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

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

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!

Mars Astronomical Observation Bottling 1991 24YO Sherry Cask #157 59%abv

IMG_4004Nose: If it did not say Sherry Cask on the label I would not pick this as a sherry cask matured whisky. Vanilla, toasted oak, grapefruit, orange zest, maple syrup on toasted crumpets, apple sauce. With water added a floral note and white peach emerge.
Palate: Heavy hit of spices that is pretty overwhelming. Ginger, pepper, chili. Baked apples, grapefruit, Brazil nuts. Really needs a large splash of H2O to quell the spicy fire but when added there is some lychee, coconut and nougat.
Finish: Ginger, Brazil nuts, slightly burnt apple pie, nougat and drying oak.
Last Word: Quite the oddity as it is not like any other sherry cask matured whisky I’ve tasted whether from Scotland, Japan or the Mars Distillery itself. Not an unpleasant dram when watered down but not a favorite especially when compared with the many great sherry cask whiskies I’ve tried. Long way to go to the end of the bottle so we will see how it develops.

Rating: 83/100

Mars Komagatake Sherry & White Oak Casks 3YO 57%ABV

P1020584Nose: Sherry, orange jus, cereal notes, a little struck match, bread dough, mouldy orange peel, grapefruit.
Palate: Vanilla, butter, cream, bread dough, pepper, mouldy orange peel, green vegetables.
Finish: Struck match, vanilla, sherry, orange jus, boiled greens.
Last Word: The casks blended into this don’t really gel. At the same age(3YO), Mars The Revival bottling is a far better option.

Rating: 79/100

Mars Awai Tradition 2016 40%abv

BAL_3044-2Nose: Honey, sweet lemon, fresh cut timber, raisins, caramel, dried pears, putty.
Palate: Honey, cinnamon, raisins, toffee, dried pears, pepper. A richer flavor on the palate that the Awai Bourbon Casks but still fairly simple.
Finish: Honey, flat cola, yeast, toffee and a little oak.
Last Word: Will be joining it’s sibling the Awai Bourbon Casks as the whisky base for highballs.

Rating: 78/100

Mars Awai Bourbon Casks 40%abv

BAL_3040Nose: Sharp and acetone. Lemon, chlorine, sawdust, cheap bourbon.
Palate: Orange, toffee, dates, pepper, bourbon, a bit soapy. Simple but at least an improvement on the nose.
Finish: Mercifully short.
Last Word: Sells for AUD$94 “Downunder” which is ridiculous for a whisky that is going to end up as highball fodder.

Rating: 74/100

Buying Japanese Whisky in Japan 2016 Report

***Please see the 2017 report here for the latest buying reports***
It’s been a year since I wrote the post Buying Japanese Whisky In Japan Nothing But Scorched Earth so time to see if anything as changed. The main reason for the 12 month update is that particular post still generates a huge number of views and the vast majority of emails I receive are from people travelling to Japan and asking where to by whisky. This new post is based on my experience travelling to Tokyo early last month.

If anything has changed it may be that things are even more bleak than last year. The situation where large groups travelling from other countries in Asia especially China on organised shopping tours pillaging all the limited release and age statement Japanese whiskies is now virtually non existent. The reason being is there is almost none of that stuff left to buy anyway.

