Suntory have quite a collection of distilleries and one of them, Chita, is dedicated to making grain spirits and whiskies. While much of this goes straight into their blended brands (Hibiki apparently has quite a high level of grain whisky in its makeup), some makes its way into bottles in pure form.
This is Suntory's Single Grain 'Chita', a pale straw coloured dram. I have seen it written elsewhere that it's 12 years old but if so, it's not mentioned (in English) on the label.
Despite only being 43% ABV the overwhelming initial impression on the nose is of pure, medicinal alcohol. There's a real vanilla sugar sweetness, with just the barest hint of oak. Water doesn't really change the character – the alcohol is a little less aggressive but you still have that clean, sweet vanilla.
In the mouth, the sweetness is the first thing that hits your tongue along with what I can only describe as a 'minty' character – more the sensation of cold than the flavour. Then comes the big, burning alcohol which pushes everything else aside. Despite this, the whisky remains incredibly smooth, with a simplicity and clarity of flavour that reminds me of vodka.
Water cuts back that alcohol and leaves you with a very clean, smooth vanilla sweetness. Almost more like a vodka than a single malt, it's a remarkable and unusual whisky.
Sadly not often available in the UK (I picked this up when we visited the Yamazaki Distillery earlier this year), this is a fantastic dram that comfortably earns 4.5 stars.
This review was originally published 5th December, 2012. It was last updated 1st June, 2023.