CHICHIBU! In the current whisky climate, that is a sure attention grabber. The last few months have been rife with Chichibu releases (and rumours of releases) but, much like 2019, this whisky lover has been left thinking “there was so much promise, but where did it go?”. With bottles flying off store shelves almost as soon as they are stocked, ballots bound to disappoint the masses (really, who does win these?) and resale prices on auction reaching new heights, times have been tough for Chichibu fans, making me feel like I should find some distance from the hype.
Thankfully, the 11,550 bottle release of Chichibu’s 10th anniversary edition of “The Peated” dropped just in time to herald the arrival of summer. My infatuation with this distillery is no secret, I think the craft and attention to detail is second to none. Add to that a (hopefully) good cask selection and a bit of peat? That might just be the start of some summer lovin’.
Speaking of, the bottles arrived in Paris first and it was in the city of love the flames of romance started to burn again. It should be no surprise that much as I try to break away and meet new bottles, Chichibu draws me back like a moth to a flame. A chance meeting in La Maison du Whisky, and I knew I would not be leaving alone. Although I dawdled (I wasn’t really supposed to be buying any whisky this trip), my friends finally forced me to buy The Peated just so we could get on with the rest of our day. Finding a Chichibu in Paris was like fate…
From Hepburn to Hemingway, the good and the great have waxed lyrical about Paris. Inspirational quotes abound, but this is a whisky review, not a throwback Instagram post about my gap year abroad. Similarly, these days, there’s no end to the warm words spoke about Chichibu. I won’t claim to be any different. Since discovering the distillery, Chichibu has been one of this author’s passions. The bottle captures your eye like the Eiffel Tower. The quality is such that the nose can range from the freshest of boulangeries to the most delicate of wines. There’s the flavour, with such beauty and intricacy that you feel you have toured the entirety of the Louvre with time to spare for the Musée d’Orsay. Then you’re left with a finish that will take you the lengths of the Champs-Élysées. Perhaps this is all a little much, but, like most, I get caught up in the cities and whisky that capture me.
However, a wise person once told me that the associations we make with quality can completely depend on our circumstances at the time. A Chichibu on a night in Paris? Idyllic. It might as well have been Blanton’s on a patio under the Brooklyn Bridge or scotch on a clear evening on Skye. So, to make sure my heart didn’t get the better of my head, I bought a second bottle in London – thank you The Whisky Exchange for not letting the hoarders and the flippers snap up all of these for once. I immediately opened this bottle with friends (OK, Instagram gave this one away) and kept some aside to taste in the quiet of my own home.
This is another young release (circa 5 years-old), bottled at 55.5% and presented in the distillery’s iconic bottle and box. After a few rendezvous, now was the defining moment – would it be true love or would I be left wishing I could finally move on?
Chichibu The Peated 2018 – review
Colour: Bright gold
On the nose: Lively. Fresh lemons get right in your face, then ease off a bit to let cereal, grain and malt notes through. Light honey and minerality sit alongside each other. More citrus enters the mix – grapefruit and blood oranges. Light floral aromas dance in and out, never staying long, with hints of more fruit (apple and pear this time) and, almost as an afterthought, the scent of soft smoke.
In the mouth: The citrus flavours hit first – lemon peel that softens into lemon [balm]. A light bit of smoke works its way throughout the dram – again, a soft kind of peat, which settles nicely, so it works. That smoke encourages a nice bit of meatiness to shine through – Wiltshire cured ham. The minerality from the nose arrives and the orchard fruits eventually emerge to add a bit of balanced sweetness to the meaty and grainy flavours. The citrus bursts through from time to time alongside vanilla and some popping candy. There is a nice level of spice throughout that leads nicely into the long finish that lasts in the mouth. Complemented by the oak and malt flavours, you get a nice balance to allow you to appreciate this as long as possible.
Overall, this is a very good whisky. The barrels added a lot to the flavours, but it is still very much a demonstration of the quality of the underlying Chichibu spirit rather than a complex maturation process designed to force through some semblance of balance.
So, after a few tastes what you’re left with is a lovely dram that didn’t knock me head over heels but at entirely pleasant the whole way through. I’m not going to complain about this. However, I’m not going to shout to the moon and back that everyone needs to save this for a special occasion. In fact, this is a great whisky to share with whisky lovers and novices alike.
I am happy to report that this bottle has since been shared further, leaving it down to its last drams. I’m not one to be clingy so it’s time to keep exploring. But there have been a few new releases for restaurants here in London, so this summer fling may not be over yet.
And with success upon success at each outturn, Chichibu, like France, is caught in the midst of a heat wave, leaving us all in anticipation of what comes next. Because who doesn’t love Paris When It Sizzles…
Images kindly provided by not the wonderful evergreen Jason, but rather Noortje aka @whiskylifestyle