Tag Archives: Japanese

The Chita, Japanese single grain

Bought: World of Whisky (Heathrow), 27th June 2017

Ratings:
79/100 – Whiskybase (average from 16 member votes)
3.6/5 – Distiller.com (average from 53 votes)

When it comes to understanding Japanese whisky distilleries and their brands I’m forever getting my Nikkas in a twist! So when I spotted this new Chita single grain I decided it was time to get my knowledge up to speed. Is ‘Chita’ a distillery or just a brand name? Well it’s a distillery founded in 1972 and owned by Suntory. As such its principal use is in Suntory blends, e.g., the Hibiki. Suntory own the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries, which provide the single malts that blend with the Chita grain to create such products as the Hibiki ‘Harmony’.

My curiosity didn’t end there and I wondered if there were any other grain distilleries in Japan. Miyagikyo distillery, owned by Nikka, have Coffey stills used for grain distillation for Nikka malts, and the Fuji Gotemba distillery also produce grain whisky. Of the 9 distilleries in Japan, Chita appears to be the only one that’s sole purpose is to produce single grain. During my search I found two other single grain distilleries, which have sadly now closed, the Nishinomiya Distillery (closed in 1999, owned by Nikka) and Kawasaki Distillery (ceased whisky production c.2006).

The new Chita single grain whisky, 43%, has been matured in a combination of sherry, bourbon and wine casks. Reviews on Whiskybase and Distiller.com are above average with comments of “for a grain whisky, it has substantial complexity”, “a grain whisky that in my view progresses nicely from nose to finish”, “seems like a quality pour” and “if you like the sweetness and smoothness of Hibiki, this is your whisky”.

I suspect that Jim Murray, author of the ‘Whisky Bible’, reviewed this single grain for his 2016 edition when it was only available in Japan. His description and 43% volume certainly match the bottle now available in the UK. He scores it 92.5/100, which classifies it as “brilliant”.

Tasting notes from ‘Master of Malt’:

Nose: Honeydew melon, citrus and honey’d cereal.
Palate: Vanilla sponge cake and more honey. A touch of orchard blossom.
Finish: Medium length, rather zesty.

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Nikka Taketsuru ‘Pure Malt’

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016

Ratings:
82.34/100 – Whiskybase (average from 120 member votes)
89/100 – Scotch Test Dummies (their video review below)

The details of this Japanese blend on The Whisky Exchange (TWE) reads, “Taketsuru’s no-age-statement blended malt contains a high percentage of malt from Miyagikyo, with the remainder coming from Yoichi. Aged on average for around 10 years in a variety of different cask types, including some sherry wood for extra richness.”

TWE are selling a full 70cl for £47.95, which is quite expensive but it seems this whisky is better than your average blend no matter what its country of origin. Scoring 82.34/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark. Comments include “Elegance and finness. Excellent sipping whisky.” And “A lovely smooth and delicate malt, I highly recommend this one, nothing flash about it but hits the spot every time.”

Here are Scotch Test Dummies with their review on You Tube (July 2016):

nikka-taketsuru-pure-malt-nas-5cl

Suntory ‘Kakubin’

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016

Ratings:
92/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
73.7/100 – Whiskybase (average from 12 member vote)

This Japanese blend is a bit of a curiosity, especially when you compare the Whisky Bible rating to the average score on Whiskybase. Jim Murray’s mark of 92/100 in his Whisky Bible 2017 classifies this whisky as ‘brilliant’. His review consists of “absolutely brilliant blend of stunningly refreshing and complex character. One of the most improved brands in the world.” It seems a shame then that the only place on Whiskybase that’s selling it says it’s discontinued. Because of that they’re charging €50 for a bottle when a Whiskybase member says it sells for the equivalent of €20 in Japan.

Scoring nearly 74/100 on Whiskybase suggests a poor-to-average whisky. Comments include, “cheap rice wine” and “this isn’t a great whisky but it is certainly an unusual, fascinating and educational one. It has its moments too – that candid vodka note is pleasing in this example and the balance between the spice, sour citrus and sugar is good. Overall though it’s totally underpowered and rather an oddity.”

