While sticking to the big guns of the industry next was Nikka’s elaborate booth(s) that was divided into categories, brands, and expressions. Certainly enticing and won me over. It was great to see the Yoichi 15 and 20yo are still in fine form, and besides the single cask expressions my focus was primarily on Nikka’s Single Grain - good - but I must be fair to my palate and say this was not the “grain whisky of the day” - that went to Kirin’s Fuji Gotemba 15yo Single Grain Whisky. Not sure how or why this gem slipped under the radar, and a first for me, but a divine dram indeed. Unfortunately this is only available at the distillery at a very reasonable price of 5,250 yen (43% ABV). Anyone off to the distillery please give me a shout and I may just be asking for a favour as this grain whisky, according to staff is not available online either. I generally slipped in and out throughout the day at Nikka’s booth, of course lots of highlights - but we have seen and heard about these before so I will move on.
The last but certainly not the least of makers (booths), which consumed a lot of my time was Venture Whisky. Hard to pull yourself away from them and their booth with the smorgasbord of expressions - Chichibu would have to be my “favourite distillery” at this interval of time. Venture Whisky now have an abundance of expressions out now, these were all seen at the booth along with the last of the Card Series (excluding the Joker(s) of course) - all available for free sampling I must add, so their booth was quite large and busy. Focus for me, and I presume for many others also on the day were the three prototype expressions that were being offered as potential candidates/releases for the future.
These events are a good opportunity for distillers to gage people’s reactions and my guess is the guys and girls at Chichibu got what they wanted in terms of feedback and people’s reactions. On the prototype pedestal there was: Almost Five - self explanatory, distilled in 2008 with the first cask being a first fill barrel and the second being a second fill puncheon. This expression, which was bottled in 2013 at the ABV of 61.8%, was good and certainly artisanal whisky. However, my favourite was the Re Fill Barrel - cask #2186, distilled in 2009 and matured in a first fill barrel (hence the name naturally) followed by a second maturation in a third fill barrel and bottled this year at 60.0% ABV. This proved to be many peoples favourite - well at least the company I was in along with some staff from the distillery. It appears this expression that has some lush assorted brewed tea aromas received great applause over the event and still is as of writing, so we may just be able to expect to see this on the shelves in the future… I hope so!
The last of the prototypes and again certainly not the least was the RE Fill Hogshead. Cask#705 - distilled a bit later than its siblings in 2010 with an ABV of 63.2%. Equally interesting but if I were forced to choose, which would be very hard to do so, I’d put this one at number three according to my own personal preference. Exciting stuff happening, a great chat with everyone and looking forward to the future of the Chichibu distillery. Keep your eyes open for some extra news on the distillery within the next week or so at Whiskies R Us.
On the Scotch front there were great expressions about the place, naturally I will not go into detail; I’ll leave that for someone else who writes about Scotch. But I can say I really enjoyed the 27yo Caol Ila bottled by Cadenheads and the delicious 12th release Port Ellen, along with the Glenfarclas 1989 Family Cask, and Ben Riach’s Peated 14yo just to name a few. And in case you are wondering as to why there was no mention of the TIBS bottlings? Well…you will just have to wait and see. Reflections part one can be read here.