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

May 9, 2022


Whiskyfun

Strolling around Japan

Motherwell
Just a few blue chips and heavy hitters, including the new shining star (according to this little taster)… And we'll keep this rather 'high-profile' for once, if you don't mind…

Robert Motherwell (1915 - 1991) Black Cathedral, 1991 - Artcurial

 

Shizuoka 2017/2021 (58.5%, OB for Whisky Concerto Hong Kong, ex-bourbon, cask #2017-128)

Shizuoka 2017/2021 (58.5%, OB for Whisky Concerto Hong Kong, ex-bourbon, cask #2017-128) Four stars and a half
Colour: full gold. Nose: just the right amounts of acetone, nail polish remover, black olives, rotting fruits (right, fermenting fruits) and sponge cake. Very high-definition, yet with a wonderful small tertiary/dirty side, as expected (Japanese friends, please don't take umbrage when I use the word 'dirty'!) . With water: sweet mustard, manzanilla and Cuban cigars. Mouth (neat): absolutely perfect, you do not even need to factor this baby's age. Granted, there are perhaps a few too many oak spices, which is normal in this context, but these lovely tobacco-y, varnishy and slightly buttery (buttercream) notes are awesome. I've heard tobacco ice cream did exist; well I haven't tried that yet but I would imagine that would taste like this wee Shizuoka. With water: gets sweeter. A little more oak coming through, Finish: long, with some oaky sourness, more tobacco, more green pepper too, propolis, resins… The bitterish finish might be this baby's marginally weaker spot. Comments: rather terrific but water's not easy to handle here. I'll need to put my hands on a Japan-made electronic pipette.

SGP:462 - 88 points.

To the north, to Chichibu, west of Tokyo…

Chichibu 2013/2020 (59%, OB/Ichiro's Malt for Whisky Mew, Japan, bourbon barrel, cask #2463, 209 bottles)

Chichibu 2013/2020 (59%, OB/Ichiro's Malt for Whisky Mew, Japan, bourbon barrel, cask #2463, 209 bottles) Five stars
With a cat on the label, obviously. We have a mouser at WF Towers that looks just the same, she's a girl and her name is… Soba! I'm not joking. Colour: light gold. Nose: exactly as we were expecting it to be (no, really) with once again some high-definition maltiness, this time cleaner yet and with a wonderful mango-y cake-iness. Touches of patchouli and Indian bidis, bananas, a touch of shoe polish, a little menthol… With water: you do feel the make's slight fatness. Sunflower oil, some beer, a wonderful yeasty side, grist… Mouth (neat): immediate and obvious. Some yellow chartreuse, green bananas (not the other way 'round!), a lovely bitterness, fruit peel, fresh walnuts… at times you could believe it was ex-fino sherry, but it is well bourbon. With water: some fruity sweetness popping out. Banana foam, perhaps? Some papaya too, then greener fruits. Oh, yes, touches of green tomatoes? Those are so good… Finish: rather long, still on that sweetness. Even marshmallows in the aftertaste. Comments: just impeccable. They just never disappoint when the cask was not a very odd one.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Hold on, that Shizuoka was made in a Karuizawa still, was it not? So, towards Karuizawa, which isn't far from Chichibu. Just around 100km, to the northwest…

Karuizawa 1973/2008 (56%, OB, Martin's Selection for Norway, American oak sherry butt, cask #6249, 342 bottles)

