Tag Archive: 55-60% ABV


Ichiro: Chichibu: Single Cask: No 2650 (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 6 Year: 59.3% ABV)

Visual: Deep rich gold.

Nose: Cherries and black cherries. Rich red wine. Slight darker red wine notes as well. Shortbread. Red grapes. Water makes lightly tarry and oily.

Body: Creamy. Cherries. Sweet red wine. Water brings apricot, plums and light sulphur. Chewy feel. Fudge.

Finish: Black cherry. Creamy. A mix of rye and bourbon whisky notes. Apricot. Water adds plums, lightly grassy. Light charred notes and greenery.

Conclusion: It is odd, looking at these notes, I am using a lot of the same words that I used to describe the port pipes Chichibu whisky, but when you examine them holistically rather than point by point they are very different whiskies. For example. This leans heavier on the darker fruit, and less on the lighter fruit, which instantly creates a darker, heavier impression on the tongue and in the mind.

It is heavy on the dark red wine notes, sweet but with the harder charred oak notes below. Again most of the base spirit character is lost to the weight of the barrel ageing, but the greenery notes do come out with a lot of water added. It is a lot creamier than the other Chichibu I tried tonight, giving a nice, smooth mouthfeel.

This is a rewarding dark whisky, but does not really stand out from the other similarly sherry aged whiskies around and you can get them a lot cheaper than this. This is a very good whisky, but despite that it is not a stand out one. If you like sherry, then this does sherry ageing very obviously, utterly laden with dark fruit, but from that the base character is overwhelmed.

Glad to have tried it, but there are better examples of sherry you can buy for less.

Background:. One final Chichibu whisky of the tasting – this one a single cask – cask no 2650 to be exact, aged from 2010 to 2016, so, six years aged I guess, ish. This one is a travel exclusive, so I presume only available at certain airports. Again, a bloomin’ hard one to get hold of then. This was aged first in bourbon casks then finished in oloroso sherry casks. Due to this being from a tasting, with the usual distractions coming from cool info being given by the host, chatting, smaller measures, etc my notes will be a tad shorter than usual. However the chance to try and do notes on these five whiskies that would set me back silly money if I tried to buy them all individually meant that I gave it my best shot. This Chichubu tasting was done at Independent Spirit but the whisky was provided by James, a private collector who did the tasting itself. At twenty five quid it was ridiculously good value. Chichibu is a tiny distillery that started operating in 2008 and I think is the newest Japanese distillery still. Never tried their stuff, but had heard many good things about them before going in.

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Ichiro: Chichibu: Cask Strength Port Pipes 2012 (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 5 Year: 59 % ABV)

Visual: Deep ruddy red touched gold.

Nose: Red and black cherries. Liquorice. Plums. Raisins. Pencil shavings. Subtle custard. Cherry blossom. Water adds more pencil shavings and more liquorice.

Body: Sweet dessert wine. Cherries. Strawberries. Digestive biscuits. Water brings out oak and brown bread.

Finish: : Strawberries. Oak. Port. Blackberries and blueberries. Alcohol air. Raisins. Water makes lightly grassy. Sweet apples. Apricot. Molasses touch.

Conclusion: Oh this is so nice – an experience like utterly sweet dessert wine mixed in with wodges of sweet red fruit. It is not light, but similarly it is not a fiery one. While I will advise using water to find your right balance for the flavour, that is all your really need the water for as it is not harsh despite the stupendous abv.

While water helps find the sweet spot, your are getting a lot from the whisky from the very first moment. Huge red fruit from the port ageing – strawberries, cherries, lots of red wine, lots of dessert wine and lots of port. The greenery notes that I have come to, over the past hour or so, associate with the Chichibu spirit do come out, but you need a lot of water to do so and it is only a small backing behind the port influence. Is is the benefit and flaw or port ageing that it can punch out over nearly anything.

Now, with that tiny point to keep in mind, this is delightful. Full of sweet fruit, but not sickly – clean feeling but you can get the more greenery and rustic character out of it if you really try. It has the bright red fruit, and darker and heavier fruit notes below, hitting the high and low of that range. An amazing one to try and probably the standout of the five as long as the port dominance does not bother you.

