Friday, November 28, 2014

Release Reminder - Highball Cans Bearing the Founder of Nikka

Back in August Asahi Breweries, Ltd.  announced the forthcoming release of two new premixed beverages that will hit the market. Many of you have already seen pictures of the beverages circulating on the net and read about the anticipated release, in conjunction to the hit NHK drama ‘Massan’, so nothing new - just a reminder, but many have been waiting for the cans to hit the shelves. To commemorate the Nikka Whisky Distilling Co. Ltd 80th anniversary and milestone of Masataka Taketsuru’s birth, 2 illustrative premixed cans will be released nationwide from December 2, 2014. The limited edition cans that consist of a ‘Taketsuru Highball’ (7% abv) and a ‘Rita Highball’ (liqueur 7%abv) will be on sale until the end of March 2015. 

Image kindly borrowed from Asahi Breweries Ltd. official press release in Japanese (here).

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New Suntory Release for Bic Camera

If you’re looking for a new release that has recently hit the market, other than the new 'Sherry & American White Oak 2011 Komagatake', then pop into a Bic Camera store nearby. The chain establishment was once renowned for carrying ridiculously cheap Owner’s Casks at a time when Japanese whisky perhaps didn’t have the popularity as it does today. It is fair to say a release by the mega store is well overdue but only this time, and like most things these days,  you will be paying for it.

Characterized as carrying a heavy oriental profile, the no-age-statement premium Japanese whisky has been selected and blended for Bic Camera by Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo. According to specs this expression was exclusively blended with the core component being matured in Mizunara casks with an average maturity of around 25 years or more, with the addition of Spanish Oak matured smoky malt and grain whisky serving as an element. Although neither the front nor back label states it in writing apparently this is limited to 1000 bottles, and available at most major stores. Despite the interesting label, Mizunara influence, reasonable fancy wooden box, and it being a limited edition, I cannot see these flying of the shelf in a hurry, given the fact it is a blended whisky with a retail price of 39,744 yen (including tax) – just a personal opinion.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2003 for Whisky Shop W. 4th Anniversary

Distilled: 2003 - Bottled: 2014 - Cask# ADDY3038 - Wood Type: Spanish Oak - Cask Type: Bota Corta - ABV: 55%

Nose: Fresh soft licorice sticks in brown paper bags (extremely evident with water). Alongside this there's a sweet honey BBQ steak marinade to be had. Soldering on with the sweetness you get Black Forrest cake, berry candy and/or red jellybeans, red Shiso juice, and marshmallow coconut and strawberry biscuits (Arnott’s). Umeshu. Fry's Turkish delight. The licorice keeps popping up only this time as all sorts. Slight berry vinegarette dressing...definitely some subtle sourness going on, this is masked with the addition of water, which also adds brown sugar mince pie.

Taste: On first contact you'll get a heavy dose of spicy soy honey marinade, spicy mince pies, and spicy blackberry sauce. Then, it transforms to rose hip and dates, but still leaving quite a prickly sensation on the palate. Water cuts that initial spice attack - mellowing it out creating a reasonable balance however, it becomes a little dry when diluted. 

Finish: Egyptian dates and blackberry compote. Interestingly, with water, a mellow licorice flavoured gum pops up - think along the lines of a well-chewed piece of Wrigley’s P.K. 

Comment: Enjoyable enough. I personally would have liked something a bit more to happen on the palate. Perhaps that will happen at a later date.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nikka Single Coffey Grain 12yo Distillery Release 55% Abv

Nose: It is, as the label says, 'woody', and it's an interesting mix of distinctive woods such as red cedar and white pine that is set against a layer of vanilla cream and Pascall milk bottles - soft, chewy, sweet, creamy, milk flavoured lollies. Initially there is a few seconds of suggested varnish (wood/nail) but not in an off outing way- it fades quite quickly giving way to evident banana cake. Honeycomb and stewed apples with cloves. Then, white sugar mixed with butter until creamed. Past this, a mild sour note emerges - think sour yogurt but not in an unpleasant way. Yakult also rolls of the glass before it drifts back to a mixture of lightly salted margarine, fresh wine boxes/crates, fresh (uncooked/raw) corn cobs, oak, and mild (green) vegetal notes. Very seductive, rich, and matured grain. 

Taste: Perhaps this should have been given the title: 'Woody & Mildly Spiced' when it comes to the palate. Bang on spice up front - Cajun and cracked pepper balls (water mellows this while producing a reasonable silky mouthfeel). Mild wood spice, Butter Menthols, cedar planks, creamy vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Oak. There's a slight bitterness mid palate - walnuts. Cracked pepper vita wheat. 

Finish: Reasonably long. Buttered baked radish. Walnuts, and again that Cajun spice, which is much more mild on the finish.

Comment: I'm actually a big fan of single grain - Scotch and Japanese.  Many drinkers often say that all single grain whiskies taste the same however I disagree! Put this side-by-side with another Japanese single grain expression and you will immediately see the differences. I would have liked to got a bit more out of the palate though. Rewarding nose.

Note: Although the label clearly says 'single Coffey grain' it states (in Japanese) that it also contains malt.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Chichibu Single Cask for Silver Seal 2014 Review

Barley: Floor Malted Optic - Cask# 659 - Cask in: January 2010 - Bottled: February 2014 - ABV: 62.4% - Outturn: 239 bottles 

Nose: Enticing sweetness upfront. Trademarks of a decent bourbon barrel: vanilla cream, French toast, butter scotch, nama caramel, eggnog and banana milk. Oak. The rich sweetness continues to prevail along with time adding white chocolate, butter menthols, and lovely bakery pastries (both sweet & savory). This Chichibu really dominates - truly complex. With time light cologne aromas, musk candy, wafer biscuits and then, out of the blue a dusty lumber shed. Water for the main part initially ramps up the heavy sweetness (rocky road chocolate – marshmallow, jelly, coconut, and nuts) however, water gradually tones down the sweetness creating an interesting savory note (Saladas - saltine crackers) and summer fruit components (honey dew, cantaloupe, and then some lychee). Lurking - flat creaming soda, chamomile tea, and some freshly cut rich flower stems. Again, very complex.

Taste: Creamy vanilla. Spiced nuts (mainly walnuts and peanuts) and wood spice. Bitter chocolate wafers. Minerals. There's an interesting spicy butter corn concept also in play that is quite nice. Mildly spiced honey. New leather. Cinnamon. Lychee. Green olive pips. Whole wheat and/or a yeast. Only with water you really get to experience some of the sweetness as you do with nose, mostly in the form of cinnamon and brown sugar sprinkled over overripe banana. This, along with barley sugar and Salada crackers.

Finish: Quite long, all flavour profiles are concentrated at the back of the roof of your mouth. A touch of dark honey. Clotted cream. Yeast. Very faint hints of sarsaparilla. Becomes a little dry with water but in a welcoming way.

Comment: In my opinion and as a personal preference this is another truly superb single cask Chichibu. In a critical view some single casks can be not as satisfying but this cask offering is among the top end.  For the original release details see the WRU report here.