Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yamazaki 2012 Cask Collection Update

The 2012 Yamazaki limited cask collection that compromises of the Sherry, Bourbon, and Puncheon releases are rapidly becoming scarce. This goes for the tasting bar at the Yamazaki distillery also. On a brief visit today (September 27), I was informed that the Bourbon cask release is down to half a bottle, after this, visitors will no longer be able to sample it as there are no more bottles remaining at the distillery. I presume this will be gone by the end of the week. However, fans of both the Puncheon and Sherry release might be slightly happier to learn that these expressions will still be available at Yamazaki to taste, but again, not for long, as there is roughly one and a half bottles remaining of each. Last but certainly not least, quite the opposite really, the tasting bar also has approximately one and a half bottles of the Yamazaki Mizunara expression and a dram or two left of the Mizunara Genshu. For me the Mizunara Genshu took the medal today (all though not an official bottling), followed by the Puncheon that I favoured over the Bourbon cask. Nevertheless all of the cask collections shined in their own way, compared to the last release in my opinion. If a quick visit to the distillery to sample this year’s collection is out of the question I believe Whisky Shop W has a few drams left to consume.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Peat Offering

Ichiro's Malt "The Peated", a bottling like so many of Akuto-san's artisan whisky hit the net a few days ago and sold extremely well within hours. Luckily for Kansai residents, and for those who don't have the chance to purchase online, this new bottling has made its way to the Hankyu department store in Umeda. WSJ (Wine & Spirits Japan), the team behind the small but appreciative whisky corner on the first floor of the store have currently (as of today, September 26) got five bottles on its shelf (with a few in reserve) retailing at 8,925 yen (including tax). Again, these guys, who always stock Venture Whisky bottlings are offering people the opportunity to buy sample bottles in both 100mls (1,659 yen) and 200mls (3,060 yen). Something I'm all for, especially when you don't have a spare 9K to part with but nevertheless want to consume these frequent new editions. The Peated, which was distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2012 (three-year-old whisky) is a Chichibu bottling with an ABV of 50.5% and is limited to 5,000 bottles, making it yet another sought after malt. Let's hope the majority of The Peated gets snapped up by pure consumers and not dealers who are in it just to make a few bucks in the future.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kirin Gotemba Fujisanroku Tarujuku 50%

Nose: Decent for a blend that's around $12 (cheaper when on special). An intriguing
 mixture of sweet and savory aromas. Caramel popcorn, big bourbon qualities (Jim Beam always comes to mind), slight alcohol burn but acceptable, sweet vanilla pastries before a vegetal note of sweet processed corn kernels kick in. A good splash of water brings out a moderate whiff of dried rosemary and after a good 10 minutes in the glass I picked up berry cordial; at first I thought home brand raspberry cordial but then Cottee's mixed berry cordial led the way. Hidden far away is a sweet smoky aroma: smoked sweet potato.

Taste: A few hard edges but these retain themselves before dried pear and bourbon qualities appear, only this time in a fudge form. Caramel popcorn is dominant along with oak, and malt powder.

Finish: Slight roughness that soon fades into that distinctive caramel popcorn followed by a moderate minerally and malty finale.

Comment: Pleasant neat with a splash of water (recommend for those few extra aromas). Refreshing as a highball on a hot day but I find it to be a bit soapy when mixed, so I prefer it as is. I'm on my second bottle, a good blend, one of the best in this price range in my opinion. For some insight into Kirin's marketing presence take a look here.

Reviewed by Clint A

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hibiki Tasting Event Held at Hankyu Men's

Hankyu Men’s, the large department store dedicated to men’s fashion in Umeda, Osaka is offering punters the chance to indulge in a dram or two whilst out shopping. This novelty concept bar that is situated on the first floor of the men’s only shopping facility (not the standard Hankyu department store) gives mature shoppers the opportunity to experience the flavours and aromas of Suntory’s Hibiki line-up of award winning blends. Until September 18, the specially designed small scale bar, which has been plonked amongst ties, sunglasses, and other assorted accessories, will provide tastings up until the closure of the store. However, there is a catch as far as I can tell, to wet your palate you have to spend a certain amount within the department store before anything touches your lips. It works on a tier system; the more you have spent on goods the more you get in terms of both quantity and quality (i.e. a purchase over 10,500 yen will allow you to sample the 12-year-old Hibiki while a whopping purchase over 52,500 yen will allow you to compare both the 12 and 17-year-old with a complimentary 12-year-old mini bottle to take home). It seems like an interesting concept, but obviously an incentive aimed at general shoppers and not people who generally are interested in the education of whisky.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hokuto 12-Year-Old Pure Malt

Distillery: Hakushu
Whisky type: Pure Malt
ABV: 40%
Volume: 660ml

Nose: Whipped cream, fried pineapple, fresh banana fritters, dusty wood chips, integrated subtle sweet smoke, Allen’s fruit tingles: lemon and orange, sweet oak, salt rock, and strangely but pleasant spicy tomato juice.
Taste: Lush. Smooth and silky with gorgeous oak, a dash of concentrated lime juice, and a drop of pineapple juice from a can. The whipped cream makes itself present before spiced mixed nuts roll into the equation. The malt becomes very creamy the longer it sits.
Finish: Dry, tame, and oaky with a medium length.
Comment: This is an extremely mouthwatering whisky. The Hokuto 12-year-old was released on the market in 2004 and ceased production late 2009 or early 2010 as far as I know. Although a mass marketed line-up of Suntory at the time, it is now ever so scarce due to its popularity, and effectively cheap price for excellent quality. It took me at least 6 months to find my bottle, and I was reluctant to open it, but glad I did. This Pure Malt ticks all the right boxes, it offers something different to Suntory’s core Yamazaki and Hakushu single malts. I’m a fan, and will be on the hunt for another bottle…I better make it 2 bottles.