Background:I am a sucker for whisky that is aged in port pipes, it seems to add so much to a whisky. Though it can be very dominant and override the base spirit some times, so a treat best enjoyed in moderation in my experience. If I took my notes correctly (again, alcohol was involved..) this is an exclusive bottling for the Mitsukoshi Isetan department stores in Japan, so I considered myself very lucky to get to try it. This was bottled 2017 so I am estimating it as a 5 year based on that. Due to this being from a tasting, with the usual distractions coming from cool info being given by the host, chatting, smaller measures, etc my notes will be a tad shorter than usual. However the chance to try and do notes on these five whiskies that would set me back silly money if I tried to buy them all individually meant that I gave it my best shot. This Chichubu tasting was done at Independent Spirit but the whisky was provided by James, a private collector who did the tasting itself. At twenty five quid it was ridiculously good value. Chichibu is a tiny distillery that started operating in 2008 and I think is the newest Japanese distillery still. Never tried their stuff, but had heard many good things about them before going in.

Ichiro: Chichubu: IPA Cask Finish 2017 (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 57.5% ABV)

Visual: Deep gold with slow thin streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Thick. Menthol liqueur. Peppermint. Greenery. Stewed apricots. Pine needles. Water adds more evident mint leaves. Guava.

Body: Apricot. Oily. Alcohol weight. Water adds passion-fruit and guava. More oils. Greenery. More water adds more fruit including orange and much more guava.

Finish: Menthol. Oily. Hop oils. Tarry notes. Pine needles. Passion fruit. Water adds orange jelly sweets.

Conclusion: First impressions on this was was pretty unimpressive. It was really thick, really oily on the aroma, which can be good points, but here it just felt muggy. The first sips were equally oily with a thick, burning character from the alcohol strength which felt rougher than the other, equally high strength Chichibu’s I had tried that night. I was beginning to think that between this and the Glenfiddich IPA cask that ageing whisky in ex beer casks, or at least IPA casks, just did not work.

Now, following the usual path I then added water and – oh wow, water really did change things in a big way. Slowly but surely the oily notes shift and oily fruit notes come out. First you get apricot, then guava, which combined with the hop oil character really sells the IPA imagery that this is sold upon, while still backing it with the whisky weight of character.

It results in a very different experience- fruity, but not in the standard whisky way of sharp hits of fruit sweets, rich vinous fruit, or subtle slivers of backing fruit in the spirit, instead coming in a creamier fruit fashion and with a range of east coast to New England fruity IPA style.

This is terrible neat, but with water it show how IPA ageing should work and is a fascinating dram.

Background: Next up in the Chichibu tastings we have this unusual bottling – the 2017 bottling that has been aged in an IPA cask. This was paired with and IPA from Uiltje which I saved until I have done the majority of my notes. Again unsure of the distilled date on this so not sure of the age of it. Due to this being from a tasting, with the usual distractions coming from cool info being given by the host, chatting, smaller measures, etc my notes will be a tad shorter than usual. However the chance to try and do notes on these five whiskies that would set me back silly money if I tried to buy them all individually meant that I gave it my best shot. This Chichubu tasting was done at Independent Spirit but the whisky was provided by James, a private collector who did the tasting itself. At twenty five quid it was ridiculously good value. Chichibu is a tiny distillery that started operating in 2008 and I think is the newest Japanese distillery still. Never tried their stuff, but had heard many good things about them before going in.

Ichiro: Chichibu: The Peated 2016 (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 4 Year: 54.5% ABV)

Visual:Clear gold. Thin slow streaks.

Nose: Smokey. Beef crisps. Barbecue sausage. Charcoal. Honey barbecue sauce. Water adds spare ribs with Thai spice sauce glaze.

Body: Honey. Grapes. Sweet and smooth. Honey smoked sauce. Water adds spare ribs and thai seven spice.

Finish: Honey soaked barbecue sauce. Glazed ribs. Water adds Thai seven spice and dry beef.

