Thursday, January 26, 2012

Highball Choccies

Japan: a country that has arguably revolutionized the humble highball. A drink considered to be of yesteryear has become trendy amongst patrons who swig copious amounts of the popular beverage with relish. The mass highball advertising of Japan’s whisky giants, in particular Suntory and its Kakubin brand, have created a boom. So it is only natural, and just in time for valentines, for the country to bring out highball choccies. This is where I can comfortably use the familiar saying “only in Japan”. Although not produced by Suntory, the packaging of these chocolates, which consists of Scotch whisky and carbonated water, ironically resemble the giant’s famed image by using their trademark yellow, and a character that could be arguably said reflects Uncle Tory. For those interested in the novelty, these chocolates appear to be available in most supermarkets throughout Kobe, and I would presume other areas of Japan. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Year of the Dragon - Suntory Old

To introduce the beginning of the New Year, which 2012 falls in the year of the dragon in conjunction with the Chinese zodiac, Suntory produced a limited release Suntory Old to celebrate the festivities, like they do almost every year. At the end of 2011, bottlings of Suntory Old began to appear across the nation sporting an intrinsic gold label with dragon graphics to commemorate the New Year. These bottlings, all though abundantly produced at the time, have now dwindled in availability. The bottle, which is housed in a bright red box (apparently signifies luck) and sports the same design as the label, retailed at the everyday price of 1,680 yen. These novelty bottlings were largely purchased and given as gifts throughout the New Year that is part of the practiced end-of year gift giving. Kansai readers who are interested in getting a bottle, whether it be purely for consumption, sentimental purposes, or as a nice ornament for a shelf, will be happy to learn that certain Daie and Co-op stores in Kobe have a few bottles remaining.  Some high-end department stores in Japan also sold an additional exclusive edition of Suntory Old for the festivities, in a ceramic dragon decanter.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Whisky Shop W - Original Store Bottling Third Edition

Arguably the perfect present one could receive or give for Valentines, especially when one cannot come up with something original for the supposed admirer. The master blenders at Hakushu have done it again: come up with yet another limited Hakushu bottling exclusive to Whisky Shop W, which Suntory recommends giving as a present on the worldwide celebrated day. The original whisky bottling, which is the third installment of a series of single malt whiskies is said to denote a marriage of chocolate, cinnamon, and acidic fruits such as grapefruit and strawberries. Besides the content, the packaging is relevant to the occasion with the elaborate bottle etched with gold lettering on a red label, along with a heart shaped leaflet around the neck of the bottle. Like the coexisting original whiskies at Whisky Shop W, this bottling is limited to 1,500 bottles and is officially available from today, January 20th. The 300ml original whisky is bottled at 48 percent and retails for 3,150 ten. Purchases can be made online.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Cask of Hakushu 1998

Age: 9 years - Distilled: 1998 - Bottled: 2008 - Wood type: white oak - Cask type: hogshead - Cask number: CD40728 - Bottling: 94/246 - ABV: 56%

Nose: Clean; a distinguishable trademark of Hakushu. Oak, barley-fruity mix: raisins. Sweet: custard, faint hint of licorice, heather-honey, chopped almonds, and vegetation.

Taste: Busy, a medium spice numbs your tongue on arrival before drifting of to a presence of oak, sweetened barley and custard tart. The licorice lurks softly but quickly disappears.

Finish: Short medium. Sweet spice, mid ground makes way to a hint of sandalwood before rolling away to a finale of vanilla custard.

Comment: I reviewed this without the addition of water. I have a feeling that this would become creamy and silky if added, never the less certainly enjoyable without water. It appears that this expression is limited to 1,600 bottles throughout Japan, and is currently available on certain Japanese online sites. This bottling is priced very reasonably and making it very affordable.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hakushu 1997 - Whisky Live Japan Bottling

Expression: Hakushu 10th Whisky Live Japan Anniversary Bottling - Age: 12 years-old - Distilled: 1997 - Bottled: 2009 - ABV: 53% - Cask number: BJ41521 - Cask type: hogshead

Nose: Flat sarsaparilla, burnt baked potato skins. The inside of a sauna; hot-air, steam, damp wooden flooring and seating (in a positive way). Water intensifies the sweetness: chico jelly babies, which I have once associated with an Owners Cask Yamazaki. Slightly florally; the tinniest whiff of lavender came to mind along with turmeric.

Taste: Crisp, slight aftertaste of a burnt baked potato skin, ice block sticks (licked after consumed), slight leafy; cigar. Addition of water streams out a particular sweetness which I couldn't pinpoint, perhaps its the chico babies. In the background there is reminiscent sarsaparilla, chocolate, and a sprinkle of cinnamon with a tiny pinch of mixed spice.

Finish: Medium length. Certainly goes from one extreme to the other: the potato skins are back but not too long before a spray of sweet flavouring and white chocolate lines your mouth. This quickly lingers into fresh oak and a dash of prolonged but gentle spice.

Comment: Although a 12 year-old it displayed youthful characteristics. Again very crisp and fresh. Need to spend a bit of time with this Hakushu. It wont deliver an abundance of aromas and flavours straight of the bat. Spend a bit of time with it and you’ll be rewarded. Certainly good quality, unfortunately, like many good Japanese whiskies, the availability internationally is scarce and only a select few have it available online. This is one of a string of significant bottlings released to salute Whisky Live.

Reviewed by Clint A

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hakushu Heavily Peated NAS 2010 48% abv

Limited bottling: 2,000

Nose: Japanese pear, vanilla confectionery, although labeled “Heavily Peated” the smoke is ever so subtle: caressing the nose than engulfing it. Fresh, wet hay bales, condensed milk, and a tease of citrus: perhaps mandarin zest. Adding a few drops of water enhances a citrus-lime aroma and caramel sweetness.

Taste: Subtle cinnamon spice, silky smooth, smoke, fresh, presence of oak, a dash of lime juice and barley sugar, just the right amount of sweetness.

Finish: Relatively short but in every way pleasant. Cinnamon spice being the most dominant, which lingers on the roof of your mouth and at the back of your tongue. Smoke signals appear in the background after a minute. The addition of the tinniest amount of water makes the smoke much more distinguishable: lovely.

Comment: Certainly ticks all the right boxes for me, a favourite indeed, but has Hakushu ever failed? The advertised “heavily peated” in my opinion was more subtle than suggested, but this made way for possibly just the right balance of smoke and sweetness. This expression accompanied me from the transition of 2011 to the beginning of the New Year. An expression that will certainly bring these memories back in the future, that is to say I can ever get an extra bottle of this. When acquiring this 2010 bottling I was told that it was the last available on Japanese websites. However, it appears to be currently available on Korosue’s online purchasing website. I will confirm this over the weekend. This non-chill filtered expression is matured in American white oak hogshead.

Reviewed by Clint A