Here’s Frozen Summers with his review on You Tube (May 2015):

suntory-kakubin-nas-5cl

Super Nikka

Bought: Whiskysite, Holland, 26th October 2015

Ratings:
93/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
79/100 – Whiskybase (from 18 member votes)

The ‘Super Nikka’ blend popped onto my radar when I noticed its excellent score in the Whisky Bible. It became more interesting when I couldn’t find it anywhere in the UK and various places said it had been discontinued. When I visited my local Whisky Shop they said they are constantly being asked for Japanese whisky and the popularity is exceeding their supply. Not only single malts but blends are vanishing off the shelves. You have to think this craze is a passing phase but will there be any Super Nikka left when it ends?

Thankfully several online shops in Holland and across Europe have bottles of the Super Nikka and at a very reasonable price too. Although 79/100 on Whiskybase is nothing more than a ‘good’ whisky by their standards it’s Jim Murray’s 93/100 in his Whisky Bible that makes the ‘Super’ stand out. 93/100 classifies this Japanese blend as “brilliant” and Mr Murray remarks “a very, very fine blend which makes no apology whatsoever for the peaty complexity of Yoichi malt. Now, with less caramel, it’s pretty classy stuff. However, Nikka being Nikka you might find the occasional bottling that is entirely devoid of peat, more honeyed and lighter in style (89/100 – no less a quality turn, obviously). Either way, an absolutely brilliant day-to-day, anytime, any place dram. One of the true 24-carat, super nova commonplace blends not just in Japan, but in the world.” Who wouldn’t want a bottle of Super Nikka after a review like that?!

Unfortunately I bought this Super Nikka with my collector’s hat on before an online auction in December 2015 where a bottle sold for a measly £18.50. The month before in the same auction site a bottle went for £52.50, such is the up and down nature of the desire for Japanese whisky. Heck, I might just have to drink it instead of treating it as an investment! I’m curious to see if I have a peated or unpeated version.

Here’s Whisky.com with their You Tube review (August 2016):

Super Nikka 70cl

Hibiki Suntory 12-year-old

Bought: Waitrose, 14th July 2015

Ratings:
89/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
89/100 – Ralfy of www.ralfy.com (his video below from Oct 2011)
83.92/100 – Whiskybase (average from 14 member votes)

Here’s a Japanese blend that’s been teasing me on the shelves of my local Waitrose supermarket for what seems like years. As Ralfy says in his video below, it’s the bottle shape that first catches your eye and you wonder if the content is any good. Apparently it is! Jim Murray’s score of 89/100 in his Whisky Bible classifies this dram as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying” and his review consists of “a sensual whisky full of lightly sugared riches”.

Both Ralfy and Jim Murray’s reviews date back to 2011 so I’m hoping my bottle from 2015 contains a whisky of similar class and quality. Getting nearly 84/100 on Whiskybase is excellent, and this mark is specific to the 50cl bottling (the one I have). Ralfy reviews the 70cl, which gets 83/100 on Whiskybase (but admittedly from 173 votes compared to 14 for the smaller 50cl). In general it seems this whisky is a nice little sipper and the bottle looks good on the sideboard too!

Hibiki Suntory 12yo 50cl

Suntory Royal – Japanese Blended Whisky

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 20th May 2015

Ratings:
88/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
4.5/5 – Master of Malt (average from 2 reviews)

I attempted to buy two miniatures of this Japanese blend at auction but ended up with the tatty one with the torn label. Even so it cost me £4.75. The bottle in better condition went for £8.25. I’m sure a year or so ago I could have got it for £3 but it goes to show the rise in popularity of Japanese whisky of late, even for a blend! 5 months before this auction a full bottle sold for £37.50.

