Mars Tsunagu Blended Whisky Bourbon and Wine Casks 46%abv

P1050319Nose: Raisins, stewed apples, figs, malt, marzipan, wood chips, rhubarb stalks, orange peel.
Palate: Malt, stewed apples with custard, marzipan, nougat, mixed herbs, chili, yeast, orange peel. Water adds camphor, butter and candied nuts.
Finish: Quite herbaceous, orange peel, camphor and fresh cream.
Last Word: A nicely constructed, smooth blend and worth a punt if you can get it at a decent price. This was bottled for Japanese department store chain Isetan.

Rating: 86/100

Kirin 17YO Small Batch Single Malt Whisky 46%abv

P1050313Nose: Fresh cut timber, apricot, straw, pineapple, mustard, prune juice, passion fruit.
Palate: Passion fruit, strawberries, rye spice, nutmeg, salt, orange, pineapple, saw dust, balsamic. Light bodied.
Finish: Lots of chewy mints, passion fruit, pineapple, orange, timber.
Last Word: Has a number of typical elements found in many Kirin whiskies. Pineapple, passion fruit and Bourboneque is style. If your not a bourbon fan you probably won’t fancy this, but I like the fact that Kirin has it’s own house style at least in relation to other Japanese distilleries. This one although smooth and well made is not outstanding.

Rating: 84/100

Yoichi Peaty & Salty NAS 55%abv

P1050306Nose: Caramel salted popcorn, earthy peat, salted peanuts, mushrooms, fishing trawler diesel exhaust, marmalade, blueberries, vanilla.
Palate:
Very salty, possibly the saltiest whisky I’ve tasted and no problem for me as a saltoholic. Peanut brittle, salted caramel chocolate, mushrooms, the earthy peat, mint chocolate biscuits, cola, nutmeg, pepper, seaweed. Water brings out vanilla and toasted marshmallows. Where the nose is reasonably soft/subtle, the palate is big and bold.
Finish: Heavily salted pork crackling, earthy peat, peanuts, ash, toasted marshmallows, mint jelly, seawater.
Last Word: Pretty much gives you all it has from the get go so don’t expect this to have many hidden treasures. One thing is for sure, I wish this was Yoichi’s standard NAS single malt instead of what they are currently bottling.

Rating: 88.5/100

Yamazaki Limited Edition 2017 43%abv

P1050309Nose: Turkish delights, creme brulee, red apples, red grapes, leather tobacco pouch, cinnamon, treacle, cloves, oak. Water brings out vanilla and intensifies the leather/tobacco notes.
Palate: Ginger snaps, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, tobacco, hint of sherry, gentle oak. red grapes, nutmeg, Arnott’s savory shapes, Turkish delights, marzipan, fig jam, bran. Water brings out some tangy orange, nutmeg, cashews and papaya.
Finish: Brandy snaps, spearmint, cashews, Turkish delights and bran.
Last Word: As per the 2016 the finish is a little short which again drops the score. If you have had previous versions you pretty much know what to expect. Very Japanese/Yamazaki is style. These sold for around Y10,000 in Japan which I think is very reasonable for the quality.

Rating: 88.5/100

White Oak Akashi Single Malt Uozumi Sherry & Bourbon Casks NAS 46%abv

P1050305Nose: Oloroso sherry, honey, charred oak, pepper, nutmeg, paprika, maple syrup, dried apricot and dried mango. A floral not that becomes stronger though not intrusive when water is added.
Palate: Some big wood spices, Oloroso sherry, orange, nutmeg, cocoa. Water adds some chili heat, roasted nuts and dried mango.
Finish: Chewy mints, honey, pepper, dried fruit and palate drying wood.
Last Word: Solid mix of sherry and bourbon cask whisky that can often be hit and miss in my experience and I’m a fan of spicy whiskies.

