Chichibu 2011/2016 for Chichibu Whisky Matsuri

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
The third edition of the Chichibu Whisky Matsuri saw a record number of 3,300 people flocking to the area. It’s fast becoming one of the most popular whisky festivals in Japan, and every year there’s a special single cask bottling (Chichibu, of course) for the festival, which is obviously an extra motivating factor. With 10 times as many people as bottles available, it’s organized as a lottery, which is fair… In the current Japanese whisky climate, those are still pretty good odds, 1 out of 10.

Last year’s release was one of our favourite Chichibu single casks to date (2011/2015, #3292, matured in an Imperial stout barrel). Let’s see what this year’s release is like.

Chichibu 2011/2016 (#1431, mizunara heads hogshead, 61%, 282btls.)

On the nose, the initial impressions are: sour apples, lemon meringue pie, kocha (tea) umeshu and baklava. It’s slightly mineral – even a bit maritime – and there are subtle hints of wood smoke, as well.

On the palate, it’s quite fiery. You get the same round sour notes hinted at by the nose – this time more akin to underripe plums and grapefruit sorbet –, together with a gentle sweetness (yoghurt candy, pancakes with honey), grape seeds and some white pepper. After a while, and with a few drops of water, there’s a suggestion of dried apple mango.

The finish is long on rhubarb jam and fukinoto (butterbur sprout) tempura. Something amazing happens if you take a sip of water afterwards: in the retro-olfaction you then get chocolate mousse with espresso jelly!

This year’s bottle is more austere – less “sexy”, if you like – than last year’s Chichibu Whisky Matsuri bottle and it requires patience and a bit of imagination, but it’s a fascinating dram. Great selection by the matsuri folks. It can still be tried by the glass at many bars in Tokyo, so don’t pass it up if you have the chance!


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