Firstly, it took me by surprise. I regularly trawl the whisky databases in a vain attempt to keep abreast of what's occurring in the whisky world. Sites such as whisky intelligence; whisky whisky whisky; whisky news; whisky pages and so on, as well as many of the great blogs out there, regularly receive my time and attention. My fascination (borderline obsession) with Japanese whisky ensures that the Nonjatta site takes a regular pounding and it was on a routine trawl of Nonjatta that I saw the Port Pipe.
Secondly, having tried and really enjoyed Chichibu the First, I was keen to see how the distillery was progressing. The distillery is located in the hills of Saitama Prefecture, began production of Ichiro's Malt whisky in 2008, and is owned by Ichiro Akuto.
Thirdly, it's pink! Well that's not strictly true, there's a lot of pink on the label and on the box. Nevertheless, it's an unusual colour and it certainly created an "I'm looking at something interesting" feeling. It's pink! Or is it? The fickle nature of colour perception never ceases to amuse and intrigue me. I've offered an interesting example of a colour illusion at the end of the review, it's intriguing stuff!
Colour: If you've read my previous review you will recognise my position that colour is a somewhat transient concept. This colour of this dram is no exception (but it's pink!). In an attempt to nail the colour to the mast (and test the persisting perception of pink) I even bought a couple of bottles of cheap Rose from the local supermarket.
From the top row (left to right): Chichibu Port Pipe, New Zealand 2010 Marlborough Rose, Oxford Landing South Australia 2012 Rose, Chichibu Port Pipe.
Middle row: Left - Port Pipe; Right - Marlborough Rose
Bottom Row: Chichibu the First, Ichiro's Malt The Final vintage of Hanyu, Ichiro's Malt Cask Strength 23 years old, Chichibu Port Pipe
I realise that there are a many, many more shades of Rose. This was not an experiment, it was simply an observation...this whisky has a light amber/pinkish hue.
Nose: A sweet, fruity aroma with hints of Turkish delight, Baklava, nuts, honey, and....Port (it's not a blind tasting and the word is firmly cemented into my short term memory). There's a youthful element here, a slightly acidic, vinous quality. Not unpleasant by any means.
Palate: There is a warmth and roundedness to this whisky that belies its youth. At a healthy 54.5% abv and at only 4 years old you might expect a degree of harshness...it simply doesn't materialise. The sweet, Port influence is evident from the outset but it doesn't dominate. There are hints of oak and rosehip.
Finish: It has a medium length, "Rocket salad" spicy finish
My description might create the impression that this is an overpoweringly sweet whisky. This isn't the case. Yes, there is a sweetness but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is not a whisky that will blow everyone away....but I really rate it. For me, it's another bright star in the constellation of Japanese whiskies.
There are 4200 bottles available worldwide. If you get the opportunity to try it, don't hesitate.
Believe it or not!
In my student days I vividly remember the first time I encountered the Rubik's cube colour illusion. For me, it remains one of the most mind boggling and easily accessible examples of how the mind can play tricks on our perceptions of colour. The two images below are the ones I encountered all those years ago.
In the diagram on the left, the top middle and left front middle squares seem to be brown and yellow respectively. I could stare at this image for hours and still come to the same conclusion. I now know that my perception of the colours as being different is wrong! They are in fact, as the diagram on the right shows, the same colour. "Witchcraft" I hear you scream, "trick photography" you may murmur, "someone has slipped acid in my Earl Grey" you may sing loudly. There's no escaping it.....they are both brown.
For more information & a fun read, go to: http://phenomenalqualities.wordpress.com/phenomenal-pictures/