Rating: 85/100

Suntory Ageing 15YO Blended Whisky 43%abv

P1050296

Nose: Rich and Fruity. White peaches, apricots, cherries, toffee, ginger snaps, white pepper, cinnamon, tobacco pouch, bourbony orange and rye.
Palate: Follows the nose closely and adds some salted peanuts and subtle oiliness. Nice balance of fruit and spice.
Finish: Peppery spice, the bourbon orange and rye, sweet tobacco and leather. The oiliness assists in allowing to flavors to cling to the palate for good length.
Last Word: A smooth whisky blended to to be a neat sipper not a mixer though no doubt a mixologist could use this in a fancy cocktail. I’d call it satisfying from nose to finish.

Rating: 86/100

Nikka Pure Malt Red 43%abv

P1050291Nose: Cantaloupe, rose water, vanilla wafers, white peaches, fresh cut timber, pink grapefruit.
Palate: A bowl of mixed nuts, white peaches, peanut butter, there’s both savory and herbal elements, strawberries.
Finish: Salt, nuts, herbs such as cloves and oregano.
Last Word: Not a whisky that is going to blow your mind but blended with a purpose to be lighter in style to accompany food or as a summer sipper and with an emphasis Miyagikyo Malt Whisky. If this was Scottish it would be a Lowland Whisky.

Rating: 82/100

Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu The Peated 2016 4YO 54.5%abv

P1050289Nose: Antiseptic, diesel, smoked ham hocks, fresh potato skins, stewed apples, currants, soy sauce, soot, apricots. An approachable nose.
Palate: Big hot alcohol hit for ‘only’ 54.5%abv. Paprika and chili’s. Soot, sump oil, toffee, nougat, lemon meringue pie. Water adds. salt, orange sherbet, Brazil nuts, bitter dark chocolate.
Finish: Iodine, soot, antiseptic, nougat and menthol.
Last Word:The palate is a bit unbalanced with the amount of alcoholic heat. Water does quell the fire but you need a fair splash. The nose is really nice and the finish has decent length. Overall it’s still a solid young peated whisky but not as good as the 2015 version.

87/100

Largest Known Collection of Karuizawa Hitting the Auction Block

Whisky Auctioneer, a UK based auction house, has announced an exclusive auction of the largest know collection of Karuzizawa whisky. 290 bottles in total and while nothing like their claim of “includes close to every expression created by the renowned Japanese distillery”, Whiskybase lists 460 expressions, it is still very impressive. The lots include the 1960 pictured. Karuizawa1960.jpg
According to the website the lots are being sold individually and while there may be a record price broken here or there for individual bottling’s, I would have loved to have seen a single lot auction where I’m sure the single lot price would have been smashed for any collection of whisky. Auction kicks off on the 5th of April and runs through to 17th of April. FYI, with the prices of Karuizawa these days I didn’t bother registering to bid : ).

Mars Single Cask #1704 American White Oak 2013 3YO 56.9%

DSC_9542Nose: Banana, vanilla, toffee, pear flavored lozenges, lemon zest, wood chips, apricot juice. There is a fair amount of wood influence for a young whisky. Water adds shellfish and heather.
Palate: Tangy orange, nutmeg, cinnamon, paprika, banana, salt, spearmint. Water engenders this with a creamier mouth feel, adds chewy Allen’s Minties, toffee and enhances the tangy orange.
Finish: Mint jelly, nougat, oak, leather and tobacco.
Last Word: American white oak matured whisky is a specialty of Mars Shinshu. They rarely disappoint and this well selected cask is no exception.

