When discussing Japanese whisky, talk invariably turns to Suntory – whisky pioneer and now global behemoth. However, it all the chatter about rare (it all is now pretty much) Yamazaki and Hakushu releases, people often forget Suntory’s third distillery – Chita. Established in 1972, near the Port of Nagoya, Chita provides much of the grain whisky which Suntory use in their blends such as Hibiki, Suntory Royal and Kakubin to name but a few.
First things first, Chita is a grain not a malt distillery, that means you need to cast aside all your aspersions about beautiful forests and Japanese cherry blossom-filled orchards. Grain distilleries are rarely like that and Chita is no exception – hard, heavy steel in a totally industrial setting. You’d almost expect Superman to be flying overhead carrying a frozen lake ready to put out a dangerous chemical fire. Pretty it ain't.
There’s been very few pure grain releases from Chita over the years, the SMWS G13.1 ‘A Complete Revelation’ is perhaps one of the best known examples to date. However, in 2015, as part of the continued boom for all liquids even remotely Japanese (and some that pretend to be, but which most certainly aren’t), Suntory released 'The Chita', initially for the Japanese market, but later expanded to many markets overseas. The bottling is pure Chita grain whisky, with a label which looks similar to its Hakushu and Yamazaki counterparts and it is bottled at 43%.
Nose: Sitting in an orchard eating a bowl of Kellogg’s Frosties. Immediately fresh, warming and with some fruity sweetness. Bananas, sharp green apples and stony fruit (unripe peaches) are matched up with a hefty dose of vanilla and some slightly floral honey. Cereals and hay along with a steely copper aroma provide some interesting grain notes. There’s some discernible ethyl acetone running through this – polystyrene cement for those of the Airfix generation.
Taste: A lot less sweet than on the nose. Reasonable mouthfeel – certainly nothing untoward nor overly thin. There’s more cereal and earthiness (almost mossy) here and likewise more cask influence in the form of spicing (primarily ginger and a hit of salinity). Vanilla and honey throughout, with a similar medley of tropical (add coconut shavings in to the mix now) and orchard fruits. Amicable if not challenging.
Finish: Relatively short with more alcoholic heat than its 43% might suggest. Peppery and again with some saltiness in the tail.
Chita is a good-natured grain whisky which isn’t going to test your whisky senses, nor set your world alight. But, it’s well made, reasonable priced (for something coming from Japan) and pleasant enough. That said, to my taste, this makes for a much better Highball or Mizuwari than it does as a straight sipping whisky. In either of these longer forms, the Chita offers a very refreshing summery experience worth trying.