Conclusion: This is much sweeter than I imagined it would be – the peat does kick out heavily early on, creating the image of a real meaty, charcoal tasting whisky. So that is what you would expect, what follows is far from that though.

It is smokey but in a real barbecue sauce fashion – glazed and spicy. It feels really thick on the tongue, the barbecue characteristics giving it a huge weight. It is oily, smoked and meaty backed in a sticky and sweeter fashion than you would usually expect from such a high peat level.

A completely different experience for a peated whisky with much more gamy meat in the meaty elements it has, so the peat it has, despite the weight, is actually a backing element here. The sweetness is thick and meaty so it doesn’t get sickly, instead bonding everything together.

Wonderful stuff.

Background: Bottled 2016 – Distilled 2012, so I am estimating the four years age statement from that. This is peated to 55 ppm, roughly equivalent to Ardbeg is peat levels I think. Due to this being from a tasting, with the usual distractions coming from cool info being given by the host, chatting, smaller measures, etc my notes will be a tad shorter than usual. However the chance to try and do notes on these five whiskies that would set me back silly money if I tried to buy them all individually meant that I gave it my best shot. This Chichubu tasting was done at Independent Spirit but the whisky was provided by James, a private collector who did the tasting itself. At twenty five quid it was ridiculously good value. Chichibu is a tiny distillery that started operating in 2008 and I think is the newest Japanese distillery still. Never tried their stuff, but had heard many good things about them before going in.

Ichiro: Chichibu: On The Way (2nd Release) (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 55.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold with fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Light greenery. Light sulphur. Pencil shavings. Forests. Water adds twigs into the mix.

Body: Honey. Apples. Strong alcohol feel. Oak. Water adds golden syrup, pears and tinned tropical fruit. Peppery. Malt toffee. Apricot and apples.

Finish: Drying. Oak. Water makes peppery. More water adds white chocolate, light mint leaves, menthol and peppermint.

Conclusion: This seems to be a mix of two main whisky trends. The first is a very greenery led set of notes – menthol, forests, open air after the rain, and the like in imagery. Against that is the fruit apricot, apples and pears. With a few exceptions this leans very green in the imagery it brings.

Obviously at over 55% abv it is a bit potent and burning neat, but despite that it still shows the greenery very openly. Water is needed though to bring out the subtlety though – still in the fields to rural imagery though – peppery notes and such. The bourbon oak influence is more subtle – there are white chocolate notes but fairly dryly delivered, and touches of tinned tropical fruit. It results in a menthol fresh, peppery dry mix at the front, but backed by rewarding subtlety if you experiment with water. It reminds me of Johnnie Walker green, but with more fire to it.

So, rewarding, very evidently young, and very green and forest feeling whisky that , with water, rewards with just enough sweet notes to offset. A very good first impression for the Distillery.

Background: Bottled 2015 – not sure of the age statement for this one. It is a mix of two bourbon casks and a mizunara hogshead if I remember rightly. There was alcohol involved, please forgive me for my missing some notes. Due to this being from a tasting, with the usual distractions coming from cool info being given by the host, chatting, smaller measures, etc my notes will be a tad shorter than usual. However the chance to try and do notes on these five whiskies that would set me back silly money if I tried to buy them all individually meant that I gave it my best shot. This Chichubu tasting was done at Independent Spirit but the whisky was provided by James, a private collector who did the tasting itself. At twenty five quid it was ridiculously good value. Chichibu is a tiny distillery that started operating in 2008 and I think is the newest Japanese distillery still. Never tried their stuff, but had heard many good things about them before going in.

Springbank: Bourbon Wood: 14 Year (Scottish Campbeltown Single Malt Whisky: 14 Year: 55.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale greened gold. Thick slow streaks.

Nose: Pencil shavings. Moss. Dry nuttiness. White chocolate and vanilla. Water adds vanilla toffee to fudge.

Body: Thick and spirity. White chocolate. Grassy. Oily character. Vanilla. Orange notes. Shreddies. Water adds lime and fudge. Still strong feel. More grassy and moss. Apples. More water adds toffee liqueur.

Finish: Menthol air. White chocolate. Nutty oils. Creamy orange. Light smoke, Water adds lime, grassy character. Peat character comes out. Apples. Marshmallows.

