Thursday, May 31, 2012

Suntory Old Genshu Yamazaki Sherry Cask Malt 55% abv

Volume: 50ml limited edition sample

Nose: Certainly sweeter and complex compared to the standard "Old" for obvious reasons. An abundance of sherry in a rich homemade trifle, strawberries and cream chewy confectionary, sweet pipe tobacco and a touch of lavender. On top of this it still retains some familiar traits: dusty floor boards and stale orange peel. The addition of water incorporates wood spice and a thick layer of lemon icing.

Taste: Extremely smooth and ever so silky. The trifle with its heavily sherry soaked jam rolls and vanilla custard is dominant. Butter like qualities, which literally do melt in your mouth. An element of cloves in stewed apples is present. With water cigar leaf breaks its silence.

Finish: Sweet and syrupy with a touch of wood spice at the end. Lengthy with mouth watering qualities.

Comment: If only this was bottled regularly in the standard 700ml bottle and not just a limited sample. An amazing dram.

Review Clint A

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Blend of Nikka Selection Malt Base Whisky 40%abv

Nose: Complex. Trademark Nikka aromas: Hubba Bubba bubblegum (original/grape). White chocolate: Freddo Frogs, soil encrusted potatoes, brewed tea leaves: earl grey, incense, and fragrance: stale pot puri mix. A slight sarsaparilla syrup note is also present.

Taste: Extremely smooth and silky yet slightly too light. Liquorice with malty tonnes and robust cereals. Vegetal: peppered bean shoots and seeded green Mediterranean olives and minerals.

Finish: Shortly lived but pleasant enough. An initial explosion of liquorice followed by mild black pepper and bean sprouts which rolls out to grain and cereals.

Comment: Although pleasant, the taste unfortunately is not as spectacular as the nose, unusual for a Nikka in my opinion, usually you get the best of both worlds. The "Selection" blend made its debut in 1987; my bottle is fortunately from this era given the labelling and story behind it. You can still be lucky enough to come across bottlings of this, which are apparently still produced in small quantities.

Review by Clint A

Suntory Seminar at Whisky Shop W

The Whisky Shop W will be hosting a seminar which will include the guest appearance of one of Suntory’s master blenders. The highlight of the night will be the introduction of both the Yamazaki and Hakushu no age statement releases. The seminar will take place on May 29, and will kick-off at 6:15pm and will finish up at 8:00pm. Tickets are a mere 1,500 yen, but seats are very limited (on my last confirmation there were literally only few left).

Phone: 06-6341-3123

Whisky Shop W Campaign

If you have the luck of the draw to be residing in Osaka, or even visiting, and have not made your way to the Whisky Shop W then now is a good excuse to do so. While stocks last, the Suntory owned shop is giving away a free t-shirt (sporting a gold design of the famed Uncle Tory) with any purchase made at any amount. Donning a shirt with the legendary character around the streets of Japan may not be your thing, but as a complimentary gift to a relative alongside a store bottling could earn you brownie points.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Vintage Malts at Shinan

An interesting and elegant selection of Suntory Vintage Malt still remains at Shinan, Motomachi, Kobe. Recently, at the mum and pop like store, a few bottles have been replaced, allowing for one of the biggest Vintage Malt selections available under the one roof in Kobe. This impressive range gives patrons the opportunity to choose from a smorgasbord of Hakushu and Yamazaki expressions; starting from the famed 1979 Yamazaki bottling all the way through to the 1993 Hakushu vintage bottling. For the majority of early vintages, it appears there is only one bottle per year currently available that I can tell of. For those interested, and as a reference, contact me for the prices, or better still make a day of it and head into the conveniently located store and have a browse.

Shinan’s Current Vintage Malt Selection


1-13-11 Motomachi, 
Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi 

078 331 3503


Friday, May 11, 2012

Additional 10ml Dram for 15,000 Yen

Once again, the Yamazaki distillery is offering something worth contemplating, providing you are wealthy and willing enough to part with some serious cash. Just like the Yamazaki 50-year-old that was available at the distillers tasting bar, with the unforgettable price tag of 15,000 yen for 10mls, for the same whopping price and quantity, malt aficionados now have the opportunity to indulge in the 35-year-old Hibiki. Currently there is only one bottle available at the distillery for people who have no hesitation and can afford laying down the money. 

