Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rare Japanese Drams (1): Golden Horse Single Malt 14yo - Hanyu Distillery 57% abv

Nose: Dry but at the same time complex, and with sophisticated sweetness. Ripe golden delicious apple with a touch of pear. Dry sandalwood. Honey and raisin cake along side a mild fruit tea infusion (green banana, mango, and cinnamon). With time Woodroofe's Sno-Top (a brown vanilla-flavoured creaming soda). Water adds barley sugar with mild floral hints and amps up the sandalwood (in oil form). Peanut shells. Then, Juicy Fruit gum. It's fair to say this malt is quite feminine in comparison to other hard hitting Hanyu.

Taste: Relatively dry. Aromatic spices are in play big time, which sends a tingling sensation rocketing your mouth. There is a touch of bitter tannins. Grilled Ginkgo nuts. Textbook sandalwood. Then, flirtatious, mellow Japanese star anise. Peanut husks - from beer nuts, and dried raisins with water. More water in my opinion introduces a burnt, spicy caramel toffee that quickly transits to mild Goya. Ease off the water.

Finish: Medium to long, dry with both chalky and mellow floral soapy elements.

Comment: I first tried this as recent as last year (2013), with Brian at Bar Augusta. I was totally amazed with the sheer quality and flavour profile that I made it my mission to track down a bottle, the conventional way and not on the resale market. It has taken roughly a year to do so, and by no means was it easy seeking out this rare gem. In fact I was giving up all hope. Then, I was lucky to go on a camping trip in the sticks and came across a retailer that I thought wouldn't stock anything interesting...pays to check high and low. Released in 2004 by Tao Shuzo.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky 45% abv

Nose: Heavenly seductive and rich. Vanilla oak, banana milk, and soft chewy style banana confectionary. Light honey drizzled over vanilla and cinnamon bread (hot cross buns). Coconut milk. Cadbury Summer Roll (lightly roasted peanuts and coconut flakes wrapped in milk chocolate). Then, Eggnog. With prolonged time a lot of the creamy sweetness subsides giving way to vegetal and rich malty notes. With water honey bush tea with a drop of vanilla essence and a dash of milk.

Taste: Extremely silky and buttery. Lightly spiced mellow honey caresses every part of your mouth. Arnott's Milk coffee (no pun intended) biscuits and/or Malt-O-Milk biscuits. Then, a transition to chai spiced banana bread. Grated coconut mingles with dark chocolate. Eggnog moderately spiced with nutmeg. Dried oats. With time celery stalks and malt. When diluted milky, honey bush tea.

Finish: Moderate to long with mild spiced chai tea, dried oats, malt, and milk coffee biscuits.

Comment: Pretty exciting stuff. Great to break away from the norm and have something slightly different. Nikka has impressed me yet again. The Coffey Malt expression, along with the Taketsuru NAS sherry wood finish and Date have become my all time favourites from the whisky giant (excluding single casks naturally). And lets not forget that it is extremely affordable.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Whisky Festival 2014 Osaka in Pictures

Chief blenders, brand ambassadors, importors, bar tenders, professionals, and whisky enthusiasts (both novice and savvy) - people from all walks of life, gathered to see what was on show for this year's Whisky Festival Osaka 2014 (June 8th). The festival, now in its 3rd year for Osaka, was a great platform to experience both old and new whiskies from around the world. Visitors were able to sample award-winning, old and obscure, aged, prototype, and new emerging whiskies to the market as well as old favourites, in what was a reasonably larger than normal venue (compared to 2012/2013) - there were certainly no complaints of space restrictions this time around. There were quite a few creative stands from the major players of both the Scotch and Japanese whisky industry however, it appeared the focus was on craft distillers and independent bottlings.

Venture Whisky was in fine form, as always, and allowed attendees to sample two of their 'prototype' whiskies for the festival. The first Chichibu 'model' (pictured above) was only one of two bottles drawn from a sherry butt (cask# 1284), which was distilled in 2011 and bottled this year at 60.7%. It was quite significant to see this sherry matured Chichibu - it is a topic that's been on everyone's lips at the moment. Although many were lucky enough to try this exceptional and tasty 3yo, it appears Venture Whisky has no plans to bottle their first sherry matured Chichibu soon. One thing is for sure, when they do fans alike will not be disappointed. The second prototype, was another 'Almost (aged) Five (years)' version only this time drawn from a single puncheon (Cask# 408) that was distilled in 2009 and bottled this year at 61.3%.

Original Chichibu froushiki were another hot item among dedicated fans, which were offered exclusively for the festival. Among the various distillery goods Chichibu have on offer the traditional wrapping cloth that is used to carry anything and everything was an in-house design, which is suitable to transport your favourite Chichibu bottle. It appears only one hundred pieces for now have been produced with the intention of printing more given the popularity.

This gorgeous Chichibu, by ePower, also made a debut. The specially selected bottling by Bar Barns (Nagoya) was distilled in 2010 and matured in a bourbon barrel (Cask# 657). The outturn for this bottling is 227 bottles and bottled this year at 62.1%. Barley: Floor Malted Optic. Although this is a bottling intended for bars alike, according to ePower you will be able to purchase this at a few of the big liquor retailers in both the Kansai and Kanto areas. So keep your eyes out for yet again another tasty exclusive single cask Chichibu.

The second edition, or should I say re-design of 'Twin Alps' from the Mars distillery gained some followers. This blended whisky was once bottled at 39% abv in 720ml bottles with a cream label. This new version however, with the distillery's new signature 'alps' bottle design (750ml) is bottled at 40% abv. This oaky, full bodied, blend with wood fragrance will be available, according the guys, from next week. This, along with Iwai Tradition is another good 'bang for the buck' and entry level blended whisky. Depending on place of purchase the suggested retail price will be from 1,580 yen ~ 1,680 yen.

The 6th Whisky Shop W original single malt Hakushu (006) is a store bottling that aficionados should not miss. Bottled at 48%, this vatted Hakushu is like no other, well at least in comparison to what I have tasted over the years. Having been matured in bourbon barrels, which I presume to be first-fill given the extreme quality, this release provides a unique Hakushu experience that some suggested is reminiscent of an early Bowmore (70s Circa). I cannot make that comparison as I don't think I've had a Bowmore from the 70's, but what I can say is this Hakushu presents rich tropical banana in various forms that interwinds with delicate smoke on both the nose and palate. Grab one here before they get snapped up quicker than any other 300ml store bottling. Possibly my best Japanese whisky on the day that can be purchased from a shop. 

Nikka also presented this top notch whisky that is of no secret. Nikka Coffey Malt, which will make its debut in Japan tomorrow (June 10) for the national market. Stay tuned for a detailed review of this in coming days as well as news of additional Nikka release set for July that most of you already know about.