Nikka The 60th Anniversary Est. 1934 Blend 45%abv

P1050330Nose: Banana mouse, brandy, blueberries, toffee, steamed corn cob, apricots, maple syrup, hint of orange, bay leaves.
Palate: Paprika, oregano, chili powder, chocolate coated coffee beans, mashed banana’s, blueberries, toffee, old leather, dried tobacco leaves.
Finish: Oregano, pepper, dried tobacco leaves, fried banana, pineapple, bay leaves.
Last Word: The mainly sweet nose belies the herbaceous palate and finish that follows. A very smooth and approachable blended whisky, there should still be enough flavor and complexity to satisfy many. A little bit of Yoichi peated whisky in the mix to add a smoky element would not have gone astray.

Rating: 86/100

Update: With a little over a third of the bottle gone there is now some obvious Yoichi smokiness coming through. Add a point.

Suntory Blended Whisky For The Peninsula Tokyo 2014 43%abv

P1050318Nose: At 43%abv it’s no heavy hitter but elegant and complex. Dark cherries, roasted chestnuts, raisins, vanilla, Valencia oranges, nutmeg, red grapes, a waxy note, Cherry Ripes, subtle oak, brandy snaps.
Palate: Faithfully follow’s the nose for the most part but the oak is definitely firmer. There is also cloves and old leather. Water brings out sultana’s, mint milk chocolate, red berries and cocoa powder. The fruit flavors are nice and juicy.
Finish: Medium length on mint milk chocolate, menthol, nutmeg, oak and cocoa.
Last Word: High quality and classy blend with classic Suntory Sherry Cask matured whisky elements wrapped up in a elegant package. I’ll add that in reality much darker in color than the photo which is heavily backlit.

Rating: 92/100

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

Suntory Ageing 15YO Blended Whisky 43%abv


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

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

Ichiro’s Malt and Grain Kiyosato Field Ballet 26th Anniversary Bottling 48%abv

IMG_3985-2Nose: Earthy, licorice, molasses, fruity notes from a well aged rum, leather, tobacco, lapsang souchong. If you can call a nose smooth this is smooth.
Palate: Again the long aged rum is prevalent but not overwhelming. Caramelised orange juice, tobacco, leather, lapsang souchong, mixed herbs, ginger heat, salt. Well balanced, interesting, tasty and with no rough edges whatsoever.
Finish: Leather, tobacco, tar, pine, molasses and coconut.
Last Word: I’ve tasted a number of Ichiro’s Malt and Grain bottling’s and this one is a stand out! Not cheap, but if you have the readies this is a highly recommended whisky and better than the majority of Ichiro’s Card Series I’ve tasted.

Rating: 92/100
Note: A blend of 25YO Hanyu Single Malt from 1990 and 33YO Kawasaki Single Grain from 1982.

Suntory Blended Whisky Limited Edition Wa-Kyo Bottled For Shinanoya 43%bv

P1020588Nose: Citrus, wild flowers, almonds, macadamia’s, white peaches, sandalwood. Fresh and lively.
Palate: Delicate, yet with some viscosity. White peaches, wild flowers, vanilla, almonds, macadamia’s, butter, sandalwood, lifesavers fruit tingle candies.
Finish: Macadamia’s, almonds, sandalwood, white peaches and butter.
Last Word: A classy blend from the house of Suntory that is more malty than grainy. Would be stellar at 50%abv.

Rating: 88/100

Kirin Fuji-Sanroku 18YO Blended Whisky Small Batch 43%

P1050271Nose: Toffee, brown sugar, orange slices, wood chips, rye spice, pineapple, passion fruit, apricot jam.
Palate: Orange reminiscent of a bourbon such as Woodford Reserve. Rye spice, nutmeg, cloves, apricot jam, pineapple, wood shavings, passion fruit. Water adds some sherbet filled lemon candy.
Finish: Very well controlled wood for the age. Rye spice, smooth bourbon, passion fruit, pineapple and apricot jam.
Last Word: Very much in the Kirin house style. A bourbonesque style of whisky which makes sense as I have been told by more than one source in Japan that the Master Blender at Kirin has a penchant for American Whiskey. For myself this is smooth, well balanced, interesting and tasty. As per usual these day’s, very hard to find even in Japan.

