Japanese Whisky – Where to From Here?

Firstly, apologies if any one reads this with the expectation that I have all the answers to question posed in the title. The current state of play with Japanese whiskey does however beg the question to be asked.
Back to the beginning, well not back to the beginning of when the Japanese starting producing commercial quantities of whiskey back in the early 1920′s, but the beginning of the phenomenon that has taken Japanese Whisky from zero to hero in by my calculations, about 7-8 years. Why about 7-8 years, this was the time when a well know UK liquor retailer was selling the Karuizawa 1971(2008). This Japanese whisky, at least in sample form, was reviewed by a very influential whisky blogger who is also famous for being a huge fan of this distillery. I will add that the very same UK liquor retailer uses this whisky blogger to promote their Japanese whisky, so are well aware of said influence(though I’m sure they are not the only ones).
Now there will be at least one professional whisky writer and more than likely a few others who will claim they were extolling the virtues of Japanese whisky before this time, which they were, but I have no doubt that before 7-8 years ago, Japanese whisky was still largely viewed as a novelty. Also from memory, that Karuizawa 1971 was only sold for somewhere between GBP90-110(I can never quite remember as being from Australia we could order it without VAT so it was cheaper than if you lived in the UK). That price point is significant, we are not talking about 1988 but 2008, only 7-8 years ago. We know what they sell for on the resale market but we also know that if it was a retail release today, it would be hard to believe a 1971 Karuizawa would sell for less that GBP1000. The novelty value of Japanese whisky extended back to Japan itself. Forget about the cheap blends used for highballs which have been around since day one of Japanese whisky production, when I first travelled to Japan which was within the time frame mentioned, I saw bottles of Ichiro’s Malt the Game 1st Version for Y6900. At the time that was about USD$69. I gave some thought to grabbing a bottle but decided on some other stuff. Back then Karuizawa was still distilling and you could buy their OB 12, 15 and 17 year olds from liquor stores. Anyway back to that bottle of Ichiro’s Malt, I went back to Japan 6 months later and at that same store the bottles were still sitting there(try and picture that happening these days) and I grabbed one. Now this was a single cask 9YO distilled in the year 2000. Now your looking at Euro1500 for one of these on the resale market. Of course with 20-20 hindsight I should have bought them all : ). I can also tell you that in Japan up until about 4 maybe 5 years ago, there was not a single bottle of Karuizawa or Hanyu for that matter that was selling for more that Y20000 so about US$200 at the time. Here is a link to Ichiro’s Akuto’s Venture Whisky site from about 7 years ago. www.iiosake.com/venturewhisky-card.html and hit the translate button. Trust me it’s ok to cry a little, actually a lot, when you see the original prices if you are not familiar. These days if you want to buy this stuff and really I’m going to include any rare non standard offering from any Japanese distillery you only have a few choices.
a) Pay what’s being asked for and gotten on the resale market. Average Joe’s need not apply at those prices.
b) Get email notifications of upcoming releases from the few retailers that control this market. Then set your calendar and hit the go button as soon as they appear online. Of course wait for the page to time out ‘cuz every other man/woman and their dog are trying to buy them at the same time because they know the prices will double as soon as they are gone. Actually I take that back, it’s more like triple.
c) Be on great terms someone who works for or owns the store that controls this market. In Japan something like Ichiro’s Malt The Joker(as an example), will not make it onto the retail shelf or online retail. They are all pre-spoken for before then.
Now we even have ballots or expressions of interest or similar for Karuizawa and Hanyu not only internationally but also in Japan. I have seen this on the last single casks released of Yoichi and Miyagikyo on the Asahi shop site.
Exploring prices a little more every one can remember when the likes of Yamazaki and Hakushu 18YO’s climbed steeply in pricing a few years back. Two things I’d like to mention in this regard, firstly the prices internationally only went up to roughly the equivalent they have been selling for in Japan for years before. Secondly I speculate supply and demand. I really think that the major whisky produces in Japan are happy if they sell fewer bottles of long aged whiskies due to low stocks and have deliberately put the brakes on through pricing.
More evidence of dwindling aged stock are the likes of Hibiki 30 and Takatsuru 35 YO no longer being bottled. Takesturu 25YO was a replacement for the 35 year and even though you can still pick it up I’m not sure Nikka are bottling any more. Also there are the retailers that have been known for stocking Japanese whisky either in Japan or Internationally. Where it was not uncommon for these retailers to sell 50-60 different bottling’s a year or two back, now they are stocking 30 maybe 40 on a good day.
Lets have a distillery by distillery check of the action over the last 12 months or so:
Asahi(White Oak) – Only have one or two small production runs every year subject to whether would they would even bother to do that in any particular year(they produce other liquor as well).
Chichibu - We had the Chibidaru 2014 and a few limited production bottling’s(well even more limited than the Chibidaru) that very few people outside of Japan would be aware of because they were only sold there. By the by, if you wished you could get a hold of those Japan only release Chichibu, happy day’s only if you thought paying anywhere between $180-500 for 5-6YO whiskies was good value!
Hakushu – Well of coarse Suntory knowing they are struggling with aged casks have released the N0 Age Statement “Distillers Reserve” I think they’ve cut back or cut out the 10YO and we still have the 12 and 18 year old. We had the 2014 Sherry Cask but the Bourbon/Heavily Peated Casks annual releases went by the wayside. I think you may be able to find the 25YO if you could be bothered paying the stupid price it sells/sold for. Single casks, forget about it.
Hanyu - A smattering of limited releases if you could source them or afford them and usually both.
A big disappointment for me was they ‘finished’ the Card Series with the Jokers then in what I would call a cynical marketing ploy released the double card bottling/s. I can’t remember it there was more than one but that’s because I didn’t care.
Karuizawa – I would say pretty lame for the Karuizawa fans. Releases are getting fewer and farther between. Not such a big deal if your like me and can’t afford them(and the fact that I think they are the most over rated distillery on the planet).
Kirin: They actually released a blend and a young single malt. See, it was worth them closing Karuizawa when they had such a strong whisky output themselves : ). You can also pick up some other Single Cask and Single Grain stuff from these guys if you are in Japan.
Mars: Released a couple of blends and more importantly a couple of young single malts. This is actually really important for the future health of the Japanese whisky scene. I do believe they have some single cask stuff left from back in the ‘olden day’s’ but I have also heard that the cartel that controls Hanyu and Karuizawa are trying to get a hold of them.
Miyagikyo- Their standard range of 10/12/15 are still being bottled. Wait, I never see the 10YO any more. Single casks, forget it unless you were one of the privileged few who’s expression of interested was accepted by Asahi.
Yamazaki: See Hakushu. I should mention and this also goes for Hakushu, Suntory had the owner’s cask program running for a number of years and that seems to have sucked up most of the single cask offering’s they were prepared to release. Yes, places like Isetan in Japan do get single cask bottles from time to time from Yamazaki and Hakushu, but you you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time to get them. Of coarse we all know that the 2013 Sherry Cask(non single cask) release won a 2014 Whisky of the Year award!(I don’t have a sarcastic smiley). Far more importantly there were no 2014 releases of the sherry/bourbon/Puncheon/Heavily Peated/Mizunara casks released outside of Japan. Mizunara was a released in Japan but none of the others to my knowledge.
Yoichi: See Miyagiyo. I also believe that the 20YO, although you can still pick it up is not being bottled anymore or is certainly on the way out.
Nikka – Their pure malts, Black etc and blends such as From the Barrel are still readily available as is the Coffey malt and Coffey grain offerings.
Suntory – Their standard blends, think Kakubin, are still kicking along, Hibiki, the 12 and 17 are readily available but as mentioned the 30 although there might a few bottles left on shelves is now defunct in regards to new bottling’s and the 21 year seems to be coming rarer if not extinct in the neat future.