Rating: 87/100

Kirin Fuji Gotemba Single Cask 1995 10YO #M000505 45%abv

P1050287Nose: Peated and while by no means to Ardbeg or Laphroaig level peating, this would be classed as heavily peated by most Japanese whisky distilleries. You can pick up the peated note from 2 feet away. Diesel, creosote, barley, candy apple, dried pears, pomegranate, shoe polish, toffee.
Palate: Toffee coated nuts, nutmeg, toffee apples, tar, dried papaya, dried pears, spearmint, licorice. Water adds milk chocolate and cafe latte.
Finish: Tar, spearmint, toffee, a mineral element and lingers on cafe latte.
Last Word: I am not a peated whisky fanatic but this has a nice balance between the peaty and the sweeter elements of toffee, dried fruit and the bitter sweet cafe latte. These single cask Kirin have been available at the Fuji Gotemba distillery from time to time. I have tried a few but this one being bottled in 2005 is even rarer. Liked this whisky a lot from the start and I’ll definitely grab another if one becomes available.

Rating: 88/100

The Blend of Nikka 17YO 45%abv

P1050283Nose: Blueberries, malt, brandy snaps, a candy note, nicely controlled oak, pepper and a hint of sherry. Water adds nougat.
Palate: Currants, brandy snaps, salt and pepper, mixed nuts, menthol, blueberry bubblegum, some ash and smoke. Water adds some toffee and assists with the balance and smoothness.
Finish: Works best with water and has impressive length. I’m talking 10 minutes and counting as I write up these notes. Pepper, menthol, blueberry, ash, smoke, tobacco, brandy snaps and some mouth coating oiliness.
Lat Word: Very heavily malt based and I would say on the Yoichi side. The nose is subtle and clean, the palate smooth and balanced with water and the finish impressively long and satisfying.

Rating: 87/100

Yamazakura Pure Malt Whisky Aged 15 Years Ex Bourbon & Wine Casks 43%abv

P1050279Nose: Cantaloupe, honeydew melon, almonds, macadamia’s, hint of white pepper and a slight dusty note.
Palate: Without water I’d say fairly one dimensional on peanuts, peanut butter, black pepper and freshly sawn timber. Water brings back the cantaloupe and macadamia’s and adds some strawberry compote and cocoa powder.
Finish: Cantaloupe, peanut butter and some mouth drying wood tannins.
Last Word: While I would not call this a bad or cheap tasting spirit, it just doesn’t get me excited. I also have an unopened bottle of the Yamakazura Cask Strength Sherry Wood Finish so will be reviewing that some time down the track.

Rating: 80/100

Buying Japanese Whisky in Japan 2017 Report

004Kicking things off early this year. A big thanks to all who posted reports over the last coupe of years especially the regulars. Great work and an invaluable source of reference if the 10’s of thousands of views these posts have received is anything to go by.

I though we’d start off with a report added by Martin 2 days ago in the 2016 post but is from January 2017 .
FYI . . .
In Hakata earlier this month found an Hibiki 21 at Daimaru. Then bought one of them Kurayoshi 18 year old at BIC Camera Hiroshima on a whim (wondering about this one, will taste when back home). Also found, but decided not to buy, an Hibiki 12 YO at a side street retailer. Just today found the last bottle on shelf of Hakushu 18 YO at BIC Camera in Ikebukuro (the bigger one, closer to station). Also bought some miniature Hibiki 17 YO at Seibu in Ikebukuro.

This post is open to anyone who wishes to contribute so keep the reports coming folks and happy hunting in 2017!

Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky No Age Statement 45%abv

P1050286Nose: Red apples, maple syrup, banana, grilled corn, toffee, nutmeg, cafe latte. 
Palate:
Red grapes, maple syrup, peanut butter, cafe latte, ginger ale, honey, marzipan, tangy orange.
Finish: Nutmeg, toffee, cafe latte, cocoa.
Last Word: Smooth with the mellow vibe of a well made grain whisky. Fairly sweet but I personally don’t find the sweetness cloying. Good value for the quality.