Rating: 88/100

Mars Burn The Barrel Blended Whisky Virgin American White Oak Cask Finish 40%abv

P1050175Nose: Quite oaky. Fried banana’s, oranges, apricots, bran, pepper, Makers Mark or similar type bourbon.
Palate: Caramelized orange juice, fried banana’s, fresh cream. pepper, rye, the Makers Mark, oily and oaky.
Finish: Cream, oranges, savory shapes biscuits, fried banana’s, olive oil, drying oak.
Last Word: Very much a bourbonesque style of whisky. A bit heavy on the oak.

Rating: 80/100

Suntory Hibiki Harmony Master’s Select Blended Whisky 43%

P1030188Nose: Lots of juicy tropical fruits. Oak, toffee, wood spices.
Palate: Mouth coating toffee, raisins, rhubarb, dates, a mix of savory and wood spices, oak, chocolate, and menthol. Certainly a lot more satisfying than the regular Hibiki Harmony.
Finish: Toffee, spices, oak and menthol.
Last Word: For mine this one is actually more malty and less grainy that the 12, 17 and 21 year old Hibiki’s. While not hugely complex it has been well blended for good balance. Also seems to have a large component of aged whiskies in the mix. If like me you find the regular Hibiki Harmony a bit of an embarrassment for Suntory, this is definitely more that one step in the right direction. Not cheap for a NAS blend but I personally prefer this to the Hibiki 12YO. Excellent session whisky as I always find myself pouring more than one.

Rating: 85/100

*Note: This is one of those travel exclusive whiskies so only sold in duty free stores but more than just a fancy label on the regular product like many are.

Ichiro’s Malt Bartender’s Choice Special Blended Whisky 2015 59.8%abv

BAL_3885.jpgNose: Surely some sherry cask matured whisky in the mix? Cherry cream chocolate, Raisins, pink grapefruit, papaya, sawdust, pear wine gums, California Zinfandel.
Palate: Nutmeg, apple pie, pink grapefruit, cloves, salt and pepper, paprika, California Zinfandel, creaming soda, cherry, orange jus.
Finish: Paprika, fermented pears, California Zinfandel, lemon cough drops and finishes with some ashy dryness.
Last Word: Typical Japanese ‘Clayton’s’ blended whisky. The blend you have when your not wanting a blend. The person I bought this from kindly approached the bottler and could not get any concrete info on what the make up of this bottling is. The whiff of sherry and the cherry has me thinking there is some Kawasaki single sherry grain whisky in the blend. Overall a very nice whisky with good complexity.

Rating: 86/100

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 Super Session Triad Blended Whisky 100 Proof

nikka-triad-super-session-50Nose: A little toffee, raisins, tobacco, peanuts, wood stain, cinnamon, cloves and moulding oranges.
Palate: Toffee, raisins, orange, yoghurt, marzipan, ginger, peanut butter.
Finish: Short on yoghurt, marzipan, peanut butter and sweetened lemon.
Last Word: I expected far more complexity as I really enjoy the Rye Base 43%.

Rating: 74/100
*Note- This is a blend of malt, coffey grain and rye whiskies.

Nikka Corn Base 100 Proof

nikka-corn-base-50Nose: First whiff is fairly acetone. Creamed corn, fermented pears, golden syrup on waffles. Water brings out some vanilla and pineapple.
Palate: Stewed apples, salt and pepper, fermented pears, creamed corn. Some vanilla and orange with water.
Finish: Pretty much follows the palate.
Last Word: As you can tell, pretty simple and uninspiring stuff. I’d did prefer the 43% version, though not by much.