Conclusion: I tried this whisky first at one of Independent Spirit’s Uber whisky tastings – I was taking it easy that night so did not take any notes at the time. What I did take though was a bottle of this home with me. Ok, technically I took it home a short while later – I try not to make such purchases after alcohol has influenced my decisions.

On first sip of this, my own bottle of it, I feared that my drunken memory had fooled me – it was still a solid Springbank – grassy, mossy, smoke and hint of peat, but it didn’t live up to my memory of an excellent stand out whisky. The alcohol character gives this thick, warming, oily character that is really overwhelming and lets little of the subtlety out to play.

Still, at an abv like this has, why was I surprised? So, let us hope that water, as is usual, is the difference maker. So I added a little. Daaaamn. That was indeed, the difference maker. This is now sweeter than the average Springbank – it seems that spending its full time in bourbon wood has given a solid vanilla toffee, fudge and white chocolate set of notes that make a huge contrast to the native grass and peaty character that makes this stand out. Odder still you have this lovely apple character behind it that seems to be an element of the spirit that has not really shown itself before.

It is delightful – the slightly heavier, but not Longrow level peat character comes out now. The savoury grass notes work brilliant against the bourbon backed white chocolate sweetness. Despite me mentioning them several times the sweetness is used in a subtle way – not sickly and nowhere near overpowering the basic Springbank character. They just come together naturally to make a whisky that is very different, while still giving what makes Springbank enjoyable.

While this is not my favourite Springbank, it is probably one of the more unusual, and considering some of the odd oak casks Springbank has been aged in, that says something. It is not that it is radically showy, just that the elements come together for a very different experience – an almost marshmallow like backed Springbank thing of joy. Enjoy it if you can.

Background: As mentioned in the notes I tried this at an Uber whisky tasting at Independent Spirit and was very impressed – so was at least confident that I was going to enjoy this one when I got home. Springbank is from one of only three distilleries in Campbeltown and is probably my favourite (Though I am unsure if the Springbank set, or the more peated Longrow expressions are the best the distillery turns out). This one is, as the name would suggest, purely aged in Bourbon casks which should give quite a different character. Continuing recent efforts to break out classic tunes when drinking – put on some Jack Off Jill – Sexless Demons and Scars. Such a great, angry and powerful album.


Banff: Rare Malts 21 Year Cask Strength 1982 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 57.1% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Very oaken. Notable alcohol. Grapes and grappa. Water brings out musty grapes.

Body: Smooth and creamy. Sherry trifle. Rapidly becomes burning alcohol strength if held. Cherries. Vanilla toffee. Grapes. Water brings brandy cream. Cinnamon. Fudge. Rich red grapes.

Finish: Shortbread. Alcohol air. Quince rakija. White grapes. Oak. Slight tannins. Water brings brandy cream. White grapes and red grapes. Malt chocolate.

Conclusion: I tried this first a few days ago – It, erm, it wasn’t very good. It was insanely oaken, insanely tannins filled and the alcohol was very heavy. Of course that last one was a given considering the abv, but playing with water just seemed to bring out more tannins which didn’t help it.

Bad start eh? But now let me be fair – I now nearly always do my notes a few days after opening as I’ve found whisky can be a bit rough until it has had time to air. Also, I only had the local water to use – which, while ok for drinking, is very hard water, and doesn’t work well in whisky. So, now I return to it with a bit of time to open up, and with some much softer water to bring it down to a respectable abv – so I ask, is it still a disappointment? Or does it recover?

Well, even with the intense alcohol neat it does seem different – creamier for one, with sherry trifle and grape notes. It still goes to numbing levels of alcohol heat too quickly, and leans very heavily on tannins as a main flavour, so I’m going to go straight to adding water and see if that helps.

Water brings out all the goodness hidden beneath the alcohol – the sherry trifle becomes full force, mixed with sweet vanilla toffee and more evident grapes. The tannins still head out but now are balanced by brandy cream and cinnamon. It never changes too much from this point, even with more water – it just becomes creamier and more easy to drink, oh and maybe sweeter in the grapes. It really is led by those sweet cherries, cream and grapes.

