Third year in a row and January turns out to be yet again the month for the Japanese. Now it’s not like I had it planned on purpose, but I must admit that when I bought this whisky last month, I felt I’d rather open it for later and January seemed the better fit considering it did have some oriental history to it. And since the previous two years had me writing more around Suntory’s malt distillery, Yamazaki and it’s produce, I felt it better to walk astray and try one of the lesser known siblings from the Suntory stable-house- The Chita!
The Chita distillery, Suntory’s answer for all things grain was founded in 1972 and located at Aichi Prefecture. This whisky though introduced during the later half of 2015 shouldn’t be mistaken as the only expression from this distillery. You’d be surprised to know that the distillery itself is home to some of the more popular Suntory blends – Kakubin, Suntory Old and the ever so famous Hibiki. Funny thing is much of its popularity was founded over the last two years or so, blame Suntory’s Malt distilleries, Yamazaki and Hakushu who hogged much of the limelight.
Now although Japanese whisky has drawn a lot of parallel from Scottish whisky traditions their choice of grain here has been a bit of a move away – corn being their primary ingredient. The spirit here is produced using a process called Continuous Distillation, where the distillate is made to pass through a series of columns. And more the distillate interacts with the column stills, the cleaner and more higher in proof it tends to be – not exactly a good thing! Chita itself is a blend of three styles, each different from the next due to varying distillations – heavy, light and an ‘in between’. The heavier spirit is a distillate from two columns, the lightest being a by-product of four and the third distilled using three. The contents too are matured in a varied choice of casks- American Bourbon, Spanish and Wine, which to me should introduce some level of complexity.
The bottle and much of its packaging mirrors the Yamazaki and Hakushu malt expressions, except for the colour of course. The Chita’s cardboard box is a plush indigo, a clear winner and a cut above the rather mundane Yamazaki 12 boxing. The whisky is housed in a clear bottle adorned with a dark grey neck brace, “Chita” written in Japanese calligraphy and sprinkles of minor details etched over the labeling- simplistic but yet well-endowed.
Eye: Pale Gold
Nose: Appears light at first, creamy with a few drops of rose water. It gradually opens up to reveal honey, vanilla and some creme brulee. There’s some fruit – coconuts and peaches backed up by wood, cinnamon, nutmeg shavings and some mild spice.
Taste: A rich fusion of honey, caramel and vanilla cake; some raisins combined with traces of tropical fruits which then mellows down to moist wood and pepper.
Finish : Short to medium – Light woodiness and spice.
The Chita as are with most whiskies from the Suntory distillery a treat on the nose. The varied maturation has reflected well with a rich array of notes that with time keeps pulling your nose towards the tumbler. A lot of the fruitiness comes from it’s interaction with the American oak while the spice to me seems to be borrowed from it’s time in the European barrels.
On the palate the play tends to be a bit subtle after the initial flurry of sweetness and that could be because of some of the lighter, cleaner whisky styles that make up the blend. Much of its weakened flavor due to the four column distillation that in all likelihood could have bled it almost dry, giving very little for earth, wood and temperature to work with.
The Chita is a great grain whisky if you can forgive its rather average performance on the finish. It would easily fall as one of those spirits ideal for folks who love the lighter, less peatier spectrum. It is a bit expensive at $75 Australian for a grain but a must try.
Preference : Neat.