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

nikka-takestsuru-17yo

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!

jokers-2

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

Mars Whisky – It must be getting close.

A comment left today by a regular reader of The Japanese Whisky Review got me thinking. Basically it was in regards to my recent tasting notes on a couple of releases from Mars Shinshu and how difficult they are to source in Europe. These reviews were of stock that has been maturing at the current distillery site, but was distilled before production was stopped and at one stage, thought to be never starting up again.
Now I reviewed some New Pot peated Mars whisky a while back so I thought I’d go check the distilled dates. Yep, March 2011. So, potentially we may see the first of the new production spirit from this great little distillery that can be officially called whisky as early as April this year being 3 years old. Now that is something to get seriously exited about!

Mars “Komagatake” Single Cask 1988 25YO Sherry Cask #569 59%abv

mars-komagatake-single-cask-1988-25yo-sherry-cask-569-58Nose: Dry sherry, cocoa, cherry ripes, dried fruits, madeira, mixed peel, apricot jam, charred oak barrels. Water adds white pepper.
Palate: Cocoa, apricots, nutmeg, dried fruits, orange lifesavers, madeira cake, ginger bread, oak. Water adds some, fresh ginger, cola and praline.
Finish: Madeira, candied nuts, dried fruits, nutmeg, ginger bread, pepper, charred barrels.
Last Word: Old school sherry cask whisky. Think of a cask strength Macallan from yesteryear. What, no Christmas cake you say. It would have been a cliché if I had noted that. At any rate, this is excellent.

Rating: 92/100

Karuizawa Joint Bottling of HST 1999 14YO Sherry Cask #2316 61.3%

karuizawa-1999-14yo-sherry-cask-2316-61-3Nose: Dried fruits, marmalade, overripe apricots, oak, wood stain, maple syrup, oranges, pink grapefruit, praline, drying fresh tanned leather, tree sap. No sulphury notes, whoo hoo!
Palate: Very punchy without water with a fix of fizzy fruit sherbets, dried fruits, praline, nougat and oak. With water there’s some toffee, orange jus, pepper, strawberry conserve and licorice added.
Finish: Dried fruits, oak, strawberry conserve, mild peppermint and licorice. Finally dies on hints of leather and charcoal.
Last Word: A fine Karuizawa with a lot going on. Not a sulphury note to be found which puts it in the minority of Karuizawa sherry cask matured whiskies.

Rating: 88/100
*Note: Once again another problem with the cork on a Karuizawa bottling. On the 3rd opening of this bottle, the cork snapped in two. Had to fish out half the cork with wooden skewers and a pair of tweezers. Straight into the not good enough basket.

The Festive Season

As the Festive Season begins in earnest in many places around the world, I’d like the wish those are who are celebrating, a very happy and most importantly safe Christmas. I would also like to thank everyone for their patronage of The Japanese Whisky Review over the past year. The number of readers has far exceeded my expectations. I’ll be capping off my year with a trip up to Osaka and looking forward as always to tasting some fantastic Japanese Whisky.

Mars “Komagatake” Single Cask 1988 25YO American White Oak # 555 46%

d7k_7631Nose: Papaya, mango, vanilla, apricot jam, oak, leather, banana, toffee. Delightful.
Palate: Plenty of punch for 46%. Vanilla slice, banana, oak, mango, apricot, rhubarb, leather, ginger bread, sweet tobacco, white pepper, cashews, salt.
Finish: Leather, tobacco, white pepper, rhubarb, ginger bread, cashews, banana.
Last Word: Mars is to American White Oak cask whisky as Yamazaki is to Sherry cask whisky. You just can’t go wrong.

Rating: 91/100

Chichibu On The Way 58.5% abv

d7k_7561Nose: Dried pears, malt, bran, varnish, caramel, popcorn. Quite oaky for one so young. Some leather with water added. A little incense with a lot of water added
Palate: Quite fiery without water. Dried pears, malt, bran, whole meal, salt, popcorn, caramel, oak, mango, cayenne pepper. Even with water this is one hot whisky.
Finish: Without water the overriding impression is peppery heat and some dry oak. Needs a lot of water to find hints of the mizunara influence(incense).
Last Word: One whisky that may have been better suited bottled at a lower abv.

Rating: 80/100