So a) This is a very good whisky now – nearly as good as its very high reputation with the oak and tannins balanced against sherry trifle and red fruit. Creamy and very full bodied, with green fruit notes keeping it fresh. Also b) Yeah, this is very expensive, and especially now where it is significantly more costly then when I grabbed it.

If you are going to go for an expensive dead whisky – this is one where the quality is very high indeed – however – the, say, 21 year sherried Timorous Beastie blended malt gives similar notes at way, way less cost. As an experience, and to have been able to have had whisky from this distillery – I am glad I have this. However if you want a similar quality whisky, albeit without the room to experiment of the cask strength – I would say go for the Timorous Beastie.

Background: I’ve had this in the cupboard for a blooming long time now, I kept saving it for a special occasion, but nothing seemed special enough. So one day I just randomly broke it open. As mentioned in the main notes I gave a few days for it to air, as I have found this generally helps get the best experience rather than doing notes on the first pour. This is a dead distillery – I try and grab a (relatively) cheaper example of these when I can afford them, and drink them later, as frankly they ain’t going to get any cheaper if I wait to when I’m just about to drink them to buy them. To really get in the mood I put on my favourite of the past decade(ish) of Iron Maiden – A Matter Of Life and Death. Freaking fantastic album.

Kavalan: Solist: Port Cask Strength (Taiwanese Single Malt Whisky: 57.8% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy bronzed colour.

Viscosity: Mix of slow thin and fast thick streaks.

Nose: Treacle. Stewed fruit. Dried apricot. Light prunes. Caramel. Water adds toffee and light moss notes.

Body: Treacle. Very fiery. Water adds caramel. Port soaked raisins. Molasses. Very thick indeed. More water adds apple.

Finish: Fiery. Water is needed to get caramel. Dry spice – Thai 7 spice style. Raisins. Madeira. Still numbing. Treacle. Apples.

Conclusion: This is thick, heavy and very numbing. Even more numbing than even what you would expect from a heavy nearly 58% abv. It is treacle level thick and with an accompanying taste. Neat I had serious difficulty getting enough flavours to do notes – it was that numbing. I can only really speak of it properly as an experience with differing levels of water.

There, with water, you get a real heavy stewed fruit, treacle weighted and caramel thick whisky – it is almost molasses like in the thickness and intensity of flavour. It is one where I can see the appeal, while having to admit that it doesn’t overly appeal to me. A lot of water does make it more manageable – but at the same time it loses a lot of the character with it. In my time with it I couldn’t find the sweet spot where I could really appreciate it.

For an easy comparison to Scottish whisky, it reminds me or Mortlach and similar, but even more intense. It is strange – it has that range of things I like – tarry, heavy and thick – but it doesn’t quite mesh for me. Oddly, despite the high abv, when you add enough water you do find some of the interesting apple notes that I notices in the bourbon version. A little touch that makes me think that the spirit has a lot of promise, just doesn’t quite deliver here for me.

So, I can see why a lot of people at the tasting liked it – but a bit overly, well, everything, for me. And I never thought I would criticise a whisky for that. So, hope I have given enough info for you to make up your mind for yourself.

Background: Final whisky I did notes on at the “Mediocre” Independent Spirit tasting – there were two other whiskies I had already done notes on, and one new one – but by that point I think I was beyond my tasting best so I just enjoyed that one as it was. This is another cask strength monster – aged in port casks and one of only 185 bottles. By this point I was feelingly very spoiled. Due to having several whiskies, and the more social environment, my notes may not be up to my usual standards – apologies.

Kavalan: Solist: Ex Bourbon Cask Strength (Taiwan: Single Malt: 58.6% ABV)

Visual: Bright clear gold.

Viscosity: A mix of fast and slow thin streaks.

Nose: Pencil shavings. Slightly muted. Slight sulphur. Light vanilla. Dry nuts. Water adds soft kiwi. More water adds apples, grappa and Calvados.

Body: Sweet toffee to golden syrup. Thick. Strong, stunning alcohol. Soft lime. Water makes more creamy. Kiwi and apples. As more water is added more apples comes out. Calvados. Quince rakia.

