Google A few Japanese malt whiskies

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

February 9, 2021


A few Japanese malt whiskies

Indeed, and we'll try to avoid any imported ones. Now we may fail, as there are quite a few new brands around, all adorned with proper kanji. Let's stay alert… (I'm sure we'll fail; Japan whisky is full of traps…)

Shinobu 10 yo (43%, OB, Japanese, pure malt, mizunara oak finish, +/-2020)

Shinobu 10 yo (43%, OB, Japanese, pure malt, mizunara oak finish, +/-2020) Three stars
Say you finish some average Speysider in mizunara, does that make it any more Japanese? Some blurb is quite revealing, I quote, 'vintage expressions are made by carefully selecting quality whiskies from different distilleries which are first reserved in ex- sherry and ex-bourbon casks and then finishing with precious Japanese Mizunara oak in Japan.' Does that stink or not? The packaging is very dodgy too, they tried really too hard. Now it won a World Whisky Award – and the category, so they've been officially laundered, so to speak… Colour: amber. Nose: say some average young Glenfarclas that they wouldn't have bottled under their own brand. I'm not saying that's what it is, it was just to give you an idea. Naturally, the price is like four times that of such unnamed Glenfarclas. Fruit cake, sour cherries, burnt toasts, malt extracts. It's okay, barely. Mouth: not bad, of course, with touches of leaf smoke, eucalyptus, burnt herbs (thyme, rosemary), and really a lot of burnt cake and bread. A feeling of resinous woods. Finish: medium and, I hate to say, pretty nice. Notes of honey-glazed ham, more rosemary, sage… Comments: it bugs me that this burglary was done this well. The whisky's very good, mind you, it's just not Japanese – in my opinion.
SGP:461 - 82 points.

Let's find another odd one…

Kirin 'Pure and Mellow Riku Land Discovery' (50%, OB, Japanese, +/-2020)

Kirin 'Pure and Mellow Riku Land Discovery' (50%, OB, Japanese, +/-2020) Two stars and a half
This is a sourced blend as well, but some parts are Japanese, from Gotemba. Rumour has it that this contains Four Roses, as Kirin own Four Roses. Really? Colour: gold. Nose: between Scottish grain and bourbon indeed. No clear maltiness that I can detect, rather barbecued corn and rather a lot of maple syrup and liquid caramel. Vanilla. I'm not a fan, but things may improve… With water: light maize, earth, vanilla, rye… Good bourbon? Mouth (neat): sweet and light, but there's some textured smoke to it, possibly from Gotemba. The rest is light and thin, sweet, on vanilla and coconut water. With water: not much to complain about, this would be a young bourbon with a malty edge. Now careful, it does not swim too well and tends to get shattered if you add too much H2O. Finish: rather short. Sweet and sour. Comments: 'pure' I don't know, 'mellow' for sure!
SGP:541 - 79 points.

Oh something funny…

Miyagikyo 'Apple Brandy Wood Finish' (47%, OB, Japanese, 2020)

Miyagikyo 'Apple Brandy Wood Finish' (47%, OB, Japanese, 2020) Four stars
Sounds like nonsense. Any bottlers in the whole world, once they've disgorged a cask of anything, start to wonder about what they're going to do with said empty cask. 'Finish a whisky' is probably the lousiest option, 'feed the fireplace' being the smartest. But let's see… Colour: light gold. Nose: boy is this smooth and rounded, and cake-y, and all on 'a five o'clock tea'. So scones, white toasts, brown toasts, lemon pudding cakes, cheesecakes, cupcakes, cranberry muffins, blackberry twists, lemon cookies, blueberry tartlets, pumpkin bread… And just English tea. Yes that's obligatory, Lagavulin's not an option. Mouth: the trademark resinous smoke's kicking in on the palate, giving no chances to the apple brandy. No regrets. Excellent lemons, camphory smokiness, eucalyptus, liquorice, peppered smoke, lemon, a touch of sriracha sauce, horseradish… I'm afraid we had forgotten that Miyagikyo's such a stunning distillate. Anyway, no 'apple brandy' in the way here. Finish: long and excellent. Always this lovely feeling of 'resinous peat', which has always been very Miyagikyo in my book. Only the aftertaste is a tad more 'jumbled'. Comments: I did drag my feet a little bit with this one, but I was wrong. Forget about the apple brandy.
SGP:553 - 87 points.

Shizuoka 3 yo 'Prologue' (55.5%, OB, Japanese, 2020)

Shizuoka 3 yo 'Prologue' (55.5%, OB, Japanese, 2020) Five stars
We've had a few cask samples, and still have a little bag to taste, and just hated them all because they were so exactly perfect. May I remind the good folks at Shizuoka that a great malt whisky ought to 1). Stem from a closed distillery, 2). Have been bottled at least 30 years ago, and 3). Be of proper age, certainly above 15? Colour: light gold. Nose: perhaps a little gingerbread-heavy? I believe some single casks have been purer, crisper… Now good news, the malt is soon to have the upper hand, with some awesome notes of pumpkin bread, buckwheat crêpes, and artisan pilsner. That's all good. With water: perfect. High-precision millimetric fermentary smoke, reminding me, that's true, of that Malt Mill by James MacArthur, not even sure it was genuine. But there…  Mouth (neat): tight smoke and mustard and walnuts and bitter oranges. Perfect touches of Stollen, which is close to that gingerbread that we first found on the nose. Anise cookies. With water: excellent. Glue (yep), gingerbread, sake, anise, caraway and fennel seeds, lemon bread… What's not to like? Very thick body, always a good sign. Finish: long, fat, almost sticky, bready… Comments: love, love, love… Totally my cup of malt, well done little Karuizawa still! Huge quality/age ratio.
SGP:464 - 90 points.

That first official Shizuoka sure was a session killer,  but aren't we supposed to be resourceful at WF? I have an idea…

Akkeshi 'Sarorunramuy' (55%, OB, Japanese, lightly peated, 2020)

Akkeshi 'Sarorunramuy' (55%, OB, Japanese, lightly peated, 2020) Three stars and a half
Great real Japanese whisky again, but gosh aren't they making our lives difficult? I mean, that name, that's a mouthful! Colour: straw. Nose: indeed the peat's very discreet, while the vanilla cake is not. Custard and carrot cake, whiffs of green pepper… With water: pure malt, ink, yeast, cement, grist…  Mouth (neat): extremely very good. Lime, peat, a baguette smoked over some pinewood fire (who's ever done that?) and some rather bitter eggplants. Much nicer than it sounds (my fault, assuredly). With water: I'm not sure I get everything from that 'light peat', but all in all, this works a treat. Very fermentary. Finish: medium, saltier, all on sourdough now. Süweckle, some honey in the aftertaste. Comments: I believe we've tried another expression back in October, this one's rather more to my liking.
SGP:353 - 83 points.

(Thank you Chris and Trevor)

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







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