So where does this leave us at least the short to medium term in regards to what we will see from the Japanese Whisky producers, by short I mean in the next 12 months, medium at least the next 5 years:
From the major players such as Nikka and Suntory pretty much what we have come to expect over the last 12 -15 months. What you see on the shelves now with some limited stuff in Japan.
From players like Asahi/Mars/Kirin, you really need to be in Japan to buy their whisky. Hopefully Mars will be able to get their production numbers up so they can start creating a rep outside of Japan by making their whisky available in at least the UK/Europe. I think this would take quite a while though.
Hanyu/Karuizawa, doesn’t matter how many casks are left in reality, in any real terms there are sweet bugger all left and I bet pounds to peanuts very few are good enough to be released as single casks. The cartel won’t tell you that though!
Chichibu, of course we know that Akuto-san can make fine whiskey. Not only that you can taste the family heritage back to Hanyu. Biggest problem is price. Yep, I was happy to spend up to 100 buck on a fine young whisky. But when you are talking about 180-500 bucks, I like many people will baulk. We will have to wait and see what happens when Chichibu gets to producing a 10YO whisky and where Akuto-san sets the pricing at. There is also the major issue of the limited production capability or the numbers of bottles that Akuto-san is prepared to make. At the moment it would seem hard to envision at least in the next few years, there being enough production to start releasing Chichibu in the US.
Time to wrap things up. I get a lot of email from people asking where they can buy the rarer Japanese whiskey they read on whiskey reviews. They read about the many awards that Japanese Whiskey has won over the last half decade or so. Whisky drinking folk, or a lot of them at least, are finally convinced that Japanese Whiskey is not a novelty any more, but a product that can equal and often exceed the finest from Scotland. So what has happened now that so many whiskey drinkers have reached this epiphany?? They can’t buy the stuff that created the Legend! Sure in the US and Australian you can now buy more varieties of Japanese whisky than you could ever buy before, a whopping 6-8 varieties. There was a time a couple of years ago or so that you could jump on a whisky forum and read reviews about Japanese whisky from average punters even Hanyu and Karuizawa. You could see on the ‘what are you drinking now’ page or the ‘what is your latest whisky purchase page’, people mentioning a dram/bottle of Japanese whisky. Now seeing this is few and far between. Regular bottling’s have gone up in price relative to their Scottish counterpart and the single cask/rare bottling’s have gone into the yeh I can afford a bottle if I’m listed on the Forbes Richest 400 people list.
Could it be that legitimacy of Japanese Whisky that has been forged over the last 7-8 years will slide simply back into novelty?
*Note: Please take time to read the comments being posted on this page. There is lots of interesting reader feedback, experiences and updates including Chichibu in the US and Mars Revival in France, I seem to have dropped the ball on those 2.

