Chichibu Peated, 2010-2013

This turned out to be Japanese food and whisky week on the blog. I reviewed two Japanese restaurants in the Los Angeles area (Raku in West Hollywood and Osawa in Pasadena) and on Wednesday I had a review of a young Yoichi.  And now this Chichibu to close the week. Aha, you’re thinking, what about Monday, you bastard? Didn’t you review a Bowmore then? Well, joke’s on you, cynical interlocutor: Bowmore is owned by Suntory. Not so clever now, are you? Chichibu, however, is not owned by Suntory. It is to the big Japanese producers as Kilchoman is to the big Scottish producers: small, artisanal etc. I believe they started distilling in 2008, which means nothing very old has come on the market from their own spirit. This one is certainly not old. Distilled in 2010 and bottled in 2013 it’s even younger than Wednesday’s Yoichi. It’s also peated. I’m curious to see how it compares with young peated Islay malts. Let’s get right to it. 

Chichibu Peated, 2010 (53.5%; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Mild phenolic peat and salt. Gets more carbolic as it sits but, unlike with many young peated Islays, there’s isn’t a strong mezcal note here (though there is a bit of it). Instead it gets brinier and some vanilla-cream pops up as well. With water the vanilla-cream and the peat and the salt merge nicely and pick up some musky citrus as well.

Palate: Starts out pretty much as on the nose and then a bigger wave of ashy smoke hits. More mezcal’ish here and there’s some pepper, some fruit (pears) and a bit of ham. Gets ashier as it goes. A big hit of citrus here too with water (makrut lime).

Finish: Long. The smoke hangs on for a good while, getting a touch rubbery as it goes. (though it’s not offensive somehow—and not sulphurous). As on the nose and palate with water, and the rubbery note drops away.

Comments: Dammit, 3 yo whisky is not supposed to be this good. How do they do it? I guess by producing in very small quantities. Sort of like Kilchoman again, I guess. I don’t want to overstate things: there’s not much complexity here and nothing that would make me reach for it over a bottle of Laphroaig 10 CS (or just the regular Laphroaig 10 for that matter) but this is surprisingly good for its age. And good on them for not trying to hide that age under a silly name. Man, Chichibu is going to be good when it comes of age. I sure hope I’ll be able to afford a bottle.

Rating: 86 points.

Thanks to Nick S. for the sample.

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