Chichibu IPA Cask Finish almost delivers two whiskies in one – straight out of the bottle it is exceedingly cask forward, but rather than tons of wood, this delivers heaps of bright, sharp IPA – there’s much more impact than any beer matured whisky I’ve tried to date. Dilution initially lessens the hop-driven flavours, dialling up the natural estery flavour of the Chichibu distillate for a spirit forward experience. The fact that the ale characteristics return so strongly after a short period in the glass is rather fascinating, and again, something I’ve rarely experienced – usually once reduced, you’ve got what you’ve got and the original profile will never return.
Transformations aside, is Chichibu IPA Cask Finish any good though? To my palate the answer is yes – there’s integration, balance and boldness of flavour - I’d heartily recommend sourcing a bottle. But, I think this one might divide the room – if you’re adverse to beer (heavens above), or in particular the citrus tang of many pale ales, you may well struggle with this.
Experimental? Novelty? Well, I guess both. But, that alone shouldn’t cloud your judgement of this or any other whisky – without the innovation, without trial and error, the industry would be an exceedingly dry and dull place and our experiences as enthusiasts would be destined to be rather linear.
Does exactly as it says on the bottle – immediate and pronounced hoppiness (Cascade, and certainly Citra hops). This is joined by an assortment of fruits – particularly dusty pineapple and melon. Maltiness (no surprise given beer influence) is quite high, but tempered by interesting florals – spearmint and pine needles. In the background a touch of earthiness and also mild salinity (where did that come from?). The addition of water broadens the fruit selection to include orange and pear, and initially lessens the IPA influence – this however returns with force after a little time resting in the glass.
An impactful arrival that delivers tropical fruits (roasted pineapples and guavas), bright and fresh oranges and again – IPA (particularly retronasally). Citrus runs strongly though the palate from the hops and from peels and rinds. It balances well against underlying maltiness, creamy vanilla and perceivable earthiness – mushrooms and forest ferns. Florals are still present (and possibly driven by the IPA influence), pine again, but now with an interesting lavender flavour. Water again rebalances the fruit assortment introducing stone fruits (peach and apricot) and some slight chalkiness to the body of the whisky. There’s less noticeable beer initially when reduced, but again, similarly to the nose, this returns after resting.
Quite long with hoppiness, dusty pepper, light ginger and plenty of tart citrus/citra