Karuizawa Kohaku 1995 Vintage 10YO 59.9%

Kohaku 2Nose: Leads with a heavy acetone note, wood stain/varnish. Oranges, grapefruit, marmalade, black pepper, spearmint, Dijon mustard, cucumber, peanut shells, burnt sugar cane.
Palate: Immediately more appealing than the nose with the acetone mellowing out. Lots of red grape sweetness, ginger ale, sweetened grapefruit, peanuts, savory shapes biscuits, salt, raisins. Some hot spices rise after a few sips. Adding water brings out some oak and butter menthols.
Finish: Short-medium on red grapes, oak, butter menthols, ginger beer.
Last Word: The heavy acetone notes of the nose diminish an otherwise decent whisky.

Rating: 80/100

Mars Single Cask 1989 20YO American White Oak Cask #618 58%abv

P1020346Nose: Big hit of banana to start. Pineapple, peaches, butterscotch, walnuts, sawdust, honeyed porridge, guava, papaya, caramel, oak. Water adds and incense/sweet tobacco note.
Palate: Hot spices of pepper, cayenne, ginger. Some nuttiness, banana, papaya, salt, sawdust, sweetened pink grapefruit, rum such as Ron Zacapa XO Centenario. Water adds dragon fruit and a nicer balance between heat and sweet.
Finish: Papaya, rum, banana, a mineral element, butter menthols, then drying oak and right at the death pineapple.
Last Word: Another strong AMO cask effort from Mars Shinshu.

