Producer: Ichiro’s Malt (Venture Whisky)
Age: No age statement
The latest bottling from the excellent Ichiro’s Malt stable, Malt & Grain is – as the name would suggest – a blended whisky. But it’s got a few tricks up its sleeve. Because it’s not just any blended whisky. It’s a World Blended Whisky. What this means is that whisky from other origins was shipped to Japan, where it was married with whisky from Ichiro’s Chichibu distillery. And let’s be honest, usually that’s bad news. There are countless examples of Japanese whisky on the market that don’t contain a single drop of spirit distilled in Japan.
In this case though, I am completely fine with it. For a distillery with an annual capacity of just 60.000 litres, the need for blending with whisky from elsewhere is understandable. And at least Ichiro’s has been transparent about it. In a market where rules are lax and deceitful marketing is rife, that’s all we can ask for. Huge credit to Ichiro’s for this, and for providing us with another extremely drinkable whisky.
Nose: Syrupy, as orchard fruits drift from the glass in almost cloying fashion. Malt & Grain offers up scents of ripe pear, peach and even some honeydew melon. This fruity perfume mingles with a light oaky influence, before giving way to the herbal aroma of wet hay and sweetcorn. The result is quite unusual, but not at all unpleasant.
Palate: Medium-bodied, as flavours of sweet, slightly musty oak unfold. Rather unexpectedly, there’s a lot of spice development, providing this Ichiro’s with a bit of bite. Notes of sandalwood diffuse into smoked chillies and charred vanilla. Toffee brings this Ichiro’s full circle to its initial sweet side.
Finish: Reasonably long, with notes of toasted oak and cracked black pepper. We’re left with a lingering, mellow fruitiness that’s pleasant, but not exactly memorable.
Verdict: I can’t help but be slightly disappointed by this dram. And that makes me feel bad, because this isn’t a poor whisky by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just that previous Ichiro’s bottlings had raised my expectations sky high… If Malt & Grain isn’t as good as other Ichiro’s expressions, it’s probably due to the fact there’s a lot of other whisky mixed in with that wonderful Chichibu malt.
Let’s judge this whisky on its own merits though. Malt & Grain is a likeable dram that’s sweet and flavourful in equal measure, with a nice dash of spice added to the mix. It’s well worth a try, provided you can find it at a reasonable price.