Thursday, October 31, 2013

Karuizawa Asama 1999-2000 Vintages 50.5%abv

Nose: Very one dimensional initially in my opinion however, it opens up well after cracking the bottle. With patience and oxidization it becomes delightful enough with a combination of mellow sweet and savory elements. Striking red and mellow black licorice along with strawberry walnut spice cake are at the forefront of sweetness. Time in the glass reveals a traditional Turkish Delight and fino sherry before moving onto stewed mountain mushrooms, Gravox (gravy) powder, and yeast. In the background there are whiffs of Mugi (barley) Sochu and sun scorched newspapers. Very musty at times. Water gives it a pomegranate like quality and brings out reminiscent mellow rubber before tickling your nose with fig bread and sour/tarty aromas.

Taste: Spicy rose jelly, Gravox (gravy) powder, fino sherry, and peppered raw button mushrooms. Water introduces characteristics of singed rubber that I often find in most Karuizawa. An interesting but weak chocolate mocha espresso becomes present before moving onto sugared fresh yellow grapefruit and mellow red and black licorice. Metallic.

Finish: Medium with mellow licorice, yeast, sugared fresh grapefruit, and interestingly Pocari Sweat sports drink.

Comment: Priced accordingly, I wouldn't want to pay anymore for it. The value for money is there (as it is priced within reason) but unfortunately for me it just didn't have the X factor on the palate.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sample Sessions 3: Single Cask Miyagikyo 2000

Distilled: Feb,2000 - Bottled: Sept, 2013 - Warehouse no. 25 - ABV: 59% - Cask: 15805

Nose: If it wasn't stated you would never pick this to have such a reasonably high abv. Nothing but extremely clean and fresh. No hard hitting alcohol notes here. Smooth and mellow but beautifully aromatic. An assorted fruit basket with all the familiars: tangerine, cantaloupe, honey dew, Japanese pear, and overripe persimmon. Then, rich baked banana in ripe skins sprinkled heavily with cinnamon. Am I not mistaken to spot a bit of sour Umeshu? The exotic fruits begin to give way to greenery, slightly dusty, and with time in the glass hints of good old Juicy Fruit gum - and let's not forget the citrus but in artificial form: Pineapple Lifesavers. The addition of water is amazing: aromatic wood and the pineapple just flows (pine/lime).

Taste: What a dry and surprisingly spicy little number, I was expecting the palate to be just as lush as the nose. However, there is lychee, durian, cinnamon, BBQ shapes, and loads of pink grapefruit, therefore a tad bitter. In my opinion there is a very reminiscent quality of rum, more spicy than sweet. Dark chocolate comes into play faintly from here but if I must be honest I expected more in comparison with the nose. Water really ramps up the deal with spicy musk and aromatic wood. Water does this malt a lot of favours - now I really like it.

Finish: Bitter sweet on lychee and durian. With water a whole new ball game between sweet & sour.

Comment: I haven't tried a lot of single cask Miyagikyo's however, the casks I have tried were some of the best whiskies to date. This was pleasant enough and good value for money at the time of sale. A reasonably complex whisky for the age.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ichiro's Malt the Game 5th Edition for Shinanoya

Whisky History Osaka 2013 was held on October 6, unfortunately this year I'm sad to say I didn't attend - not because I didn't want to obviously but couldn't due to other work obligations. From feedback it seemed to be another great event with the familiar run of brands and retailers. Friends and readers of Whiskies R Us mentioned a few standouts on the day. The first being the Chichibu seminar hosted by none other than Akuto-san himself with partner in tow - Yumi-san. Guests at the seminar apparently indulged in a 4yo Chichibu matured primarily in a Mizunara cask that was kindly offered - how tasty does that sound, and perhaps a sign of things to come?

Another highlight was yet again from the boys at Shinanoya. Certainly not knew news as most of you already know by attending Whisky History, as well the fact Shinanoya posted about it on their Facebook page. Their release: the fifth installment to the famed "Game" series. Naturally an Ichiro's Malt Hanyu expression - only this one has been finished in Mizunara. Distilled in 2000 (a favourite Hanyu vintage of mine) and bottled this year (2013) - cask# 1302. Like past releases the fifth installment to the highly sought after bottlings has a relatively small outturn of 299 bottles and priced at 14,900 yen. It could be argued that prices are increasing on every release with some suggesting its a huge expense for a 13yo whisky, but if it is of the same quality (which I'm sure it is) cask choice as previous private releases then its worth every cent. The "Game 5" is bottled at 59.5%, and according to Shinanoya the "finish" took place over 2 years making it a reasonable finish at that compared to other products on the market. Word on the street is that there will shortly be a follow-up (the Game 6) that will reveal the complete picture behind the puzzle pieces. What a clever idea.

