even some of the rounding elements of Hungarian or the light spice of French oak.
That said, I think if they try this again, later, given some time or as a finish, it’d be a different malt. For now, it’s a pass from me.
Thanks to /u/cpfselfbuilt for this sample.
Ichiro’s Malt Double Distilleries is up last. And it’s probably the one that most people go ga-ga over. why? Well it’s made up of the most Hanyu. Amount of each? No idea. I’ve just heard this has the most Hanyu, not that I could tell as the only other Hanyu I’ve had was mixed in with Scotch to stretch it out. Could be “the most” with 1% more.
But let’s stop talking about my ex and stretching out, and talk about the whisky.
The Hanyu in this case was aged in ex-Sherry casks, and the Chichibu was aged in ex-Mizunara wood casks.
Let’s see how it lives up, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Colour: 5Y 9/6
Nose: Peaches & cream, herbal, currant, coconut & chocolate, chicken fat
So from having the one before, I can see that the younger, raw wood notes are coming through from the Chichibu, with more floral aspects (herbal, the coconut) adding in. And the Hanyu is giving us those sherry notes with peaches or chocolate.
Chicken fat? Yes, it’s a distinct fat note that isn’t pork or beef. And I enjoy it. Hell, you probably enjoy it. It’s Schmaltz, don’t judge.
Taste: Peach, butter, grain, banana, lime, alcohol
So here we have the sherry side giving us stone fruit and banana, and the younger malt giving us the grain and alcohol side of things. It doesn’t work that great together, however it’s a young malt, and the fact it’s able to be drank nicely at all is good.
Not to mention the mixture is giving more of a butter note.
Finish: Butter, mushroom, jalapeno, cumin, pecan, lemon
Do you like earth flavours? Cause this thing has them in spades. And hearts. Heck, the whole fucking deck of cards.
It’s hot at the end, but has a nice nuttiness which I think comes from the Japanese oak. Some reviews I’ve read get more spice, but I tend to like my pumpkin everything with lots of spice, so this seemed muted. Blame me, not the dram.
Conclusion: Overall a lot nicer than the others. Couple different things going on here, which I think it helps. The Mizunara oak works when mixed with something else. Adds onto the sherry cask here.
Honestly the biggest thing was the nose. Really complex pairings. Probably my favourite part.
The finish needs work, and the young malt shows up there. The taste does a little, but follows the nose nicely.
If you want to try one of these, this would be the one I’d lean towards. Favourite of the night.
World Whisky reviews #214-216, Japan reviews #33-34, World review #2, Whisky Network reviews #1021-1023