Friday, April 3, 2015

Mercian Karuizawa 15 Year Old Original Bottle 40% abv

Nose: A touch of cream sherry, coffee essence, raspberry gummies, red apple skins, and overripe halved strawberries. Staying on the produce mild tropical fruits begin to surface - star fruit and Vietnamese dried fruit chips. However, although the aforementioned aromas are clearly detectable, overall it is quite light and perhaps a tad watery on the nose. Like many bottlings out there this would have benefited being bottled at a slightly higher strength, and it is hard to detect that this is a 15 year old whisky (containing other parcels of Karuizawa up to 31 years of age). With oxidization, in my opinion, it becomes much bolder. This is where things begin to happen…raspberry vinegar dressing, Redskins lollies (raspberry-flavoured chewy confectionary), and honey powder.

Taste: As with the nose it could be said that the mouth feel is equally light. Nevertheless enjoyable with a subtle tease of smoke, liquorice, and granola with dried strawberries. Slight hint of concentrated Ribena fruit syrup.  A touch of honey with a grassy note. Can become prickly on the tongue.

Finish: The tease of smoke and rubber continues to caress your tongue. It is slightly metallic and/or minnerally. Grassy. The finale is short coming however.

Comment: Sufficient time in the glass makes this much more rewarding – if you can be patient. I truly love the essence of this of bottle design, simple yes, but savvy. It retains the original ethical beauty of the brand - if there is such a thing. The design of the bottle above superseded the square-dimple type. Well worth the original RRP if you can still find it at that (regardless of the light aromas and palate), otherwise I struggle to understand the prices paid on the secondary market today.

Follow up: At the half way mark this bottle has began to take a shine on me. It has become a bit more complex and generally overall a lot more satisfying. In short it has began to represent the distillery's house style. My daily dram that I suspect will be missed when emptied.

If you scour the internet there are not too many reviews to be found on Mercian era Karuizawa official bottles. You have an alternate review of this 15 year old from Pierre over at Connosr. You can see notes of the 17 year old dimple-type bottling at TJWR,  Whisky Fun, and WHISKYBASE. I've seen print reviews from Dave Broom and Martine - but not a lot around really. 


  1. Hi Clint, it always feels good to see a review of this Karuizawa bottling! I distinctly remember the bottle that I picked up in Japan back in 2011 and I would have acquired more than just one if there had been more available (there were not). Once in a while I would like to revisit to see how well this has stood the test of time but as you point out very rightly the current resale prices are difficult to understand. An insightful and informative review as always, cheers!

    1. Hi Pierre, nice to hear from you. It seems like only yesterday that you made your way to that store in Nishi-ku. I remember you informing me that you visited all the recommended stores in one day. Isn't it ironic, that bottle you bought had sat there for a very very long time before you picked it up. Back then even I passed it today's times a Zawa OB 15yo (or anything for that matter) wouldn't sit on the shelf here for very long, it would disappear before you could say the word "Mercian".

      I revisited it last night. Although I only opened it a week ago I have noticed with oxidation the development of the smoke/rubber elements. It has become much more prominent on the palate that I quite like. Let's see how it stands up in another weeks time. Sometime the OB's can totally fall apart. Kind regards.