Reviewed by Clint A

Sunday, September 2, 2012

White Oak Akashi No-Age-Statement Single Malt 46%abv

Nose: A youthful edge. Oak, concrete powder mix, light yeastiness with a presence of smoke: firework smoke to be precise. Green nectarines plus qualities I can smell in the Akashi 5-year-old single malt: burnt tyre rubber and slightly metallic. Water brings out the sweetness of honey and the nectarine becomes riper. After 10 minutes a possible cherry coke aroma escapes the glass. You really do have to search for all the above though.

Taste: Interesting, however not as much going on compared with the nose. Certainly a spice explosion: ginger. Very oaky, and again that familiar burnt rubber (smoke) from a car burnout (which I must admit is growing on me). Red gum honey, bitter yeastiness, herbal: parsley, with water peat, tar, and aloe vera gel.

Finish: Medium to long on the spice and oak, warming, dry.

Comment: Slightly better than the 5-year-old in my opinion, however for what it is and what it provides the 500ml no-age-statement bottling at this price (buying direct from the distillery will set you back 2,620 yen) is possibly a bit pricey. For a 700ml bottle it could be justifiable but in an honest opinion I wouldn’t want any more than I already have. Nevertheless, I’m glad I purchased it for the experience; it certainly is approachable and has potential to grow on you. Water is recommended for the few pleasantries. As far as I know my review is the first post in English to hit the Internet, but if any readers have tried this Whiskies R Us encourages you to post your tasting notes, I would personally like to hear other peoples description of the NAS. 4,000 bottles was produced for the first release of this no-age-statement single malt for this year (end of August 2012).  

Reviewed by Clint A

Akashi NAS Hits Pardon

For those interested in White Oak’s new Akashi no-age-statement single malt, and live in Kobe Nishi-ku, will be pleased to know that the liquor store Pardon now have the malt in stock. The non-chill filtered malt (ABV 46%), with no added colouring retails at 2,480 yen. The guys at the store said they are planning to get in cartons for the NAS that will sport the label across the box (the cartons behind the bottles in the photo are for the Akashi blend).

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Finding Hokuto

Route 43 is a major road and slower alternative (below the Hanshin express highway) that connects Kobe to Osaka, and one that I have traveled on many occasions. On my recent endeavor I rode from Nada all the way to Amagasaki, and for the few that know the trek will appreciate the distance. Amagasaki was my destination, I had heard of ancient arcades that snake off in all directions and heard promise of some treasure troves. With Amagasaki locked in I decided not consume time and dart around the back streets on the way up, especially as I thought I had roamed around the majority of the streets already. But this was not the case; I was attracted to a side street off the main road that I seemed to have missed in the past. This side street led me to Hanshin Fukae station in Higashinada. Being the main access road directly to the station there was nothing; however, it was all the other side streets off this road where my luck had changed. I would have missed the liquor shop Emiya completely if it wasn't for its large Kirin beer sign hanging on the shops wall, shaped in the iconic beer can. Quite a small shop with the usual line-up I often encounter: old bottlings of Suntory’s Royal, Reserve, and Imperial, green label Yamazaki bottles, and ancient square bottles of Super Nikka. On the top shelf again the usual suspects: Hibiki, more Yamazaki and then bang! There it was. It took me a few seconds to register what it was only because I was amazed at actually coming across it...finally.
Suntory's Hokuto 12-year-old, a Pure Malt with an ABV of 40% was one of Suntory's heavily marketed official bottlings when it was released in 2004, before it sadly ceased production around 2009/2010. The brand "Hokuto" is a city with remarkable waters, it is here, in Hakushu-cho, Yamanishi prefecture, that the Hakushu distillery is located in the forest, surrounded by the Southern Alps, and amongst natural mineral water supplies. This water from the surrounding nature is what gives the quality and characteristics to the Hokuto 12-year-old and other Hakushu expressions. The black label Hokuto 12-year-old, although a standard bottling from Suntory's core range at the time, has become ever so scarce and hard to find. Some of the major Internet sites in Japan have sold out of this expression long ago and it appears extremely difficult to pick this up in the conventional way of hunting shops. It has taken me 6 months to finally come across a bottle, long enough to think I should keep it for a rainy day...but I thought what if that rainy day never comes? I gave it a few days then cracked it with a beaming smile. Keep your eyes out for the review that is coming soon.