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Monday, August 28, 2023

Chichibu 2017 W for Seibu Department Store

I usually commit two weeks of old spirit reviews in honor of my own age ticking up one more year, but 2023 will be different. This second week is all about stuff I like; two brands I adore and one secret beloved pour. Sorry for the rhyme, kinda.

Today: Chichibu, my favorite Japanese distillery. Yes, my favorite. Once Yamazaki and Yoichi start offering up obtainable and delicious (and preferably age-stated) whisky again, then a Taste Off will be in order. As noted in previous reviews, my palate says Chichibu is the only new distillery, anywhere in the world, whose output matches or surpasses its hype. Sadly, their primary and secondary market prices are very very very very very steep. But if you go to Japan, you may find a good number of whisky bars with Chichibu surprises awaiting your glass.

I just checked, and today's 'Bu is my last sample. 😿  For now. 😼  It's also a pour about which I know nearly nothing.

Seibu, Ikebukuro.
Their restaurants and food merchants look awesome. I must go there next time.
(pic source)

Each year, from 2015 to 2020, the Seibu department store(s) sold a pair of exclusive cask strength Chichibu bottlings, an "S" whisky and a "W" whisky. I can tell you that the bottles' listed year, like "2017", refers to the bottling year, not the distillation year. But I'm not sure what the "S" and "W" refer to. The Ikebukuro store carries the "W" appellation on some Japanese sites, so is there an "S" store too? Can anyone help a brother out here?

Anyway, today's baby bomber has that "W" on the label. Will that "W" = "Winner"?

Distillery: Chichibu #1
Location: Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, Japan
Ownership: Venture Whisky
Range: Ichiro's Malt
Bottled: 2017
Age: ???
Maturation: ???
Outturn: ???
Exclusive to: Seibu
Alcohol by Volume: 61%
(from a bottle split)


Key lime pie, ground cloves, and yuzu gelatin fill the nose's foreground. A carrot-ginger-orange juice sits in the middle. Background hints of brine and paprika offer a fun twist. Unsurprisingly the alcohol content bites back in the palate. Once the tongue recovers, one may find lots and lots of malt, followed by mint leaves and baked apples. Ultra-tart citrus and a touch of mango arrive in later sips. The key lime pie returns for the finish, as does as the mango and barley.

DILUTED to ~50%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

It's a different whisky now. The nose has different fruits (honeydew and lemons), a hint of dessert (hazelnuts and vanilla), and a bit more edge, with bold ocean and concrete notes. The mildly sweet palate is full of creamy barley things, with a squeeze of orange in the background. The finish matches the palate, while also bringing in a hint of yeast.


In my limited Chichibu experience (~15 bottlings), I've found their each of their whiskies fitting into one of three categories: 1.) Reads older than its age; 2.) Unreasonably beautiful youth; 3.) Close to new make. Today's 'Bu plops into the 3rd group. The nose wins (of course), but I always enjoy barley-forward palates. At the same time, the palate feels limited compared to the distillery's other offerings, and it even lost some complexity when diluted. While the whisky plays in a different league than the vast majority of the world whisky market's other ultra-young bottles, it's not the distillery at its best. I'd still drink it any day, though!

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - I ain't looking
Rating - 84

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