Rating: 90/100

Ichiro’s Malt 5 of Diamonds 2000-2012 Sherry Cask Finish #1305 57.5% abv

Ichiro's Malt Five of DiamondsNose: Subtle sherry influence or more to the point, not a full blown sherry cask single malt. Quite yeasty not unlike homemade whole meal bread. Raisins, 5 spice, oak, pepper, golden syrup, barley, bran.
Palate: Volume(think loudness) goes up a fair whack compared to the nose. Golden syrup, honey, peanuts, apricots, raisins, cloves, melted butter, oak, 5 spice, salt and fresh ginger heat. A little water adds marzipan.
Finish: Medium length on golden syrup, cloves, caramelized orange slices, 5 spice. Something odd but not awful like devilled eggs(well if you like them). Drying oak.
Last Word: Nice balance between the first cask, hogshead, and the second cask, sherry. A touch of water doesn’t go astray. This one grew on me over the coarse of the tasting. Not a hint of sulphur and very nice at only 12 years old.

Rating: 86/100
*Note: Sample courtesy of Clint at Whiskies R Us.

Nikka Taketsuru NAS Sherry Wood Finish 43%abv

taketsuru_sherry_wood_NASNose: Maltesers, caramel, oak, lacquer, dried fruits. Very gentle.
Palate: This is where things step up a few notches over the Taketsuru 12YO(I haven’t tried the standard NAS). Lots of juicy dried fruits, malt, quite a some pepper, sugared orange slices, and in lesser measure sherry, cloves and paprika. The oak is subdued.
Finish: Dried fruits, sugared orange slices, sherry, young tawny port and some decent length.
Last Word: Not amazingly complex but well balanced, the extra punch offered by the sherry cask finish is a welcome addition. Nose is a bit soft for my liking however.

Rating: 83/100

*Sample courtesy of Clint at Whiskies R Us

Kirin 40th Anniversary Single Grain 46%

BAL_7976Nose: Gentle notes of bees wax, butterscotch, butter menthols, creamed corn, raisins, grapefruit.
Palate: Immediately spicy. Cloves, oregano, pepper, paprika, salt. Also creamed corn, stewed apples, maple syrup, cashews, ginger ale, butter menthols.
Finish: Fairly short considering the spiciness of the palate. Fades on creamed corn, stewed apples, cashews and butter menthols.
Last Word: A decent grain whisky when the mood strikes for something a little different. The short finish is disappointing after the punchy palate.

Rating: 80/100

Yoichi Single Cask # 419534 57%

BAL_7982Nose: Massively fruity! Nectarines, white peaches, dates, papaya, blackcurrants, leather, tobacco, a little oak and wood stain. Water adds toffee.
Palate: Again huge fruitiness. Nectarines, peaches, apricots, papaya. Leather, tobacco, toffee, pepper, wet forest logs. Water adds nougat, cherries and enhances the drier elements of tobacco and leather.
Finish: Long! The impression of the flavors lasted for 12 hours plus.
Last Word: I know at least a few readers have tried these Taradeshi Genshu(distillery only) 10 year olds and have been impressed. This one maintains that high standard.

Rating: 90/100

Hakushu Sherry Cask 2014 48%abv

suntory_hakushu_sherry 2014Nose: Christmas pudding, demerara rum, chocolate, coffee grinds, red apple skins, mixed peel, all spice. Pretty much as expected though it’s not a potent nose.
Palate: Way more punch than the nose. A mix of sweet and savory spices. blackcurrant jols, raisins, barbeque shapes, sweet red apples, dark chocolate, peanut brittle, touch of menthol, a fair whack of drying oak and the typical Hakushu earthiness.
Finish: Raisins, peanut brittle, demerara rum, earthiness, menthol and oak.
Last Word: Solid sherry cask matured whisky I personally prefer the richness of Yamazaki’s efforts for these yearly NAS sherry cask whiskies over the dry/earthiness of Hakushu’s.

