Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cask Adventures: A Visit to a Japanese Cooperage

Just a little over a month ago I had the opportunity to accompany another party and go behind the scenes at the Ariake Barrel cooperage in Miyazaki prefecture, Kyushu, to see first hand how artisan casks are traditionally made. Odawara-san, the grandson of the founder was kind enough to provide an up close and personal tour of the establishment that is situated 1 hour and 20 minutes away from Tachibanadori, Miyazaki city. Stay tuned for the full write up of this family-owned business and dying trade in the coming weeks.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mercian Karuizawa 15 Year Old Original Bottle 40% abv

Nose: A touch of cream sherry, coffee essence, raspberry gummies, red apple skins, and overripe halved strawberries. Staying on the produce mild tropical fruits begin to surface - star fruit and Vietnamese dried fruit chips. However, although the aforementioned aromas are clearly detectable, overall it is quite light and perhaps a tad watery on the nose. Like many bottlings out there this would have benefited being bottled at a slightly higher strength, and it is hard to detect that this is a 15 year old whisky (containing other parcels of Karuizawa up to 31 years of age). With oxidization, in my opinion, it becomes much bolder. This is where things begin to happen…raspberry vinegar dressing, Redskins lollies (raspberry-flavoured chewy confectionary), and honey powder.

Taste: As with the nose it could be said that the mouth feel is equally light. Nevertheless enjoyable with a subtle tease of smoke, liquorice, and granola with dried strawberries. Slight hint of concentrated Ribena fruit syrup.  A touch of honey with a grassy note. Can become prickly on the tongue.

Finish: The tease of smoke and rubber continues to caress your tongue. It is slightly metallic and/or minnerally. Grassy. The finale is short coming however.

Comment: Sufficient time in the glass makes this much more rewarding – if you can be patient. I truly love the essence of this of bottle design, simple yes, but savvy. It retains the original ethical beauty of the brand - if there is such a thing. The design of the bottle above superseded the square-dimple type. Well worth the original RRP if you can still find it at that (regardless of the light aromas and palate), otherwise I struggle to understand the prices paid on the secondary market today.

Follow up: At the half way mark this bottle has began to take a shine on me. It has become a bit more complex and generally overall a lot more satisfying. In short it has began to represent the distillery's house style. My daily dram that I suspect will be missed when emptied.

If you scour the internet there are not too many reviews to be found on Mercian era Karuizawa official bottles. You have an alternate review of this 15 year old from Pierre over at Connosr. You can see notes of the 17 year old dimple-type bottling at TJWR,  Whisky Fun, and WHISKYBASE. I've seen print reviews from Dave Broom and Martine - but not a lot around really.