Chief blenders, brand ambassadors, importors, bar tenders, professionals, and whisky enthusiasts (both novice and savvy) - people from all walks of life, gathered to see what was on show for this year's Whisky Festival Osaka 2014 (June 8th). The festival, now in its 3rd year for Osaka, was a great platform to experience both old and new whiskies from around the world. Visitors were able to sample award-winning, old and obscure, aged, prototype, and new emerging whiskies to the market as well as old favourites, in what was a reasonably larger than normal venue (compared to 2012/2013) - there were certainly no complaints of space restrictions this time around. There were quite a few creative stands from the major players of both the Scotch and Japanese whisky industry however, it appeared the focus was on craft distillers and independent bottlings.
Venture Whisky was in fine form, as always, and allowed attendees to sample two of their 'prototype' whiskies for the festival. The first Chichibu 'model' (pictured above) was only one of two bottles drawn from a sherry butt (cask# 1284), which was distilled in 2011 and bottled this year at 60.7%. It was quite significant to see this sherry matured Chichibu - it is a topic that's been on everyone's lips at the moment. Although many were lucky enough to try this exceptional and tasty 3yo, it appears Venture Whisky has no plans to bottle their first sherry matured Chichibu soon. One thing is for sure, when they do fans alike will not be disappointed. The second prototype, was another 'Almost (aged) Five (years)' version only this time drawn from a single puncheon (Cask# 408) that was distilled in 2009 and bottled this year at 61.3%.
Original Chichibu froushiki were another hot item among dedicated fans, which were offered exclusively for the festival. Among the various distillery goods Chichibu have on offer the traditional wrapping cloth that is used to carry anything and everything was an in-house design, which is suitable to transport your favourite Chichibu bottle. It appears only one hundred pieces for now have been produced with the intention of printing more given the popularity.
This gorgeous Chichibu, by ePower, also made a debut. The specially selected bottling by Bar Barns (Nagoya) was distilled in 2010 and matured in a bourbon barrel (Cask# 657). The outturn for this bottling is 227 bottles and bottled this year at 62.1%. Barley: Floor Malted Optic. Although this is a bottling intended for bars alike, according to ePower you will be able to purchase this at a few of the big liquor retailers in both the Kansai and Kanto areas. So keep your eyes out for yet again another tasty exclusive single cask Chichibu.
The second edition, or should I say re-design of 'Twin Alps' from the Mars distillery gained some followers. This blended whisky was once bottled at 39% abv in 720ml bottles with a cream label. This new version however, with the distillery's new signature 'alps' bottle design (750ml) is bottled at 40% abv. This oaky, full bodied, blend with wood fragrance will be available, according the guys, from next week. This, along with Iwai Tradition is another good 'bang for the buck' and entry level blended whisky. Depending on place of purchase the suggested retail price will be from 1,580 yen ~ 1,680 yen.
The 6th Whisky Shop W original single malt Hakushu (006) is a store bottling that aficionados should not miss. Bottled at 48%, this vatted Hakushu is like no other, well at least in comparison to what I have tasted over the years. Having been matured in bourbon barrels, which I presume to be first-fill given the extreme quality, this release provides a unique Hakushu experience that some suggested is reminiscent of an early Bowmore (70s Circa). I cannot make that comparison as I don't think I've had a Bowmore from the 70's, but what I can say is this Hakushu presents rich tropical banana in various forms that interwinds with delicate smoke on both the nose and palate. Grab one here before they get snapped up quicker than any other 300ml store bottling. Possibly my best Japanese whisky on the day that can be purchased from a shop.
Nikka also presented this top notch whisky that is of no secret. Nikka Coffey Malt, which will make its debut in Japan tomorrow (June 10) for the national market. Stay tuned for a detailed review of this in coming days as well as news of additional Nikka release set for July that most of you already know about.