Friday, June 17, 2011

Hanshin Tasting Sessions

For those of you who are lucky enough to currently reside in either Osaka or Kobe, a rarity is going on. Until June 19, father’s day in Japan, the Hanshin department store in Umeda is providing one of the biggest tasting sessions I have seen to date. I’m not talking a messily 3 or 4 bottles, I’m talking at least 50 malts on offer for you to nose, sample, compare and evaluate. To celebrate the contribution that fathers and father figures make for their children, Hanshin have gone all out and provided the ultimate gift option to its shoppers. A massive selection, I estimate at least 100 different expressions, of single malt whisky, including a very impressive range of Japanese malts, are available. Usually department stores are quite bland in their selection of whisky, in the case of Hanshin, I have never seen a better spread put together in my decade of living here. Whether a gift or for personal consumption, now is the time to buy. You can get anything from a 3 year-old Kilchoman Islay to a $230 bottle of Ichiro’s 8 of clubs, from the well-known card series. I must admit, being a department store, in some instances the prices did exceed normal outlets such as KOROSUE, but on the other hand the selection is unbeatable.
I should confess my greediness; I appreciatively indulged in at least 12 expressions (very small tipples) during my visit last night. These included mostly Japanese expressions from Nikka and Ichiro’s Malt, followed by some mouthwatering Islay whiskies such as the aforementioned 3 year-old Kilchoman (divine). Besides one or two malts from Ichiro’s bottlings, the stand out for me was the Yoichi 12 year-old. I know in a previous post I mentioned that I preferred the Miyagikyo to the Yoichi, but this was the NAS expression, the 12 year-old is completely in another field. The Hanshin department store is easily accessible from any one of the major train or subway stations in Umeda. The tasting session is on the ground floor amongst the delicatessens.


  1. Amazing! Which Nikka and Ichiro malts did you try?

  2. For old times sake, I tried the White Oak- Akashi 5 & 12 year-old. Interesting review on whiskywall regarding the Akashi 12 year-old by the way. This was followed by the Yoichi 10 & 12 year-old, then onto Ichiro's Malts, the first being The Final Vintage of Hanyu (I will have to check when distilled and bottled), from there I tried the Hanyu 15 year-old and the 20 year-old cask strength, second bottling I believe. I would have liked to spend time on this to appreciate it more, but being in a plastic shot cup and given the bare minimal amount, in a department store, I cannot really say much about it. I was a bit greedy on the day and also included a mixture of at least 8 Islay, Speyside, and highland park malts. Give the Kilchoman 3 year-old a go whiskywall......

  3. You put in some serious "effort"! As you can tell the Akashi 12 just didn't do it for me. Nate, who also posts on the blog had a decidedly different view of it and really likes it. Hoping he will post his opinions soon.

    Ichiro has released a couple different The Final Vintage of Hanyu. I think the latest one is "For the Taster"? Was that the one you had or was it last year's 2010 cask strength release? The Kilchoman's are nice - was this the Spring 2011 release?

  4. Sorry, I should have been more specific. The Final Vintage of Hanyu was the "For The Taster" expression, and as for the Kilchoman, it was the 2010 summer release. In my opinion, this would have to be the best 3-yeard old whisky I have tried. Lets hope my serious effort didn't taint my palate.

    As for the Akashi 12, I enjoyed it much more than the 5, but there are a lot of opposite (vice versa) views out there. Look forward to Nate's opinions.

  5. The Final Vintage of Hanyu is 2000. By that I mean that was the last year that Hanyu distilled whiskys. There has been a number of bottles denoting The Final Vintage including '07,'08','09 cask strength and the mentioned For The Taster at 48% all distilled in 2000. I have open bottles of all these except the '07. You will not find a Hanyu distilled after 2000.

    I notice the store has Ichiro's 4 of Diamonds, this is a fantastic PX cask whisky and excellent value in Japan for a single cask whisky.

    Yoichi 12 was my cathartic Japanese whisky experience. Still love it to this day.

    As for the Akashi 12, seems to polarise opinion but I purchased a bottle recently and I love it. For me it's like a hybrid of Chichibu Newborn Heavily Peated, Lagavulin 16 and Longrow CV. And if you're Australian the smoke/ash reminds me of the Australian bush after a bush fire. Very familiar and very appealing.

  6. Just an ammendment to the above post. I have open bottles of '09,'10 The Final Vintage of Hanyu CS not '08,'09.
    Also not everything distilled that year(2000) will have this wording on the label, the majority are still labelled as part of the card series, some are just labelled Single Cask.