As I write, The Whisky Exchange are selling a full bottle of this blend for £89.95. The details they give are: “Suntory Royal blended whisky was first introduced in 1960 to mark the company’s 60th anniversary. Light and easy to drink, this is a superb entry-level Japanese whisky.”

A review can be found here on Pete Drinks.

Suntory Royal 5cl

Nikka White Label

Bought: Amazon, 30th December 2014

Ratings:
90-92/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
81.23/100 – Whiskybase (average from 148 member votes)

Amazon got me again with another great discount in a “Daily Deal”. This Japanese vatted malt comes in 3 different colours: white, red and black. Both the red and the black are based purely on Japanese whiskies but the white includes an element of Islay. What exactly this means is a bit of a mystery, along with the Islay distillery adding the influence. But ‘guesswork’ is part of the fun in the world of whisky, or do I mean ‘frustration’? Curiously Phil of Whisky Wednesday says in his video below that the peat in the White Label comes from the Japanese brands of Yoichi and Miyagikyo, which isn’t what my initial research revealed. Perhaps my initial source was simply hinting at the peat connection with Islay but the White Label is 100% Japanese whisky.

There are 3 different versions of the white label in the Whisky Bible 2015 scoring 90/100, 91/100 and 92/100. Each has a different batch number that sadly doesn’t match anything printed on mine. Jim Murray, the bible author, includes remarks in his reviews of “big peaty number”, “real class” and “peculiarly Japanese feel to this delicately peated delight”. So, depending on the blend, I could either have a “big peaty number” or a “delicately peated delight” or something in between. Whichever it is, anything scoring between 90-93.5/100 is considered “brilliant” in the bible.

Scoring over 81/100 on Whiskybase is very good with comments of “I found this a very friendly whiskey, fit for most occasions” and “not bad, the peat profile was very present but subtle”.

Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their thoughts about the Nikka White Label, which they score 8/10 (YouTube May 2017):

Nikka White Label 50cl

Yoichi 10-year-old

Bought: Amazon, 5th December 2014

Ratings:
83.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2013
86/100 – RalfyHis YouTube review here (April 2009)

The very first whisky book I got that started my collecting crazy was Ian Buxton’s ‘101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die’. My initial idea was to acquire all 101 until I realised that some were impossible to purchase in the UK. Clearly the author never meant for anyone to take his title seriously. And with another book mentioning 1001 whiskies, my liver is thankful I failed before adding a further 900!

Now, where was I?! Ah yes, the Yoichi 10yo is the last whisky mentioned in the 101 book. I might not have all of them but I feel a sense of completion by having the very last one. The history of the distillery is worth a read but Ian Buxton finishes with his tasting notes, which are:

Nose: Bold and direct, with peat evident. Light citrus notes.
Taste: Minty chocolate and orange oil. Creamy mouth feel and delicate peat smoke.
Finish: Sweetness, peat and some antiseptic notes in alternate waves.

I will look out for these when I try it.

I had to go back to the Whisky Bible 2013 to find the Yoichi 10yo, so it is probably a different batch to the version I have. Jim Murray expresses shock that the release he tastes isn’t as good as he’s tried in the past and concludes with “Pleasant. Drinkable. But dull.” In the 2009 edition of the Bible there were numerous batches of the 10yo listed, with the most recent scoring 89/100. I’m curious to see where my bottle falls in the varying scale of Yoichi, and is its demise from the Bible a sign that it’s been discontinued?! Surely not another distillery moving to non-age statement releases?!

Yoichi 10yo 70cl

Nikka Gold & Gold 5cl

Bought – Justminiatures, 13th November 2013

Ratings:
76/100 – Serge Valentin, Whiskyfun.com – tasting notes here

You know how they say you’re never more than 7 connections away from everyone in the world? Well, if you drink Nikka Gold & Gold (G&G), you share a connection with the late, great Orson Welles. The Japanese blend was first released in 1968 and in the 1970s Orson Welles made some adverts for the whisky, such as this one – Nikka G&G 1975 YouTube

Nikka Gold and Gold Japanese 5cl