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Chichibu distillery is located in the town of Chichibu, close to the city of Saitama and about 120 kilometres to the northwest of Tokyo. Ichiro Akuto, the distillery’s charismatic founder, started construction planning in 2007, and after completing the distillery, a bottling plant and a warehouse he began distilling in the spring of 2008. The distillery equipment was made in and imported from Scotland, with the exception of the mash tun that was purchased from a local brewery. Ichiro Akuto’s long-term plan is to eventually grow, malt and peat his own barley but at present the barley is imported from England as well as from Germany, and the peat is brought in from Scotland. ‘On The Way’ was bottled in 2013 with an outturn of 9,900 bottles and is a vatting of three casks: 1) a Mizunara hogshead from 2008, 2) a Bourbon barrel from ‘The Floor Malted’ batch of 2009, and 3) a second Bourbon barrel from ‘The Floor Malted’ batch of 2010.
The nose starts with an initial alcohol burn, then quickly develops an astonishingly sweet maltiness that is almost perfumy and reminiscent of incense. There are lemon cookies, vanilla and caramel, followed by hints of sawdust. With water there is less alcohol impact, however the perfumy flavours are diminished, too.
The palate is medium-bodied, spicy and dry. The vanilla and lemon flavours are back, accompanied by intense wood spiciness. With water the spiciness subsides a bit, and flavours such as mint and cinnamon come to the fore.
The finish is of medium length and very dry.
What is most surprising about this single malt is its highly unusual, perfumy nose, which seems to be due to the Mizunara cask used for the vatting. Unusual though it might be, I quite liked this! Compared with the nose both palate and finish are less complex and are dominated by intense wood spiciness, not something that I look for in whisky. Still, this is another intriguing bottling from Chichibu that I thoroughly enjoyed tasting. As always, many thanks for the sample, Clint A.!