Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chichibu on Japanese TV

This Thursday, February 21, the NHK morning programme “asaichi” will broadcast a documentary on the Chichibu distillery during its “JapaNavi” (Japanese navigation) segment. The programme will begin in Japan from 8:15AM and will finish up at 9:54AM. It’s not sure exactly how much exposure the distillery will receive, but nevertheless it will certainly be pleasant to watch, providing you’re not off to work at that time of the morning and if you are well…hit record. Details and introduction in Japanese can be seen here.

Interview: Marcin Miller - Karuizawa & More

In October 2012, the Edinburgh Whisky Blog began an interesting interview with Marcin Miller, a figure who needs no introduction on the circuit. The lengthy and very interesting interview focuses on naturally everything Karuizawa, while delving into the distribution of Hanyu and Chichibu. This interview is a fantastic read and insight into Japanese whisky for all enthusiasts. Part 1 and Part 2, written last year have been followed up with Part 3 as recent as February 6, 2013. The later part of the interview looks into the collective side of Karuizawa. Stay tuned for Chris Hoban’s Part 4, which is soon to come.

Image borrowed from Edinburgh Whisky Blog - thank you

Friday, February 15, 2013

Karuizawa 1981 30 Years Old: Cask # 162

Vintage: 1981 - Bottled: 2012 - Single Sherry Butt - Cask #162 - ABV: 55.8% - Bottled for: LMDW - Cocktail Series

Nose: No need to rush this elegant gem. Allow time to open up the assortment of welcoming aromas: sugar coated peanuts; sweet pipe tobacco mellowed with rum and wine, honey-sweet tangerine jam, and tinned fruit salad syrup with an emphasis on pitted cherries. In the background there are also teasing waves of Kurikinton: mashed sweet potato with roasted chestnuts.

Taste: A sophisticated peppery introduction, which transits to baked-charred potato skins with a few grains of shaved rock salt. As with the nose mild pipe tobacco mellowed in rum and wine, sweet mango and orange chutney, boiled asparagus, and dark chocolate-covered mildly roasted coffee beans. A dash of water brings out the most delicate hint of cabin-fire smoke on the roof of your mouth. 

Finish: Mild pepper, long, and lingering with all the above elements tantalizing your palate.

Comment: Compared to others - who equally have the Karuizawa syndrome - I haven't tried as many of the older vintage expressions as some. However, from what I have tried I’m comfortable to say this package is the best I've tasted and certainly a favourite - without any hype attached. Karuizawa has at times been associated with having a big sulphur influence in both aroma and taste, especially with some of the older vintages, however in my opinion this contains no trace of such an odor.

Note: This review was taken from a 200ml sample decanted from the freshly opened 700ml original bottling. On almost every occasion Whiskies R Us only reviews from full whole bottles self-purchased. However, on this occasion, this exceptional whisky, which I must confess is out of my price range, was kindly received from a malt mate and too good to pass up the opportunity for a review. Check out Pierre's review (here).

Reviewed by Clint A

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Japanese Whisky Infused Chocolates

What do you get when you mix a multi-award wining Japanese artisan blended whisky with a dedicated, renowned chocolate maker from Sapporo, Hokkaido? The answer is simple: top quality whisky infused “nama” chocolate. And it’s not just any old blend but that of Japan’s utmost blended whisky – Hibiki 17- years old, which has successfully been married with fresh cream made from locally drawn milk in Hokkaido.

ROYCE chocolate confections have yet again successfully produced an equally artisan chocolate just as they have in the past. In addition to the Yamazaki Sherry Wood and Hakushu themed “nama” chocolates, ROYCE have introduced the Hibiki 17- year-old “fresh” chocolate in accordance with Valentines day here in Japan.

The whisky themed chocolates are seasonal and they are currently on sale at the Isetan department store in Umeda, Osaka. These tasty treats are limited so the department store has a daily allocated amount, once they are sold out chocoholics and whisky lovers will have to wait for the following day’s allotment. As far as I know all three flavours are still available in small quantities at Isetan until February 14, but unfortunately not via the official homepage of ROYCE however, their standard line-up can be sourced. Since Whiskies R Us first introduced ROYCE fresh chocolate back in 2011/2012, the manufacture have since opened stores in New York and Seoul just to name a few, therefore definitely worth a look if you are near by.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Ichiro's Malt "Card Series" - Five of Diamonds