Finish: Numbing levels of alcohol. Tropical fruits and vanilla. Butterscotch. Drying. Oils. Water adds oily apples. More water adds cinder toffee and quince rakia.

Conclusion: This is not what I would have expected from a purely bourbon aged whisky. Neat it was hard to tell, frankly it was as you would expect from something at near 60% abv – very dry and very strong alcohol – despite that managing to show the vanilla notes so closely linked with bourbon ageing. It was ok, but neither surprising nor impressing me that much.

Both of these concerns were washed away with adding water. It soften it, giving it a creaminess which is nice, but again, not unexpected. So what was unexpected, and impressed me with it? Well, this has a real soft green fruit character to it – apples, touches of kiwi and such like. Early on it is subtly done, but as time and water polishes it, it seems to almost gain characteristics akin to Calvados ageing.

So, that was not what I expected at all from a bourbon aged whisky – though they are served up alongside the more traditional tinned tropical fruit bourbon notes. Even more time again altered it to quince rakia touched styling.

This starts simple, but takes you on a hell of a journey. Very much worth trying, though this goes for just a tad more for a bottle than I would drop on for something like this. Close run thing though. Very good, very distinct and unusual – a whisky showing both the strength of its base spirit and the bourbon ageing.

Background: Another whisky from Independent Spirit‘s so called “Mediocre” Whisky tasting. This one from the relatively new, but highly reputed Taiwanese distillery Kavalan. Not tried anything of theirs yet, but this – a cask strength ex bourbon cask – should be a hell of an introduction to their style. It is one of only 189 bottles released – so I was very lucky to get to try this one. As always, due to doing this in a social environment, with several whiskies my notes may be shorter than usual. Apologies.

bruichladdich-octomore-10-year2nd-release

Bruichladdich: Octomore: 10 Years(2nd Release) (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 57.3% ABV)

Visual: Dark gold.

Viscosity: Very fast thick streaks.

Nose: Smokey bacon. Lots of peat smoke. Slight salt. Smoked beef. Beef stew and pigs in blankets. Slight cherry pocked digestives.

Body: Honey. Huge peat. Lime. Dried beef. Slight cherries. Sauternes wine. Water adds peach and honey and makes much sweeter. Slight custard sweetness notes.

Finish: Alcohol tingle. Salt. Very medicinal. Slightly numbing. Honey. Peach syrup added with water.

Conclusion: This is so much sweeter than the younger Octomore! It still comes in with the heavy peat and medicinal style though, do not worry. As it has soothed a bit with age that now comes across as a massively meaty feast of a whisky – especially on the nose. Kind of a smoked meat (especially smoked bacon) fest, That aroma however does not hint at a lot of what is to come. In fact originally it comes across more smoked meat than even the other Octomores I have tried.

The body keeps the peaty character, but is much more honeyed, and has an almost Sauternes wine sweet character. It is so sweet and fruity under the heavy peat that it is less that smooth assault you might expect and is instead a much more complex yet still peaty beast. Without water the finish is very medicinal, again calling to its roots as a more harsh whisky, water again brings out that sweetness.

It is so unexpected – still meaty. Still peaty – but very much tamed by the newfound sweetness. Even slight custard sweetness over the salted Islay base. If you want sheer assault then this has moved away from that and you will be let down. If you want a big sweet Islay style peated whisky – well this is very good and still intense. The honey wine soaked meat feast peat whisky.

Background: Fourth whisky at the uber whisky tasting at Independent Spirit. I loved my previous experience with the Octomore so was very much looking forwards to trying this 10 year version. Now, while it is peated at 167 ppm, age tends to take away peat character quite quickly – so wasn’t quite sure how this would work out for intensity. Also this has been aged in both Bourbon and the more unusual Grenache Blac casks. One of 18,000 bottles – so fairly but not insanely rare. My whisky glass photos are getting a bit crap now – sorry – alcohol influence! As before due to the social event and the number of whiskies tried, by notes may not be as detailed as normal – nor it seems my photos. As always I tried my best.

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