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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

September 24, 2019



A bag of genuine Japanese whiskies

Now that Bloomberg have posted a rather strident public warning ('That Expensive Japanese Whisky May Be Mostly Scotch') about all those Japanese whiskies that are only partially Japanese, or sometimes not Japanese at all while the hardcore chatting whisky enthusiasts had been commenting on those issues for decades – including here - it’s time to have a little bunch of very carefully selected proper samurais, don’t you think! Good to see that the pendulum may start to swing back whilst some have been letting the general public believe, for a good decade, that ‘Japanese whisky was the best in the world’. In many cases, especially in those of many blends and ‘pure malts’, it wasn’t even Japanese! Now it seems that some official bodies are currently working on a new definition of Japanese whisky, I’m sure that’ll go into the right direction and I do hope that’ll happen in the flesh before the whole category gets damaged too much.. Because we do all love Japan and the proper Japanese whisky makers!

Let’s see what we have in the boxes...

Yamazaki 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2016)

Yamazaki 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2016) Four stars
I’ve tried the 25 several times in the past and always thought it was extremely good (WF 86-89) but not exactly great, partly because of its low A.B.V. It’s still sold for approximatively €6,000 to su**ers these days. Get your hankies ready. Colour: red amber. Nose: it’s well as I remembered it, rather complex and sweetly spicy, but also a tad too oaky. Notes of Demerara sugar and rum, raisins and prunes, whiffs of incense, liquorice, pu-erh tea, caraway, cinnamon… The lower strength already shows, but let’s be honest, this is a beautiful, pretty complex nose. Mouth: excellent, but the oak really feels a lot, with pine-y flavours, saps, raisins, walnut stain, dark chocolate, and really a lot of over-infused black tea, old-samovar style. That makes it a little rough, if not a little unpleasant. Finish: short and rather drying. More black chocolate and pinesap. Comments: exactly what I was expecting, a very lovely nose and a palate that’s a little too much on the oaky side for me. But naturally, investors used to like it better.
SGP:361 - 86 points.

Perhaps the 18, which I used to like a little better in general…

Yamazaki 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2018)

Yamazaki 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2018) Four stars and a half
Colour: bright amber. Nose: indeed, I like it rather better. Nutshell, less oak tannins, more bright fruits, both fresh and dried. There’s also more marzipan, coconut balls, then prickly pears, blood oranges, and just a nice box of Jaffa cakes. It’s got a Macallany side, but we’re talking older Macallan, like the old 30 blue label (and box). See what I mean? Mouth: it is a little oaky too, to be honest, but it’s still brighter than the 25, fresher, and simply nicer, in my book. Oranges, touches of tonic wine, caraway and cinnamon, a drop of Dutch genever (I owe you a very large genever session), and nice notes of mint-flavoured liquorice. Does not feel weakfish despite the strength, while the 25 used to. Finish: medium, rather on bitter oranges, quinine, and a wee bit of speculoos. Only the aftertaste is a little drying this time. Comments: I could quaff this! For one tenth of the price of the 25, it’s a no-brainer, although it’s still a little too expensive, in my opinion. Some retailers milking the cows a little too much too…
SGP:451 - 88 points.

While we’re at it, another famous one by Suntory…

Hakushu 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2018)

Hakushu 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2018) Four stars and a half
I only tried this expression once, and that was a long time ago. It was complex but a little fragile (+/-2008, WF 85). Colour: full gold. Nose: what’s wonderful with this nose is how medicinal it is. It’s not a Laphroaig-like profile though, it’s rather more on natural remedies (!), eucalyptus, Indian embrocations, also a little wet chalk, fir honeydew, and a very moderate smoke. Pine wood smoke? Balsa wood? Kools? Mouth: indeed, it is a little fragile, and indeed the oak’s a little loud again, but I’m really fond of this pine-y and eucalyptussy (!) style. Also touches of mint-flavoured liquorice, once again as well as, perhaps, a small tangerine and an even smaller green lemon. Finish: medium, mainly on mint tea, with drops of honeydew. Lovely. Herbal aftertaste, with just a smidgen of peat hidden somewhere. Comments: looks like I like this newer expression better than the ones from ten years ago. Not everything degenerates!
SGP:552 - 89 points.

And now perhaps a new cat from a genuine Japanese distillery?

Eigashima 3 yo 2014/2017 (61.5%, Blackadder, oloroso sherry, cask #101474, 847 bottles)

Eigashima 3 yo 2014/2017 (61.5%, Blackadder, oloroso sherry, cask #101474, 847 bottles) Four stars
Blackadder are pretty adventurous with their sourcing, they’re not afraid of selecting whiskies from all over the world! Eigashima stems from White Oak Distillery, of Akashi fame. It’s said that it’s the oldest licensed distillery in Japan, but the west has heard of Akashi only recently. They also do partly sourced blends but this is proper Japanese single malt. Colour: gold. Nose: typical very young malt flavoured with pretty good oak. Not sure we could really talk about ‘maturing’ at only 3. Butterscotch, gingerbread, vanilla, that’s really good but you’ll find this ‘craft’ style all over the world these days, from the West Coast of the US to Japan indeed, via the Alps. With water: more or less the same. Perhaps even breadier, which we enjoy at WF Towers. Mouth (neat): the sherry remains relatively discreet, we’re rather finding huge spices, caraway, cinnamon, juniper, cinchona, white pepper… That’s all the oak talking to us. With water: swims very well. Liquorice, tobacco, dried figs, caraway, pumpernickel… Finish: long, rich, with really a lot of proper gingerbread. Comments: very cool at 3 years of age. Good casks technology, as the whisky romantics now say.
SGP:451 - 85 points.

See you tomorrow with more genuine Japanese…

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Japanese we've tasted so far







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