  7. Thank you for the knowledgeable insight into "The Final Vintage" Brian. Very much appreciated. So a number of bottles (07,08,09) denote The Final Vintage, while some are stilled labeled as part of the card series? As for the card series, you mentioned 4 of diamonds, is this your preferred expression out of the series?

    Back to the Akashi 12, love the comparison or likeness to a hybrid of Chichibu Newborn Peat and Longrow CV. I recall you suggesting in my post on the 12 that the Akashi 5 is the pick of the bunch, after the recent purchase of the 12, do you still think this? It's quite sad to say but I have almost forgot what a bush fire smells like, it's been a while, but I certainly get the association to the nose of the 12.

    Always enjoy the feedback. Cheers.

  8. Hi Clint,
    That's correct about The Final Vintage, it's just a labelling exercise. By rights anything distilled by Hanyu in the year 2000 could be described/labelled as part of the Final Vintage of Hanyu. The mentioned 4 of Diamonds could have Final Vintage attached as it was distilled in 2000.
    Maybe it's my favorite in the card series but I have tried more single cask labelled Hanyu than cards, at Y7700 it's a great buy for the quality. From a fantastic sherry butt with not a hint of sulphur in sight(think I'll pour one in a minute).
    I've just ordered the 10 of Hearts Madeira Cask and the Kawasaki 1982 for Whisky Live Tokyo 2011.
    As for the Akashi 12, I remember Chris telling me he wasn't that fussed on it but I'm glad after your recommendation and another I bought the bottle. I have around 100 open bottles and it's the whisky I'm most interested in pouring at the moment. Yes I prefer it to the 5YO, thought they are very different.

  9. I forgot to add. Akashi has actually released a limited bottling of around 100 each of the 5 and 12 at 59% abv. Same shape and size bottle, different but similarly simple(but nice)labelling, also about twice the price each!

  10. pps.
    The Ichiro's 20YO may have been the 2nd bottling but it is up to the 3rd bottling and the 15YO has been the 4th bottling for at least 9 months. And if you like the Kilchoman you still really need to find a bottle of Chichibu Newborn HP, it'll blow you away at only 3mths.

    Sounds like you had a great time, I did something similar last time I was at Takashimaya in Tokyo.

  11. Great info on the Final Vintage, I have the '10 and really like it. Haven't opened the For the Taster yet. I'll second the recommendation for the Chichibu Heavily Peated - amazing stuff, too bad my bottle is empty - Chris

  12. Great info Brian. Thanks again. Since one of our previous chats regarding the Chichibu Newborn HP, I have been on a physical search for it. I may have mentioned that the Hankyu department store no longer have it in stock, however, apparently the Takashimaya store in Namba (Osaka) have one or two bottles left.

    As for the limited release of the Akashi 10 / 12 yo bottled at 56% with only 100 bottles, there is not much talk of it here, and there is no major advertising, if not any. Is this only available to certain members of the industry? Twice the price though hey......

    Brian while I'm here and if you don't mind, a few readers, who are also readers of Nonjatta and have seen all your reviews, have asked how do you get all your stock back to Australia? 100 bottles is very impressive, are the all Japanese whisky?

  13. Chris (Whiskywall), since your bottle of Chichibu Newborn HP is empty, that may have to be on your list for your next visit.

  14. Clint I'm not sure if the Akashi 5/12 bottled at 59% are distillery only releases. I do have photo's but no facility to post them here.
    As for open bottles, around 75 of these are Japanese(plus about 15 closed).

    Chris(Whiskywall), I also really enjoy my bottle of Final Vintage '10, far superior to the '09. The '10 is a good example of what I would class as the Hanyu house style, sweet wood and incence, though of course finished examples will mask this a bit.

  15. Clint - its always a dilemma for me. Pick up another bottle of something or try new stuff. Hoping he releases some new expressions from Chichibu soon (other than the WhiskyLive bottlings)

    Brian - Good to hear. Now I don't feel bad about missing out on the '09. Where do you usually order your bottles from?

  16. Brian - following up on Chris' question, do you and where do you usually order your bottles from?

  17. How do I get my whisky. I have contacts in Japan.

    Just pisked up some sale fares from Australia to Tokyo for AUD$400 rtn so booked and will be back in Japan 3rd week of October. Ahhhh Whisky Heaven!!!