Monday, May 19, 2014

Japanese Drams of Yesteryear (3): Suntory Special Reserve NAS Circa 1980's 43% abv


Suntory Special Reserve was launched in 1969 to commemorate Suntory's 70th anniversary. The original and earlier batches display the 70th anniversary insignia that is embossed in the glass at the back of the bottle. Like most bottles of whisky you can distinguish the era of release by taking notice of the label. In the case of the Special Reserve expression, bottles from the mid 70s were labeled "A Rare Blend", while 80s batches were labeled with "A Supreme Blend". Furthermore, certain releases have additional information to pinpoint a specific year, like the red stripe below the tin capsule and above the Suntory crest in the picture above. This (according to research) apparently indicates the bottle I bought was a batch from 1986. Currently the malt used in today's Special Reserve is Hakushu key malt that has been matured in white oak, in my personal opinion this was not the case back in the 70s as my bottle shows very strong evidence of sherry maturation in colour, aroma, and taste respectively.

Nose: Delicate, moderately rich sherry - no mistake here! The tiniest hints of grain is immediately overcome with again, quality, tame, cream sherry. Assorted fruits are at the leading edge (dried figs, apricots, Australian plums, and evidence of underripe nectarine). It continues to roll with a fruity peach sauce, Muscovado, and mellow coffee toffee. Pleasantly oaky. On the artificial sweet front you get red jellies and Werther's soft cream caramels. There's an interesting soy berry marinade and cranberry sauce going on. Tilt the glass at certain angles (with your nose encased) and you'll get a dose of scones saturated in lightly salted butter, and quality honey. Water accentuates a mildly tangy orange, which was really always there. What lovely assorted aromas.

Taste: Moderately spiced honey-soy marinade. Dry sherry. Very oaky. Muscovado. Burnt toffee, and spicy cheery coconut. Bitter-sweet orange with cocoa. I also detect suggestions of espresso. The grain is much more evident on the palate compared to the nose however, it carries itself well on the tongue with a peppery butter mouthfeel. Along with all pleasantries there is an interesting vegetal note - my thoughts are stir-fry Zucchini.

Finish: Moderate to reasonably long with a combination of bitter sweetness (cocoa soufflé with orange).

Comment: I can picture salary men at the time possibly slugging this back with copious amounts of water added for their Mizuwari. I'm all for the policy of 'drink it how you like', but this blend is too good to think it was drank in any other way than neat. My new 'Daily Dram'. Lovely blending with evident cask and malt quality at the time.


Click (here) for Japanese Drams of Yesteryear (1) and (here) for part (2).

6 comments:

  1. This seems to be a perfectly enjoyable blend, good craftsmanship from the old days. I liked the detailed information on the history of this dram: kind of surprising to read that they might have changed the key ingredient over the years. Have you come across similar developments with other blends? This is another great review, Clint, both interesting and very enjoyable to read!

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    1. Thanks, Pierre. Yes, this is a very enjoyable blend indeed with not only a good taste and flavour profile, but it is well balanced. Great value for money. If you are lucky you can still pick this up at old mom & pop stores for a bit over 10 dollars - a very small price for craftsmanship. I'm no expert, but in my strong opinion the bottle I own leans towards sherry cask maturation rather then white oak. If I don't guzzle it I shall put a few drams away to get other opinions. Cheers for the encouragement.

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  2. clint, you've convinced me to pick up a bottle. I found a shop you might be interested in visiting with me sometime ;) they have several bottles that look like this.

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    1. Good to hear you picked up a bottle. What price did you obtain it for and did it have the red stripe below the tin capsule? If it is slightly different there may be a slight difference in profile. I'd be interested in hearing more about your bottle. As for the shop you found I'd also be interested in hearing more about it. Thanks.

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  3. Hello. How much is the bottle worth? Please let me know. Thank you

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    1. It depends on how you look at it, Ruben. Its value depends on the beholder. It could be worth little to some while a lot to others. In terms of retail, you can pick up this older circa bottling in Japan at most old mom&pop shops for as little as $12. Used recycle shops often sell them for around $10. But again, it could be worth much more to others. A good dram regardless. Hope that helps.

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