Yamazaki 50 Year Old Sets Record Price for a Japanese Whisky

Yamazaki 50YOIf 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.

Kirin Single Cask 10YO #M814 47%abv

P1050359Nose: 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.

Rating: 82/100

Miyagikyo Fruity and Rich No Age Statement 55%abv

P1050320Nose: 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!.

Rating 84/100

Buying Japanese Whisky in Japan 2018 Report

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!

Kampai

Brian AKA Dramtastic

Mars Komagatake Tsunuki Aging 2013 3YO 59%abv

P1050332Nose: 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!

Rating: 89/100

Yoichi Single Cask # 406973 2005 10YO 57%abv

P1050277Nose: 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!

Rating: 90/100

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.

Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu IPA Cask Finish 2017 57.5%abv

P1050322Nose: 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.

Rating: 85/100

Ichiro’s Malt Card Series Full Set Of 58 Bottles For Sale At Auction

Ichiro's Malt Card Series
Offered for sale for the first time is a full set of 58 bottles of Ichiro’s Malt Card Series as part of Sotheby’s Hong Kong Finest and Rarest Wine Auction this Friday and Saturday 29-30th of September.
For those who are trying to figure out how a deck of cards is 58 it’s not. Just so happens that back in the day Ichiro Akuto bottled and sold a about a quarter of the whisky from 4 different single casks then later bottled and sold the rest of the whisky from these casks. The casks used became the Ace of Spades, the Queen of Hearts, the King of Diamonds and the Jack of Clubs hence double bottling’s of these cards and the total number in the series as 58.
Price guide for the full set of Ichiro’s Malt Card Series is from a ridiculously low US$256,000 to US$512,000.
As a set of 54 cards without the 4 doubles sold at auction a couple of years ago for US480,000 I personally expect the upper range of the price guide to not only be reached but exceeded.
So if your a wealthy whisky collector here is a rare opportunity, for the rest of us we have a few days to win the lottery.

**Update: Lot sold for US$455,000 so it seems prices have stabilized or even declined a little.

Chichibu For Tokyo International Bar Show 2015 French Oak Cask #2360 62.3%abv

P1050314Nose: 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!

Rating: 89.5/100

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

Kirin 17YO Small Batch Single Malt Whisky 46%abv

P1050313Nose: 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.

Rating: 84/100

Yoichi Peaty & Salty NAS 55%abv

P1050306Nose: 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.

Rating: 88.5/100

Yamazaki Limited Edition 2017 43%abv

P1050309Nose: 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.

Rating: 88.5/100

White Oak Akashi Single Malt Uozumi Sherry & Bourbon Casks NAS 46%abv

P1050305Nose: 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.

Rating: 85/100

Suntory Ageing 15YO Blended Whisky 43%abv

P1050296

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

Nikka Pure Malt Red 43%abv

P1050291Nose: Cantaloupe, rose water, vanilla wafers, white peaches, fresh cut timber, pink grapefruit.
Palate: A bowl of mixed nuts, white peaches, peanut butter, there’s both savory and herbal elements, strawberries.
Finish: Salt, nuts, herbs such as cloves and oregano.
Last Word: Not a whisky that is going to blow your mind but blended with a purpose to be lighter in style to accompany food or as a summer sipper and with an emphasis Miyagikyo Malt Whisky. If this was Scottish it would be a Lowland Whisky.

Rating: 82/100

Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu The Peated 2016 4YO 54.5%abv

P1050289Nose: 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.

87/100

Largest Known Collection of Karuizawa Hitting the Auction Block

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. Karuizawa1960.jpg
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 : ).