Karuizawa 1973/2008 (56%, OB, Martin's Selection for Norway, American oak sherry butt, cask #6249, 342 bottles) Five stars
I've only tried a 1973 once, #1607, which had become the Supreme Winner at our Malt Maniacs Awards in 2013. WF 93, right. We'll try to keep this short and sweet… Colour: copper amber. Nose: the most fantastic combination involving mint (and assorted closely related aromas) and tropical jams (and assorted closely related aromas). Should we start a list? Good, quinces, mangos, teak oil, crushed Brazil nuts, figs and prunes filled with marzipan, very old cognac, charcoal smoke, muscovado sugar, fermenting figs, liquorice, cough medicine, cigars, Spanish ham, honeycomb… Seriously, better stop here, this list would be endless… What's more, this baby keeps changing over time… So, with water: it's not the first time that I'm finding some old-Springbankness in an old Karuizawa. Sooty honeys and myriads of affiliated aromas, in a fractal way as we sometimes say (sadly not often enough). Complex tobaccos, which reminds me of Benson & Hedges and Dunhill's shops in London, in the good old days. Mouth (neat): perhaps a notch more rustic on the palate, with a little hay and compost, some crude chocolate too, all the rest being an expected bed of roses, with pretty much the same flavours as on the nose. It would just not stand still, with many dried fruits, honeys, a tiny smokiness, probably a little more sherry (tobacco and walnuts), a wee medicinal side, eucalyptus, camphor, mint, liquorice… In truth it's got pretty much everything. And yet, it is a little 'rustic'. With water: I can't seem to get mid-1960s Springbank out of my head. Mead, cognacs, honeys and tobaccos. Some pine needles, fern and moss in the background. Finish: same combination, for a long time. Only the aftertaste is a little oakier, a little gritty, a little bitter, a little drying. Or I would have considered a 94. Comments: it feels good.
SGP:662 - 93 points.

To Nikka's Yoichi Distillery, west of Sapporo…

Yoichi 1991/2009 (58%, OB, Nikka Single Cask Malt, for La Maison du Whisky, warehouse No.15, virgin oak, cask #129374, 453 bottles)

Yoichi 1991/2009 (58%, OB, Nikka Single Cask Malt, for La Maison du Whisky, warehouse No.15, virgin oak, cask #129374, 453 bottles) Four stars and a half
I already tried this one more than ten years ago, but I'm dead sure that further bottle aging did much good to it. Dead sure. Colour: full gold with red amber hues. More or less, typical of virgin wood. Nose: I knew it (that's enough bragging for now, S.), this is full of sauna oils, sandalwood and cedarwood, eucalyptus, camphor, menthol, cough drops, then caraway and star anise, a little lemon balm, fresh-sawn pinewood, some soft varnishes… With water: the fruitiness on top. That would mostly citrons and oranges, while the piney, herbal notes would remain very restless in the back. Mouth (neat): what a beauty! It's sweet, jammy, full of candied fruits, dried orange zests, with a little bitter (good, Campari), touches of ginger, then these big mentholy notes, with some chlorophyl, fir bud liqueur, verbena, Jäger… With water: well, that unleashed more spicy oak, as if much more bottle aging was actually needed to reach a very high score. It's true that the oak was massive in the first place. Finish: long, with more mentholy oak. Comments: a feeling of mizunara; was it mizunara?
SGP:572 - 89 points.

And now to Suntory's Yamazaki Distillery, south of Kyoto…

Yamazaki 2009/2019 'The Essence of Suntory Whisky' (56%, OB, Japan, Spanish oak)

Yamazaki 2009/2019 'The Essence of Suntory Whisky' (56%, OB, Japan, Spanish oak) Four stars
It seems that this was virgin Spanish oak. The label is utterly splendid, for once a bottle that even non-whisky friends (and family) could marvel at without wondering what's wrong with you… I mean, with us. Colour: cedarwood. Nose: cedarwood. And blood oranges, quetsche pie with cinnamon, muscovado sugar, a little onion jam… It's not that oaky this time, but you never know… With water: cigar humidor, oranges and cloves, Stolle, marmalade, brown sugar… Mouth (neat): are we sure there was no sherry involved? A lot of sweet oak (deep charred?) and stewed apples, with once again a lot of muscovado sugar. A family-pack of speculoos. With water: old Pedro and a drop of crème de menthe. I'm really not sure that there would be any PX in there, but I've never encountered such as sweet ex-virgin European oak whisky. As far as I can remember… Finish: rather long, sweet, jammy, with some sweet liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: intriguing and yet excellent. If I wasn't holding this, I would add 5 points just for the marvellous Robert-Motherwell-like label. He's one of my favourite painters, in case you were wondering.

SGP:651 - 87 points.

(Domo arigato, Hideo and Peter S!)

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

 

 

 
   

 

 

 

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