Nose: Apricots, dried pears, barley, lemon sherbet, vanilla, wood spice, ash. Palate: Barley, dried pears, smoke, salt, ginger, spearmint, lemons, oregano, oak. Mouth feel it light and crisp. Water brings out almonds and thickens the body a little. Finish: Minerals, lemon, icing sugar, spearmint, ash. Last Word: Easy drinking, no off notes, not particularly bold or complex and comes off a little younger that 10 years old.
Nose: Cantaloupe, honeydew melon, fresh cut timber, pears, white grapes, white peaches, honey. Water brings out a heather note. Palate: Honey, sweet baking spices, vanilla, pears, lychee, bakers yeast, the cantaloupe and honeydew melon combo and chili powder. The chili powder hits quite hard within a few seconds so prefer this with H2O. Water also adds cashews and a buttery mouth feel. Finish: Fades quite quickly on some trailing cantaloupe, lychee and menthol. Last Word: Rich, not so sure, fruity…..definitely!.
In the 2017 there were 428 comments by contributors for the Buying Japanese Whisky in Japan Report thread. A mighty effort especially from a small number of very active posters. My personal thanks to those guys.
In 2017 there were also 22,500 views of this thread so be in no doubt this post and the advice given is greatly valued by readers of TJWR. I should add that there were 12,000 views of the 2016 report during that 2017 as well.
So to our regular contributors and anyone else who wants to jump on board, I look forward to reading about your experiences of buying Japanese Whisky in Japan 2018!
Nose: This is Heavily Peated Whisky by Japanese standards. If you have tried any of the Chichibu ‘standard’ peated bottling’s, this is peated to at least that level but the Mars peat is much earthier. Dried mushrooms, bay leaves, ripe apricot, honeycomb, oregano, antiseptic, lemon, vanilla. Water ups the vanilla. Palate: Ok, on the palate this is flat our heavily peated. Ash, antiseptic, lemon cough drops. diesel, earthy peat. Charred oak, salt, marzipan, vanilla. Quite oily as witnessed by the legs that draw down the glass slower than a snail. Cucumber water. More than acceptable without water even at 59%abv. With a little water the marzipan gets louder as does the vanilla and adds some zingy lemon sherbet. A few drops more and we have breath mints and almonds. Finish: Satisfyingly long, the oiliness continues to coat the mouth. Ash, diesel, antiseptic, lemon, almonds and vanilla. Last Word: I remember when I bought a couple of different new make Mars peated whiskies a number years back. The quality of the distillation and the balance of the peat spoke of the promise of great things to come. That promise has been fulfilled. Fantastic at 3 years I can only imagine what a 10YO will be like. Highly recommended!
Nose: A medley of dried fruits made up of apricots, papaya, pears and dates. Quince jam, old leather chairs, pepper, cloves, hint of vanilla, eucalyptus, camphor, charred oak and candied orange slices. Water adds lime water and brandy snaps. Could nose this all day long! Palate: A bowl of mixed nuts, an earthy element, camphor, menthol, ginger, paprika, the candied orange slices, hoisin sauce. With water we have the quince jam, dates and dried papaya. Finish: Cloves, pepper, menthol, dried tobacco leaves, salted dark chocolate and cocoa. Last Word: Another cracking Yoichi 10YO Single Cask Whisky. Can find no reason why this would have needed a single day longer in the barrel!
Nose: Honey, toffee, white grapes, white peaches, Rose(wine), pink grapefruit, dried pears. Water adds a floral note of heather. Palate: Savory spices, puff pastry, raisins, Rose(wine), pink grapefruit. Quite prickly on the palate without water. With water more of the pastry, heather honey, pepper, apples, macadamias and the dried pears. Finish: Puff pastry, baking spices, heather honey, apples, Rose(wine) and a little drying wood. Last Word: To get the best out of this I diluted to about 40-43%abv. Probably different to most of the Japanese whiskies you might have tasted, I’d say more Scottish in style(yes I know there are a ton of different Scottish Whisky Styles). I quite like it after a liberal dash of water is added.
Nose: The IPA cask influence shows it’s hand straight off the bat. Some maltiness and very hoppy/fruity. There is a dustiness like dust covered old oak barrels. Orange peel, peach skin and yeast. Incense which grows stronger with water. Palate: Lots of malt and hops. Some big hot spices. The dry dustiness, orange peel on the verge of going moldy, sugared grapefruit. Water adds salt, lemon zest and citrus tart. For mine water is a must with this whisky to subdue the hot spices which are a little out of balance and to add some nuance. Finish: Fairly short on the malt and hoppy/fruity flavors. Last Word: The casks first contain Chichibu whisky, then refilled with IPA beer from a number of different IPA craft breweries before being refilled with Chichibu whisky for finishing.
The Chichibu quality is there but the final product is extremely cask forward in profile and for my tastes maybe a little too much so. Almost like a novelty whisky.
Nose: Cinnamon coated Danish apple pastry, apricot jam, ginger bread, toffee’d oak, pouch tobacco. A salty maritime not like fresh shellfish. After a while a floral note, even more so with water added. Palate: OK, while there is some big spicy punch on the palate there is zero burn on the way down which speaks of quality distillation. There is the Danish apple pastry, Krispy Kreme original glazed donuts. The spices are a cross between baking spices of cinnamon and nutmeg and some ginger and pepper heat. The peppery spice then mixes in with some salt. Water brings out Maltesers and tangy orange. Finish: Starts out with the the salt and pepper combo, nutmeg, Maltesers, then leather and pouch tobacco. This finish is loooooong, the pepper and salt bounces back after 5 minutes with a vengeance with just enough toffee/malt to balance. A Yoichi like Chichibu in many ways. Impressive! Last Word: This is the most complex Chichibu I’ve tried and amazingly so for only 6 years old. My new favorite Chichibu! Recommended!
Nose: 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.
Nose: 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.
Nose: 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.
Nose: 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.
Nose: 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.
Nose: 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.
Nose: 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.
Nose: 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.
Nose: 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.
Nose: 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.
Nose: 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.
Nose: 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.