Rating: 87/100

*Sample courtesy of Clint at Whiskies R Us

Ichiro’s Malt the Game 5th Edition 2000-2013 #1302 59.5%abv

Ichiro's Malt the Game 5Nose: Screams Hanyu. Stewed apples, ripe apricots, currents, Japanese temples, strawberry jam, smooth oak.
Palate: Follows the nose closely and adds blueberries, maple syrup, honey, macadamias, nougat, custard powder, all-spice. Every sip a delight.
Finish: Incense, stewed fruits, blueberries, macadamias, all-spice, Wurthers Originals.
Last Word: Another excellent Hanyu from the Final Vintage. An expressive whisky, I only needed 15-20mls to write up the tasting notes. Very much reminiscent of Ichiro’s Malt The Game 2nd Edition.

Rating: 91/100

**Sample courtesy of Clint over at Whiskies R Us.

Mars Komagatake The Revival 2011-14 58% – First Impressions

Mars The Revival 2011 2

Unfortunately I’ve had a bad head cold for over a week so the sinuses are shot. Still, the excitement of Mars(Hombo Shuzo) first official(over 3 years old) whisky release has gotten the better of me. I just had to post up my first impressions. Even though my nose is MIA I can still pick up some of the fundamentals on the palate.
First thing that comes to mind is a peated version of Chichibu the First with an extra dollop of honey and olive oil. There’s lemon curd/meringue, chocolate, Wurther’s Originals, almonds, wheat bread dough, star fruit, honeycomb, pink grapefruit, salt and pepper. Quite a hot whisky at first but not in an alcoholic/acetone way, more like chili heat. The peat lingers and the oiliness coat’s the palate. Overall, very accomplished for the age and every bit as good IMO as Chichibu’s the First(which I enjoyed a lot). The mild peating adds an extra dimension.
Here’s my tip, forget about mega dollar Karuizawa and Hanyu’s, Mars and Chichibu are on the ascendance so start collecting as many of their ‘standard’ offerings as possible. Sure, not cheap for their young age, but not 1000 bucks plus either!!
I had high hopes for this one after tasting all of Mars New Pot Peated Whiskies from 2-3 years back. I am not disappointed in the least. Pour one and like me you’ll be onto your third in no time!

Suntory Hibiki 17YO 43%abv

Hibiki 17 2

Nose: Chewy malt, barley sugar, butter menthols, toffee, honey, cantaloupe, butter scotch.
Palate: Toffee, toffee apples, malt, barley sugar, candied oranges, butter menthols, honey, mixed peel, cashews, cantaloupe, some fizzy candy. A feint wisp of smoke.
Finish: Butter Menthols, barley sugar, honey, toffee apples, yeast, cashews, pipe tobacco. Nicely warming.
Last Word: Smooth as quality blend should be but with the character of a single malt. A step up from the 12YO for sure. Tasted this a few times before but this is the first bottle I’ve bought. Begs you to pour another!

Rating: 87/100

Nikka Takesturu 17YO circa 2013 43%abv


Nose: Oak, grated orange rind, fabric softener, strawberries, dates, honey oats, mild rose petal, scallop’s.
Palate: Hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, mustard, Arnott’s savory shapes, pepper, bubblegum, nougat, scallop’s. There is a unbalancing bitter element in the mix I’m not fussed about.
Finish: Nougat, mixed nuts, strawberries, bubblegum, some ashy dryness, ginger ale.
Last Word: Not mentioned in the above but it feels a little weak. I remember my first bottle being robust of nose and palate. This one feels a little watered down for want of a better description and the bitterness on the palate is a little off putting. The bitterness does tend to diminish after a couple of drams however.