Rating: 72/100

Kirin Pure Malt 18YO Oloroso Sherry Casks 1975-78-1997 46%abv

kirin-seagrams-pure-malt-18yo-1975-78-1997-bottle-269-of-360-46Nose: Maple Syrup, mild chicken korma, BBQ grilled pineapple, vanilla, honey, buttered crumpets, licorice, damp earth, butterscotch, walnuts, Pineapple Lumps, Granny Smith apples, mango, light tobacco. Plush!
Palate: Sharp blue cheese, pomegranate’s, mixed peel, papaya, hot spices, tobacco, burnt banana, oak, big saltiness. Water smooth’s things out, the maple syrup and honey make a return and some burnt lemon meringue is added. Big stuff at ‘only’ 46%.
Finish: Some coal, dried fruits, papaya, burnt lemon meringue pie, BBQ grilled banana, oak, butter, salt and pineapple.
Last Word: The nose is exquisite. Palate is fiery and needs water. A powerful and interesting whisky.

Rating: 89/100


The Blend of Nikka 45%abv

the-blend-of-nikka-45Nose: Very fruity. Red apples, blueberries, overripe peached, sultanas, papaya. Fabric softener, lemon meringue, Japanese bars.
Palate: Again the fruitiness. Some vanilla, wax, salt and pepper, bubblegum, maltesers, leather and gentle smokiness.
Finish: Oak, light pepper, maltesers, papaya, leather. Linger on a pillow of light smoke then some very late red grape.
Last Word: Lovely daily dram. The 17YO is even better of you can still find it.

Rating: 86/100

Mars Iwai Tradition Wine Cask Finish 40%


I previously mentioned this bottling during my TIBS/WhiskyLive Tokyo 2013 report. Well it’s hit the retail shelves in Japan with an outrun of 2495 bottles finished in ex-red wine casks for about 12 months. Price is Y2310 for a 750ml bottle. For those not familiar with the history, Mars parent company Hombo Shuzo has been producing a variety of wines in the Yamanashi Prefecture of Japan for around 50 years. This was the 3rd bottling I tasted at the Hombo Shuzo(Mars) stand at the show. The first 2 were the “Komagatake” 22YO and the “Komagatake” Bourbon Barrel 24YO. After those two, the thought of being knocked out by a 40%abv blended whisky with no age statement finished in a wine cask seemed highly unlikely. Well I was knocked out by the quality of this whisky for the price and so was everyone else I talked to that tried it. Ok, it was only a single dram so it will not be until my bottles arrived that I can confirm, but initial impressions were that this will be right up there with the best value, quality daily drams anywhere in the world. Hmmm, I think I should buy a few more……….

Mars Iwai Tradition Blended Whisky 720ml 40% – Something New, Something Old


Hombo Shuzo(Mars Whisky), release of new bottling’s continues this week. Well, in the case of this particular bottling it’s a repackaging and with Mars now receiving some well deserved exposure both domestically and internationally and a wider retail distribution(in Japan), more good news for the vibrancy of the Japanese whisky scene. The Awai Tradition is a malt and grain blend and a nice one at that. Retail price Y1850 for a 720ml bottle. There are still some of the old bottle style stock being sold side by side, same price, same bottle size. Here’s my review of the original bottle style which also won a IWSC Silver Medal in 2012.

Mars Iwai Tradition 720ml 40%abv.
Nose: Thick Manuka honey. Soft oak, sweet orange peel, dry sherry and toffee.
Palate: Manuka honey, raisins, all spice, dry sherry, toffee and a little smoke. Mouth coating.
Finish: Short on honey, toffee, oak, butter, sherry and gentle spices. Errs on the side of malt rather than grain.
Last Word: A great session whisky, I’ve already polished off 3 bottles.

Rating: 82/100

Ichiro’s Malt and Grain 20YO 46%

ichiros-malt-and-grain-20yo-46Nose: Straight off the bat I pick up the Kawasaki influence, so sherry cask single grain. Cream of wheat, creamed corn, toffee, pipe tobacco, leather, fresh cut timber, hessian, mint and white pepper. Rich and succulent.
Palate: More of the Kawasaki sherry cask single grain. Chinese 5 spice, marzipan, nougat, pine, pipe tobacco, leather, rhubarb, roasted chestnuts and honey on crumpets.
Finish: Follows the palate with the pipe tobacco and leather prominent.
Last Word: This is a blend of Hanyu malt and Kawasaki single grain whiskies. There have been a number of these with 20YO age statements and different labels and I am not sure if they are the same bottling or not. Well crafted, high end blending.

Rating: 89/90