It’s a measure of success that the Japanese whisky industry has had to adjust the spotlight onto its faithful grain distilleries that for decades have supported its range of blends. Yeah, we don’t want to talk about single malts just now, as what we’re shipping out is a different product compared to a decade ago. Hence here, have a grain instead.
The majority of the current No Age Statement malt concepts from Japan are fairly average and mundane now, but accompanied by a price tag that seems excessive. It’s a sign of the times. Uneducated consumers being attracted by a lifestyle and being seen with a supposedly luxurious drink. Willing to pay almost any asking price encouraged on by Instagram accounts that are little more than unofficial adverts without full disclosure – we’re talking about whisky in general here – although Highland Park are a main offender. A fool and their money are easily parted. However, you’re reading this right now on Malt so you’ve already reached out for an informed and honest opinion that are qualities lacking elsewhere particularly on Instagram.
An opinion is exactly that and each one is truly valid. When it’s little more than product placement, my Instagram friends become little more than mannequins in a department store. Arguably, the Harvey Nicks contingent probably know more about the whisky… The core principles we have here are honesty and full disclosure. If we’ve been invited somewhere or given a sample or hopefully a bottle to review then it’s stated. Unlike other destinations such offerings do not translate into a positive or lukewarm review and Malt is fully of countless such examples.
During November I’ve been dashing around the UK and Europe so it’s a been a rather hectic few weeks. The Whiskybase Gathering remains a highlight and one I’d like to repeat in 2018; planned holidays permitting. On the return leg from Rotterdam I found myself wandering the efficient Schipol Airport and Duty Free. I’ve talked about this retail space previously in my Cardhu 12 year old review when in Spain – yeah like I said, I’ve been around this month.
Duty Free nowadays is a desolate place full of whiskies that lack actual details and instead proclaim marketing tales or luxurious quotes without telling you much about the whisky itself. Bruichladdich seems to be making a big push into this space and trying to tempt custom with the promise of a free backpack if you spent x-amount. The days of value seem a distant memory. I find that it’s only the special discounted deals that harbour any promise and often for whiskies you can easily purchase at home. Hence this Suntory Chita acquisition that supposedly had 30% off its normal price and came in at 35 Euros. This is where the Internet and your mobile phone truly comes alive. A quick search revealed that yes normally the Chita in the UK is around £50 so even with the disastrous Sterling exchange rate we’re seeing this did represent a good deal.
Chita distillery itself until recently was locked away in the Suntory closet. Occasionally mentioned in passing but never truly discussed. Debuting in September 2015, the Chita was primarily aimed at the burgeoning highball market in Japanese before shipping out overseas to the vibrant mixology market. The distillery itself starting producing in 1973, which is always a fine vintage for anything whisky wise. Very little information is in the public domain about grain distilleries in general and given the competitive nature of the Japanese market between the main producers its even more scarce. Here we’ll refer to the whisky book of 2017 in the form of Whisky Rising by Stefan Van Eycken. Chita mainly utilises corn before 4 different continuous stills combinations are introduced – 2 results in a heavy spirit, 3 a medium style and all 4 produces a neutral spirit. The resulting spirit is shipped away for maturation and whilst Chita has a presence internationally nowadays, there are no tours or sexy advertising around what is an industrial producer.
To introduce some complexity, Suntory have used several cask types (sherry, wine, bourbon) within the blend to create this whisky.
The Chita Suntory Whisky – review
Colour: autumn golden leaf
On the nose: sandal wood and a light varnish are the immediate impressions. A little banana moving into a gentle vanilla. Gentle is the main criteria here as there’s nothing forceful or brash. A delicate nutty aspect, golden syrup and a timid honey. Noticeable there isn’t a stringent harness of alcohol you associate with many grains. Water brings out a light fruity sweetness.
In the mouth: a buttery shortbread with vanilla cream and an engaging texture. It’s very approachable and agreeable. Yes, the finish is somewhat succinct. A biscuit cereal forms the main body with ginger, apples and caramel. Now, water on the palate does unlock more vibrancy, particularly around the spices with black pepper, cardamom and wood elements plus a floral nature.
A very easy drinking whisky that has just enough character to warrant further attention on its own. Yes, you can stick it into various things but we’re a whisky/whiskey club here at Malt and stuff has to stand up on its own 2 feet. The £50 retail price does seem excessive for what is a mass produced spirit and at around £30-ish it feels just about right. If you’re reading this and standing in an airport wondering what to buy then if the price is right this could be the one.