Rating: 86/100

Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu 2010-2015 Fino Cask #2626 59.2%abv

P1050282Nose: Granny Smith apples, dried pears, maple syrup, malt, dried mixed peel, some wet moss and a small acetone note. Water brings out a zinfandel note plus toffee and white flowers.
Palate: Quite malty, crunchy fresh apples, salt, maple syrup on toasted crumpets and nutmeg. With water we have the zinfandel, chili heat and some nuttiness. Has a nice clean quality to the spirit.
Finish: Grapefruit, fermented pears, nutmeg, pepper, a little dry oak and leather.
Last Word: Has some youthful elements but this is quality distillation and cask selection.

Rating: 87/100

Kirin Fuji Gotemba Small Batch Single Grain Whisky 25YO 46%abv

P1050278Nose: Creme caramel, stewed apple with cinnamon, dried bananas, nutmeg, smooth creamy oak, spearmint, icing sugar and a coastal element like shellfish. With water there is a bourbony kick of orange, licorice and rye spice.
Palate: Baking spices along with a hit of pepper and sea salt. Brown sugar, stewed apples and the dried bananas. Water brings back the creme caramel plus blood oranges, licorice and salted cashews.
Finish: This is the let down as it is short and fairly thin. There’s some icing sugar, nutmeg, brown sugar and licorice.
Last Word: The nose is luscious, the palate complex for a grain whisky with decent balance, but the finish diminishes this as an overall excellent experience and knocks several points of the score.

Rating: 87/100

Hakushu Single Cask 1999 10YO Bourbon Barrel # AHAK2001 56%abv

P1050281Nose: Strawberries, fresh cut timber, barley, pears, bourbon like orange. Water adds lychee and honeydew melon.
Palate: Without water overwhelmingly hot. It’s smooth enough going down, it just lights up the palate. Needs a good ‘splash’ of water and even then there is still some decent chili heat. With water the whisky opens up some with poached pears, nutmeg, Brazil nuts, lemon, lychee’s, raisins and strawberry compote.
Finish: The heat continues on the palate but again, water assists greatly. Lychees, raisins, cantaloupe and almonds.

Last Word: They really could have bottled this at 46% and it would have been more rounded from the start. Once you cut through the heat with a lot of water there are some nice flavors to be had.

Rating: 84/100

Miyagikyo 20YO Single Sherry Cask #117483 60%abv

P1050280Nose: Big rich sherry for sure. The usual suspects of raisins, prunes, dates, cherries, Christmas cake,caramelized orange juice. Also treacle, nutmeg, paprika, white pepper, black tea, pine, dark chocolate, licorice and old leather. For mine, a great sherry cask nose.
Palate: Again rich with well controlled oak. Nicely balanced bitter and sweet. Follows the nose closely but there is also, walnuts, Brazil nuts and peanuts.
Finish: Is long and fruity with some pine, menthol and tannins.
Last Word: Miyagikyo whisky is mostly thought of as light/soft/delicate. Try one of their single cask whiskies and you will discover how robust and interesting they can be. For myself this is a highly underrated distillery. With prices somewhat less that the Japanese big four, Karuizawa, Hanyu, Yamazaki and Yoichi, jump in and grab some Miyagikyo Single Cask Whisky while the going is still relatively good.

Rating: 92/100

The Nikka Premium Blended Whisky 12YO 43%abv

P1050275Nose: Tequilaesque pepper, butterscotch, ginger snaps, orange peel, marshmallows, oak, furniture polish.
Palate: Butterscotch, caramel, pepper, nutmeg, ginger snaps, salt oak, cocoa, nougat. A few drops of water brings out malt, juicy apples and pears and reduces the spices a little.
Finish: Oak, nutmeg, cocoa powder, ginger snaps, spearmint. With water green apple and malt.
Last Word: I prefer this with a few drops of water which engenders this whisky with a fresher, more lively character. Being fond of the older Blend of Nikka both the NAS 45% and the 17YO, I was hoping for some Yoichi smoke. None so far but it may develop as the level of liquid in the bottle diminishes. Classy bottle/presentation for a whisky that costs about $45-50 in Japan.

Rating: 83/100