Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Chichibu 2009 & 2010, ‘Bak Chiang Series’, LMdW exclusives

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo

Yesterday, we reviewed the Hanyu that is part of the Ichiro’s Malt/‘Bak Chiang’ triptych released by LMdW. Today, we're looking at the 2 Chichibu single casks: one from the 2009 vintage (cask #641, 61.7%abv, First Fill Bourbon Barrel) and another from the 2010 vintage (cask #651, 61.6%abv, Bourbon Barrel – presumably not first fill). We’ll try them side by side… we’re fairly certain Mark Twain wasn’t thinking of whisky when he wrote about comparison being “the death of joy”.
On the nose, the 2010 is more overtly sweet and characterized by a ‘green’ wood sappiness. You get notes of annin dofu, lemon meringue pie, sabayon and roasted coconut flakes, but lots of young, fresh wood notes as well (very reminiscent of some of the superb single cask releases coming out of Westland distillery in Seattle). The 2009 is more subtly fruited: orchard fruits, notes of assorted eau de vie, pear peel and guimauve candy. There are also hints of steamed new potatoes, fresh beechnuts, barley sugar, agave syrup, a little pastis and soft mineral notes. Given lots of time, the whisky starts to inhabit a distinctly grassy terrain. Initially, the 2010 Chichibu seems to be the more expressive of the pair, but it is clear after a while that first impressions can be deceiving: there is much more depth to the 2009 – lots of tiny pockets of aromatic ecstasy waiting to be explored there!
On the palate, the 2010 offers honey, lemon candy, propolis, caramel popcorn, fruit yoghurt and assorted Danish pastries (apricot pastries, most prominently). The finish is long and suggestive of grapefruit jam on milk bread with a subtle spiciness coming through towards the end. The 2009 is heavier and spicier, and the character of the spirit is more pronounced. You get barley aplenty but modulated by lots of other waves of flavour (brown sugar, floral notes, shichimi togarashi-flavoured KitKat, Crêpe Belle Hélène, carrot pound cake, roast pumpkin and a few other treats). The finish is long and fresh on green apple peel with some pretzels and After Eights thrown in. Both of these Chichibus swim well, so you may want to experience with water to find the ‘sweet spot’ for yourself.

If I could only have one, I’d go for the 2009, but it really is a matter of personal preference, not to mention mood, time of day, and all those other things that influence our choice of whisky. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of single cask Chichibus these days – and part of this has to do with the fact that many private cask owners in Japan (who bought a cask when the distillery was set up) are impatient to bottle their cask – but these are the pick of the bunch as far as single casks released this year are concerned. In fact, I can only think of one other Chichibu single cask (the one released for Whisky Talk Fukuoka this year) that reaches the lofty heights that these two LMdW Chichibus inhabit.


Guillaume Barth said...

I tasted only the 2010 and was not really seduced.
I will maybe try to get my hand on a 2009 so.
Thanks you for the tasting notes.

Stefan Van Eycken said...

Thank you for your comment, Guillaume. I think it's worth making an effort to get hold of the 2009. It really is one of the best single cask Chichibus I have tried. Should be available in December from LMdW.