Rating: 80/100

Japanese Whisky Retail Downunder

A few weeks back Australia’s largest discount retail liquor chain Dan Murphy’s added a few more bottles of Japanese whisky to their shelves. Previously they had a ‘massive’ 3 bottle selection, Yamazaki 12, Nikka Taketsuru 12 and Nikka From the Barrel. New arrival’s are Hibiki 12 and 17, Hakushu 12 and the NAS version of Yamazaki and Hakushu single malts with the marketing moniker of ‘Distiller’s Reserve’. Prices in Australian dollars at the time or writing are as follows. Only the individual can decide if they find these good value.
Nikka WFTB $66.90
Nikka Taketsuru $99.99
Yamazaki NAS Distiller’s Reserve $79.99
Hakushu NAS Distiller’s Reserve $79.99
Yamazaki 12YO $96.99
Hakushu 12YO $109.99
Hibiki 12YO $109.99
Hibiki 17YO $149.99
For anyone travelling to Australia that has a hankering for bottle of Japanese whisky, Dan Murphy’s has around 200 stores Australia wide.

Karuizawa Asama 2nd Edition 1999/2000 Vintages 50.5%abv

Karuizawa Asama 2Nose: Cloves, brandy snaps, dried fruits, golden syrup, blood oranges, nail polish remover, rubber, hints of dust and fruit mold.
Palate: Dried fruits, mixed herbs, tingly spices, brandy snaps, salt, golden syrup, Arnotts savory shapes, a ginger ale/cola blend, rubber, fruit mold, spearmint, some nuttiness. Adding some water the spicy flavors are enhanced, but so to are the acetone one’s.
Finish: Arnotts savory shapes, mixed herbs, spearmint, rubber, brandy snaps, quite oily and quite long.
Last Word: The clarity of the flavors is not to bad but the balance isn’t top notch. Still, I enjoyed this more than I thought even though I wouldn’t rush out an buy a bottle.

Rating: 80/100

*Thanks to Clint at Whiskiesrus for the large sample. You can check out Clint’s review here.

Chichibu for TIBS/WhiskyLive Tokyo 2013 2009-2013 Bourbon Barrel #422 61.8%abv

Chichibu WL 2013 2Nose: Fermented pears, dried pears, green apples, apple sauce, barley sugar, lemon lozenges, bread dough, sawdust.
Palate: Big and fiery without water but doesn’t scream youth. With a fair hit of water, pear gummy bears, fermented pears, lemon sherbet, sawdust, lemon lozenges, nutmeg, apples sauce, whole meal, bran, corn flakes, cloves.
Finish: Lots of pear and cereal notes, with some pepper, cloves, barley sugar, nutmeg, corn oil.
Last Word: Tried this at TIBS/WhiskyLive Tokyo last year. Too many drams that day to form a strong opinion, so I’m happy to have been able to spend some time with a large sample of this one. I’d have to say that overall, this is a fine Chichibu and the quality belies it’s youth. If this was a Scottish whisky I’d think Glen Moray 12 with balls!

Rating: 86/100

*Thanks to Clint over at Whiskiesrus for the sample. You can read Clint’s review here.

Ichiro’s Malt the Joker – In the Flesh!


Well in the flesh at Casa Dramtastic. Most readers would have seen some release images of these. I’ll go out on a limb and say this is the first time both of these have been shown to the general public by someone who now owns them. No need to go into any of the particulars of these bottling’s as you can read about that over at Whiskies R Us. My thoughts are around what it’s like to finally have these babies in my grateful hands.
First thing, is that I had my order in for over a year. Of course I didn’t now when the release would be but I knew I had to be ahead of the game to even have a chance. Nothing is set in stone either, some retailers will/have received an allocation, many won’t. I was lucky enough to be in contact with someone who did and who generously kept me in mind for one of each label. For me this is going to be hard to beat for Japanese whisky release of the year for a number of reasons. It is, as far as I know, the end of the Ichiro’s card series. No more cards or derivatives of playing card games up Akuto-sans sleeve so to speak. Also, the black and white labeled bottling of the Joker is now officially the oldest Hanyu released to date and the fact that it was finished in a Mizunara oak cask at that. No doubt a deliberate choice for a whisky of such significance. Finally, the colour label version of the Joker would seem to be the most ambitious vatting of different cask types of Hanyu yet.
In the photo, the whisky in the B&W Joker looks darker. This is not a trick of the light or angle of the photo, it is darker than the colour Joker. Could be because the colour Joker has some younger whisky in the mix, could be it’s a vatting of different cask types, could be a combination of both or none of the above. They both sure look tasty!
Now for the problem. The colour Joker I purchased for Y12777. In under a week these were already selling in Japan on the resale market for 5 times that price. I have not seen a bottle of the B&W Joker being resold yet, but heaven only knows what they will fetch when they do. That then put these in the, I can only dream of owning one these category for most whisky fans. Supply and demand can be a real bitch sometimes!
So, what am I going to do with mine? Stare at them un-opened for a while for a starters. The B&W will then be put away with the rest of my closed bottles. It’s such a wonderful piece of history that it will be a long time before it is opened. The colour label Joker, I guess I’ll crack that on a whim someday…….