Whether it be large liquor retailers such as Liquors Hasegawa, Shinanoya, the liquor section of department stores like Isetan or Takeshimaya or the local 7 Eleven the main offerings are pretty much the same. You’re looking at no age statement blends from Suntory, Nikka, Kirin, Mars and Akashi, no age statement single malts from Nikka and Suntory, Nikka The Blend 12YO, Nikka Coffey Grain and Coffey Malt, Taketsuru NAS, Hibiki Harmony. There is quite a lot mini bottles of Yamazaki 12 around. Isetan still had some of their in house only Mars Tsunagu Blend available. Liquors Hasegawa had some Yamazaki LE 2015 but as they sold out everywhere else last year the price was at a premium of Y22,000. You can buy something like Yamazaki 18YO Narita Airport amongst the very limited number of offering’s available there but it’s still the travel exclusive bottling with the fancy label for Y50000.
If you do go to Liquors Hasegawa it may be worthwhile asking if they have anything interesting not on the shelves, I know they had some but again be prepared to pay a decent premium above the original retail price. Shinanoya had some Hakushu 12YO. It is always worth while checking out any of these places as you may be lucky, well very lucky, to be there on a day when one of their in in house bottling’s becomes available. That’s if they haven’t all pre sold before they hit the shelves. I was lucky enough to grab the one bottle of Hakushu 18YO left on the shelf at Shinanoya Kabukicho branch, how that lasted I have no idea but of course even at Y24000 I didn’t hesitate. A bottle of Chichibu On The Way from Liquors Hasegawa for about the original retail price of Y9,500 and a bottle of Kirin Small Batch 18 YO Blend for Y26000 at a small liquor store in the vicinity of Hakoneyumoto Station. The latter two where also last bottles left. Yamazaki distillery had a dozen bottle of Hibiki 12 and their 300ml No age statement Single Malt available to buy but by the end of my 1 hour tour and a few whiskies at the bar they were all sold out. So you may walk into any liquor store and fluke an interesting bottle but they are not available on mass all of the time.
I was discussing the Japanese Whisky scene with the manager of Liquors Hasegawa and he mentioned that only three years ago they were lucky to sell 12 bottles of Japanese Whisky a month.

In relation to bars I only went to a few, you can still try the Yoichi age statement range at least up to the 15 year old, Takestsuru 17 and 21, Hakushu 12 and 18YO and the same from Yamazaki, also Hibki 12,17 and 21 year olds. The famous Zoetrope still has a lot of different bottling’s but you can forget about anything from Karuizawa or Hanyu Card Series. In fact I think there was only a few Hanyu left to try at Zoetrope and a very limited range of single casks from Yoichi, Yamazaki, Hakushu, Akashi and Mars. Yamazaki distillery(took a day trip with some family) is still a good place to try single cask component malts at very reasonable prices. I tasted one dram each of cask strength Heavily Peated, Sherry and Mizunara casks for Y2500 in total.

So what will happen moving forward. Not much in the short to medium term, say three to 8 years. It’s true that the big players such as Nikka and Suntory have ramped up production but when this will bear fruit in regards to age statement whiskies is anyone’s guess but I’d say maybe 5-6 years. There were quite a number of new bottling’s from Chichibu over the last 12 months but unfortunately many of these are single cask single malts or single class blends that sell out very quickly in Japan. Mars released a few new bottling’s but again most sell out quickly in Japan, same with Akashi. Good for those smaller output distilleries but not of much use to most Japanese whisky enthusiasts. Yamazaki LE 2016 was released last month and pretty much sold out straight away. Horigami-san owner of Zoetrope bar told there are three new distilleries coming on line this year. That’s great but they will not make any impact for at least 3 years when they can be classified as whisky and even then will they just be three new versions of Chichibu. That is to say, smallish production runs that sell out very quickly if they are good quality and hardly if at all impact the amount of Japanese whiskies available outside of Japan. In the meanwhile prices for no longer available at retail bottling’s of Japanese whisky will remain high due to supply and Japan. Still lenty available on the auction circuit for those with deep pockets. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Yes, but at them moment it’s a long tunnel and the light is fairly dim.

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

Mars “Komagatake” Rindo Single Malt 52%

P1030184Nose: Sherry, grapefruit, wood stain, an earthy note, dried mixed citrus peel, dried pears, tobacco.
Palate: Well the tobacco is still present but you wouldn’t think you were tasting the same whisky you have been nosing. Candy coated nuts, earthy peat, marzipan, white peaches, cashews, a mix of sweet and savory spices, tinned plums, menthol. Really quite moreish, I kept pouring more drams while writing up these notes.
Finish: Tobacco, earthy peat, cashews and menthol.
Last Word: A well sorted blend of old and new stock and different cask types. Doesn’t really give any clues to the distiller as it is not like any previous offering from Mars Whisky I have tasted before.

Rating: 87/100

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