If you missed it a bottle of Yamazaki 50 Year Old Single Malt Whisky sold for a record price at Auction on January 30 for US$299,000. The auction was held by Sotheby’s Hong Kong. The previous record for a single bottle of Japanese whisky was also held by a bottle of Yamazaki 50YO sold at auction in October 2016 for US$129,000. After having followed the whisky auction scene for a while I can safely say it if you want absolute top dollar, Hong Kong is the place to sell. It is certainly bolstered by the burgeoning Asian whisky scene. The problem I found however was that when I approached a certain auction house in HK to sell some of my whisky they did not accept consignments from outside of HK. The whisky had to already be in country. Not sure if this is the same for all the auction houses in HK.
When first released in 2011 the bottle price was around US$9,200 which although it looks like a bargain now, lets face it, this was a bottle for the wealthy from the get go.
There were a couple of bars in Japan back in 2011 where you could try this for Yen 90,000 a shot or about US$850.
For years now a number of people on various whisky forums have speculated about the demise of Japanese Whisky. Just a fad, too overpriced(maybe it is but it hasn’t diminished it’s rise) and for a number of narrow minded people if it isn’t made in Scotland it can’t be whisky or at least not good whisky.
Japanese whisky has proved to be resilient on the pricing front and it’s popularity has gone from strength to strength.
*Note: We may have seen some marginal average price drops on bottling’s from the likes of Hanyu and Karuizawa over the last year but this is normal when the number of different bottling’s have increased. Prices of the most prized bottling’s are still on the up.
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: 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: 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: 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.
Whisky Auctioneer, a UK based auction house, has announced an exclusive auction of the largest know collection of Karuzizawa whisky. 290 bottles in total and while nothing like their claim of “includes close to every expression created by the renowned Japanese distillery”, Whiskybase lists 460 expressions, it is still very impressive. The lots include the 1960 pictured.
According to the website the lots are being sold individually and while there may be a record price broken here or there for individual bottling’s, I would have loved to have seen a single lot auction where I’m sure the single lot price would have been smashed for any collection of whisky. Auction kicks off on the 5th of April and runs through to 17th of April. FYI, with the prices of Karuizawa these days I didn’t bother registering to bid : ).
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.
Kicking 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!
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: 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.
Nose: Earthy field mushrooms, creosote, licorice, apricots, furniture polish, fermented orange slices, a touch of brine. Water adds some pear and white flowers. Palate: Candied orange slices, creosote, Brazil nuts, olive oil, salt, nutmeg, ginger cubes. Almost no woodiness after 23 years in an oak barrel. Water adds some menthol, almonds and nougat. Finish: Over baked scones, ginger cubes, creosote, earthy, powder like cocoa powder but without the cocoa taste and the nougat with some water added. Last Word: Not your typical Madeira cask matured whisky, less fruity/winey for sure. A really nice experience and while not cheap to buy, a lot cheaper than a Card Series Hanyu of the same vintage.
Nose: Dusty oak barrels, old wardrobes, licorice, vanilla, peppermint, apricots, old leather satchel, cracked pepper, quince jam. A delight to nose and I would happily do so all day. A little water adds hints of toffee and tobacco leaf. Palate: Tangy, luscious stone fruits, old leather, big salt, candy coated nuts, nutmeg, menthol, quince jam. Water reduces the salt and ups the quota of tangy apricot and quince jams. Finish: Leather, menthol, mint, quince jam, cocoa powder. Last Word: Another fantastic 10YO Single Cask Yoichi. Really a never fail in my experience.
Nose: 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.
Nose: 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.
Nose: 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.