This famous supporting actor has now become the star of the show with the release of “Chita” Single Grain Whisky. Situated on the Chita Peninsula overlooking the Ise Bay, this distillery makes the grain whisky required for Suntory’s blended whiskies.
Text: Yoshitaka Nishida
Images: Mamoru Tsuchiya
This article originally appeared in Japanese in Whisky Galore Vol.25 / April 2021.Chita is now one of Suntory’s regular brands of whisky. Released in 2015, it’s not a single malt, but single grain. It’s made at the Suntory Chita Distillery.
The distillery is located on the Chita Peninsula in western Aichi prefecture. It’s one of many factories in an industrial area, located next to major food and animal feed makers, as well as silos owned by Japan Agricultural Cooperatives’ Zen-Noh.
Construction began in 1972, when domestic demand for whisky was growing in Japan, and it began full operation the following year, in 1973. Since then the distillery has continued making the high quality grain whisky makes Suntory’s blended whisky brands like Old, Kakubin, and Hibiki possible.
Tankers loaded with the primary raw ingredient, corn, enter the port of Ise Bay, right in front of the distillery. The location is ideal for Suntory’s grain operation, given it’s about halfway between both the Hakushu Distillery (in Yamanashi) and the Ohmi Aging Cellar (Saga), Suntory’s primary aging facility. The giant continuous still, at a height of 30 meters, looks like a building and is fully utilized.
The continuous still is comprised of four columns: a wash column, extraction column, rectifying column, and purifying column. Depending on which are used, the spirit coming off is one of three types: heavy, medium, and light. Heavy uses only the wash column and rectifying column, medium adds the extraction column, and light uses all four columns.
Continuous stills allow for constant 24-hour distillation over a months-long length of time, but the spirit is strictly checked for quality on a daily basis. The distilled new make is mainly matured in white oak casks, but there a variety of casks like Spanish oak and wine casks are also used.
Suntory continues to grow its single grain fanbase thanks to pushing Chita as part of the “Windy Aroma Highball,” but of course it also continues to support Suntory’s famous blended whiskies. Chita continues to take on the role as a famous supporting actor in Suntory’s whisky.
Mamoru Tsuchiya is Japan’s foremost whisky critic. He is the Representative Director of the Japan Whisky Research Centre, and was named one of the “World’s Best Five Whisky Writers” by Highland Distillers in 1998. He served as the whisky historian for NHK’s Massan and he has published several books such as The Complete Guide to Single Malt Whisky, Taketsuru’s Life and Whisky, and The Literacy of Whisky. He is the editor of the bimonthly Whisky Galore, Japan’s only print whisky magazine.