Continuing Success: Chichibu - The Peated 2013

Chichibu, Japan’s newest distillery to date continues its developments with the release of The Peated 2013. This second peaty Chichibu release retains all the artisanal qualities as the first release (2012) however; the difference lays in the PPM - a welcoming malted barley phenol level of 59.6 Phenol Parts per Million (PPM). This means that up until now the malt used for this release has the highest phenol measurement for the distillery. Casks used for maturing it consisted of bourbon, re-fill hogshead, puncheon, and port pipe - allowing Akuto-san to create a perfectly balanced and deeply flavoured peaty whisky while retaining the distinctive characteristics of Chichibu.

The 2013 outturn is much higher than its 2012 sibling, a limited release of 6,700 bottles that will apparently be divided between the domestic and foreign market. This higher outturn should allow many more Chichibu enthusiasts the opportunity to secure a bottle depending on your local market and distributors. For those residing in Japan most major department stores along with established liquor shops have began stocking The Peated 2013. The recommended retail price is consistent with all most all other Chichibu releases (with the exception of The First) at 8,500 yen (excluding tax). There are still good things to come from Chichibu - let’s wait and see.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Roaming Hakata (2): Whisky Bar Leichhardt

Whisky Bar LEICHHARDT is one of your more savvy whisky bars in Hakata. Naturally it retains tradition, such as bar etiquette, but when it comes to the interior it is ultra-sleek opposed to your typical looking bar. The bar owner is quite a young chap however, Sumiyoshi-san, or easily remembered as Yu, has all the experience of a veteran. Yu named his bar after a suburb in the Inner West of Sydney, Australia. As a student he resided in Leichhardt, which is best known as "Little Italy", before returning to Japan fulfill his dreams. The whisky bar is only in its fourth year running but Yu runs a good bar and has established loyal customers, which was evident with all the patrons along the bar - an extremely long bar I must add. Bottles are elegantly sorted from wall to wall in close proximity allowing you to gaze for hours.

Besides the modern look and funky logo of the establishment the menu is an important part of the attraction. Yu provides a thoughful whisky collection for any hard-core Scotch single malt lover however, the rare experience lays in his vast collection of old Japanese blends - a nostalgic Japanese whisky lover's paradise. Be sure to sample the broad selection of retro 80s blends from Suntory and Nikka, but if you prefer, he will pull out a handful of Owner's Casks (try the 99 Yamazaki Bota Corta) and event bottlings such as Akuto-san's Hanyu/Chichibu releases for Whisky Talk Fukuoka. Like so many of Hakata's whisky bars, Whisky Bar LEICHHARDT does not operate on the ground floor of some large luxury building, but its tucked away on the fith floor of your average construction. Like they say: "it's what's on the inside that counts". Another must visit while in the area.

Fukuoka-Ken, Fukuoka-Shi, Chuo-Ku, Watanabedori 2-Chome, 2-1 Nishimura Building 5F


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Roaming Hakata (1): Hearts Field - Whisky & Jazz

While on the road (Kyushu) I took a tour round some of Hakata's (Tenjin) exciting whisky drinking establishments. The area has an abundance of watering holes and each are to their own. Generally most whisky bars located centrally fall into either one of four categories: classic, retro, savvy, or formal - and that's just the beginning.

The first port of call for Whiskies R Us was Hearts Field - one of a few whisky landmarks in the area that provides loungey Jazz and visual history to aficionados. If whisky is the water of life and sound is music to your ears then enjoy the combo of both and reward yourself by visiting. The bar room is decorated with musical instruments and antique bits and pieces (including an old fashion Victorian style pull-chain toilet), but besides the whisky line-up perhaps the most visually entertaining objects in the room are the 1950's Hartsfield vintage mono speakers (hence the name of the bar) and the Macintosh valve amp.

The captain of the ship that dons the name badge 'Yuji' is a very down-to-earth chap who makes one feel very welcome. He is well known in the community and enjoys a friendly chat - not only about whisky but everyday life, including that of his collection of hermit crabs that have made home at one side of the bar. 

Hearts Field has a traditional atmosphere but without the pretentious - feel comfortable without feeling the need to be overly serious while dramming. Sit down on the traditional leather couch or bar counter and immerse yourself in one of the whiskies on offer, whether Japanese or Scotch there is something for all of you. Naturally I was delighted to see Yuji-san stock a handful of Owners Casks as well as some vintage Hanyu's - my favourite. Make sure to ask if there is something you want but cannot see it as he has some gems stashed away for those curious (such as the Owners Cask 1986 Mizunara). I love this place. Kasai-san (Yuji) is great fun.

2-3-5 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka-ken, Jantiguri Building B1F