Distilled: 2000 - Bottled: 2012 - Age: 12-year-old - Cask: #1305 - First cask: Hogshead - Second cask: Sherry Butt - Outturn: 652 (bottle 175) - ABV: 57.7% - Distillery: Hanyu

Nose: Initially a bit spirity when first cracked but this fades given time and bottle oxidation. Once this has surpassed and the heavy heat becomes tame lovely aromas begin to surface…after breaking away from the heavy wood spice that is. Jam rolls soaked in dry sherry with a dollop of vanilla custard, stewed cinnamon apples, toffee apple, tangerine chocolate, and hints of mixed peel and pot pouri mingle with each other over time – with a lot of patience and water.

Taste: Anise, spice, eucalyptus, and menthol play among each other creating the perfect representation of a Fisherman’s Friend lozenge. This malt has whopping wood spice, extremely warming, prickly, and again, a decent whack of heat. Past these attributes old leather, a tinge of fragrant wood, cloves, and baked grapefruit peel. Water tames everything while turning the old worn-out leather into fresh hide.

Finish: Long with lingering menthol, eucalyptus, spice and subtle anise.

Comment: This bottling, which is one of the last four from the card series (besides the assumed Jokers) may be up many people’s alley. Although interesting, respectable, and artisan, unfortunately it is not up mine at this stage. But hey…perhaps  my taste buds are being picky and comparing the Five of Diamonds to the lush Ace of Clubs and Seven of Spades, which quite rightly do shine with extreme individuality.

Reviewed by Clint A

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hakushu Sherry Cask (2013): Short Shelf Presence

For those residing in Osaka and Kobe, and who have patiently awaited the arrival of the Hakushu Sherry Cask 2013 edition but were unfortunate in obtaining a bottle, you may be interested to know that the Whisky Shop W have over two dozen of the 180ml version on offer (limited to 1,500 bottles) as well as a few of the 700ml bottling left at the time of writing (this will obviously change at any given minute). The popularity of this expression: outturn of a little over 3,000 bottles with an ABV of 48% indicates that the remaining stock of this malt, which is tasty indeed, will be gone by the end of the week (website allocation sold out). Whisky Shop W’s allocated inventory hit the shelves yesterday (February 5) selling out almost completely, a further indication that this year’s release is just as popular as past releases. However, it is fair to say that even the smaller version of this exceptional Hakushu may only be around for a few more days…and if not; well you will be able to reward your efforts by sampling the expression at Whisky Shop W for 450 yen, which I allowed myself the pleasure of doing, or make a visit to the Yamazaki distillery where it was suggested that some remaining stock is available in small quantities…again, not for long.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Suntory Kioke Shikomi Pure Malt 1981 43%

Distillation: Direct-fired stills

Nose: Peculiar aromas - border line strange opposed to unique. Suggestions of white spirits: Imo (potato) Shochu and Sake, plus a hint of homemade Umeshu (plum liqueur). In the foreground there is a mixture of solvents, raw barley, wooden lettuce crates, gravox gravy powder, and a heavy vegetal presence: Brussels sprouts and baked buttered turnip. In the background: peanut oil, old mixed peel, a variety of Oden, and grassy elements. With time and water a moderate citrus zing emerges. Once half the bottle is consumed a light surface note of smoke becomes present.

Taste: Equally as peculiar as the nose. Heavy emphasis on mixed nuts: particularly cashews and peanuts, which have been marinated in Imo Sochu. Cardboard mingles with Brussels sprouts and green capsicum. Solvents: home brand non-fragranced hairspray, envelope glue, and white pepper, grassy and light smoky notes. This malt is extremely bitter and metallic. Water doesn't do much justice for the palate except tone down the bitterness and add a black sesame mouth feel.

Finish: Prickly with a tinge of mixed pepper, bitter yeast, and a coating of peanut paste.

Comment: This pure malt has often been said to resemble that of a Hakushu malt among some posts in Japanese. It possibly has some small similarities on the nose such as the citrus and cashews; however, it cannot be compared to a Hakushu expression in my opinion, especially the palate; far from it according to my taste buds. This is one of those whiskies where I wish I could have tried it before I bought it - comfortable to say I would have used my money more appropriately. It is a treasure trove of a find; yes - but a little hard to justify the value on the taste. However, some love it! For a different perspective of this whisky take a look The Japanese Whisky Review.

Reviewed by Clint A