Though I inquired as to whether this would be the first and last chance to sample the well-aged whisky, unfortunately I couldn't get a concrete answer; therefore if you do fancy indulging in one of Japans most expensive drams (equal to that of the Yamazaki 50-year-old in terms of retail price) now is the time to do so. The vessel that holds the 35-year-old Hibiki blended whisky is a delicate Kakiemon pottered bottle, crafted by the 14th Sakaida Kakiemon. For further insight into the craftsmanship Nonjatta has an interesting post relating to the masterpiece. It would be interesting to know how much value the decanter actually holds in terms of price value, likewise, if the 35-year-old Hibiki was bottled in Suntory's trademark decanter would it be cheaper. Regardless, I presume there will be a lot of people giving this a go, just like they did with the Yamazaki 50-year-old.

Hanyu Bottlings Arrive at Bic Camera

An avid reader of Whiskies R Us has kindly informed me of some exciting news. Recently at Bic Camera, Namba, a small but exceptional selection of Ichiro’s vintage bottlings from Hanyu has become available. It is not often that such an establishment offers such gems and when they do they tend to get snapped up quickly, as apparently seen with Suntory’s Yamazaki and Hakushu Owners Cask bottlings that the store stocked in the past. The Hanyu bottlings do come with an expensive price tag, but worth every cent, considering they are, and will become somewhat rare in a few years. Hanyu bottlings are becoming ever so scarce, and there will be a time that they will be no longer available. It appears there are at least five bottles of each expression, so for those interested it may pay to visit Bic Camera sooner rather than later.

Photo courtesy of Niko - thank you.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Pure Malt White

Nose: Absolutely lovely. There is distinguishable peat and earthy tonnes. Small-seeded fruits: under ripe peaches. With time sweet citrus: lemon sherbet and Sunkist oranges, and a whiff of lavender and brine. Rich leather hide makes an appearance towards the end.

Taste: Generous peat. Peppered bamboo shoots, a hint of fennel tea and grassy notes. Nutty notes become present gradually. 

Finish: Moderate to long with the reoccurrence of peat and earthy tonnes. Sweet spice followed by again the peppered bamboo shoots. 

Comment: The longer you hold out with this more aromas emerge. Very clean and crisp malt, the peat is not dominating, just the right amount, and a very well balanced dram indeed. This is very affordable vatted malt composed of an Islay whisky and Nikka’s Yoichi. There is speculation as to which Islay malt it is: for interesting detailed information take a look at Nonjatta’s input into the Pure Malt White. Once this bottle is consumed I will be seeking another and making it a permanent fixture in my cabinet.

Reviewed by Clint A

Cheapest Whisky on the Market?

Maxvalu blended whisky is back, I wouldn’t necessary say it is better, in fact I can’t as I have not sampled the original cheap 720ml (598 yen) bottling. However, throughout Maxvalu supermarkets and a selection of other affiliated supermarkets such as Marunaka and Daie, the cheapest whisky on the market adorning the shelves today, now comes in a 2.7 litre plastic bottle. Retailing at just 1,800 yen, the oversized Maxvalu whisky works out to be approximately just 67 yen per 100mls. Technically, in some parts of the world, in particular Europe I believe, this home brand whisky cannot be classified as a blend as it also contains white spirit. Domestically this is not an issue so it clearly is marketed, if any at all, as a blend. Unfortunately there is no indication as to where the malt or grain has come from, but the group behind this low budget and widely accessible whisky is the Aeon group.

Since Aeon also has on the market a Maxvalu larger beer, which apparently source materials from Asahi, one could possibly speculate that the materials in their home brand whisky are also from the beer giant. If this is the case, in hindsight that would effectively make the materials used in the blend directly coming from Nikka. In my opinion, and I may be very wrong, I couldn’t imagine the malt and grain in this whisky being sourced from an international supplier or distillery, it would effectively cost more to do so and wouldn’t justify the extremely cheap price. 

Mars' Arrival

Possibly one of Umeda’s iconic meeting spots is the Big Man TV, which is located at the central gates of the Hankyu Umeda station, Osaka. Above the seemingly out of date technology (TV), on the second floor, lays a relatively easy to find gourmet grocer called Seijoishi. The arguably high class chain that stocks a variety of both international and domestic foods have a small but at times rewarding whisky section at the Umeda store. This month the grocer have cleared some shelf space to make way for, on last count, three bottles of Mars' single cask whisky. Stefan over at Tokyo Whisky Hub first made us aware of the chain in Tokyo stocking this and describes in detail the single cask bottlings. Finally, it seems that some of these limited bottles have made their way to Umeda.