Karuizawa “Balanced Sherry” For Isetan Shinjuku 2000 12YO 60.9%abv

karuizawa-2000-balanced-sherry-2Nose: Fruit jubes, vanilla, a fishy note, oak, raisins, cashews, peach skins.
Palate: Golden syrup, ginger ale, walnuts, dry sherry, pepper coated mixed peel, BBQ sauce.
Finish: Fades quickly with a little mixed peel, pepper, walnut and ginger ale.
Last Word: Solid if not remarkable, at least this is a Karuizawa sherry cask without sulphur!

Rating: 80/100

Thanks to Clint at WRU for the sample. You can check out Clint’s review here.

Kirin Collection 1998 45%abv

d7k_3934Nose: Mixed peel, marmalade, mouldy orange peel, flat cola, yeast, peanut oil, salt and pepper.
Palate: Pineapple, mixed peel, pepper, salt, savory shapes biscuits, ginger ale, peanut butter, touch of smoke.
Finish: Pineapple, pepper, savory shapes biscuits, peanut butter, the mouldy orange peel, a little ash. Fairly short.
Last Word: Would have been better without that mouldy orange peel note and flavor which I’ve found and never liked in other whiskies. I have a feeling that might come from some not so good sherry cask whisky in the mix. Also not sure if this is Pure Malt or a Single Malt. The Japanese script on the label might give more of a clue.

Rating: 80/100

Mars “Komogatake” Single Cask 1989 24YO American White Oak Cask #619 59%abv

mars-1989-24yo-awo-59Nose: Vanilla, banana, oak, orange, toffee, wood stain. Fish sauce, grapefruit, bbq hotplate and some minerals when a fair bit of water is added.
Palate: Massive grunt without water, the banana, oak and orange still show through with some big cayenne pepper heat. A little water smooth’s things a bit and brings out toffee, barbequed corn, sour dough, still plenty of spicy heat though(hot sauce). Even more water brings out vanilla custard, a metallic element though not unpleasant and even a little ash.
Finish: Depends on how much water of coarse but the following are present, grapefruit, toffee, banana, leather satchel, orange, nutmeg, mineral’s, oak, ash, bbq hotplate.
Last Word: A brute that needs taming with a fair splash of water. None the less, I have never had a Mars AWO cask matured whisky that has failed me yet.

Rating: 87/100

Kirin Lightly Peated Aged 12 Years 43%abv

kirin-lightly-peated-12yoNose: Pineapple, papaya, caramels, earthy peat, oak, orange, vanilla.
Palate: Fresh ginger heat, pepper, pineapple, papaya, caramels, blood orange, olive oil, earthy peat, brazil nuts, savory shapes.
Finish: Pineapple, brazil nuts, tobacco, smoke, earthy peat, ginger, pepper. A combo of sweet, hot spice and drying elements from the peat.
Last Word: Very tasty whisky worth looking out for if you are in Japan. Peating level I would say is a notch up from Hakushu 12. Kirin also made a 20 year old version which I have tasted and own a bottle of.

Rating: 88/100