Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Coop's Home Brand Whisky Gets an Interesting Facelift

Long established readers of Whiskies R Us may remember the various posts I used to upload regarding Japanese whisky and their presence in supermarkets - Whisky Intelligence. It has been quite some time since I've reported about anything from the good old local, and since no one else looks at this topic I thought it a good opportunity to report on something I've come across this week - and I must say it is reasonably interesting.

A post July, 2011 about the chain supermarket Coop and their home brand whisky New Calm created some good feedback, which led me to investigate and further report about in November, 2011. Just a quick refresh: New Calm - a blend that was sold in 1.8 litre plastic bottles produced by Nikka - this was clearly obvious due to packaging (black plastic cap with the words Nikka), and also the fact that Nikka was clearly stated as the maker of New Calm blended whisky (can be seen here in Japanese).

Things have changed quite a bit since those posts - quite a bit. Nikka is no longer the brand/maker of the supermarkets home brand whisky, and the wording "New" has been deleted leaving the blend marketed simply as "Calm". Toa Shuzo Co., LTD - the company, who unfamiliarly was behind Hanyu and the Golden Horse bottlings, is now the home brands supplier of Calm. Does this mean that the quality of the revamped blend is far from the original New Calm that was produced by Nikka? Simply in my opinion yes, and it has nothing to do with the fact that New Calm was produced by one of Japan's biggest distilleries but due to the simple fact that the revamped Calm blend  clearly states on the back label "caramel colour added". Anything artificial used in any product is often used to spruce it up - make it better in either appearance or taste. Quite frankly this means the initial spirit was not the greatest does it not? It also may contain imported whisky for all I know (malt source not stated).

Back on track, this post I guess isn't about what's good or bad (artificial colouring) but an introduction. The Calm blended whisky is bottled at a mere 39% ABV in a 720ml glass bottle, which on first inspection looked exactly like the same bottles used for Hanyu's "Card Series", only it's not, as mentioned Calm is 720ml while the Hanyu's are 700ml. However, on further research it appears the 720ml bottle for Calm is in actual fact the same style bottle used for the Chichibu Golden Horse 12yo single malt. Calm is currently retailing at 1,011 yen - generally I would take one for the team but given the circumstances (low abv/ caramel) I most likely won't... but I would be lying if I didn't say I was slightly intrigued. What do you think of that retro looking label, is that tartan?

Update 18 July, 2013: changed the word "infamously" to "unfamiliarly" - see reasons in comments.


  1. why were they 'infamously' behind the hanyu bottlings? I dont remember the story

    1. Thank you for pointing that out Anonymous. That was meant to read "unfamiliarly" and not "infamously". I typed this out on my iPhone onto notes first - iphone's automatic spelling must have changed it as it couldn't pick up the word I was aiming for. There is no infamous story - but while I'm here I might add for other readers that may not know Toa Shuzo seemed to have ran Hanyu before they went bankrupt around the time of the final Hanyu vintage (2000 single casks). I shall make corrections - thanks, Regards.

  2. Actually, pretty cool looking bottles! They would certainly tempt me to try them far more than the plastic numbers.
    Oh, and Nikka uses caramel coloring I'm afraid in both Yoichi and Miyagikyo single malts.
    Masataka Taketsuru the founder of Nikka and the 'other' Godfather of Japanese whisky was introduced to the use of spirit caramel for coloring when he first learn the craft of whisky distilling in Scotland in 1919.

  3. That is true, Brian. However, I feel there may be a lot more going on here than expected. Anyway, since posting about it I have decided to pick one up on the way home tonight. It will be interesting to try and predict what is in it - malt/grain/Scotch/Japanese if that is possible, most likely not. At 1,000 yen I guess you cannot go wrong - there are other blends out there that are most likely harsher compared to this. And hey, if worst comes to worst and it is not the best neat, I'm in need of a bottle for this summer's highball fest. Will let you know how it went (via WRU).

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