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

October 2, 2014


WF 10000 medal

More celebratory duos, this time hi-flying new Japanese
The new Nikka 40 yo is out. Let’s taste it. And then we’ll try to find a worthy Japanese sparring-partner.

The Nikka 40 yo (43%, OB, blend, 700 decanters, 2014)

The Nikka 40 yo (43%, OB, blend, 700 decanters, 2014) Five starsA supremely elegant super-brand-new decanter done to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the founding of Nikka. I think they could teach a few Scots a lesson in design, erm… Look, the price isn’t low (500,000 Yen so approx 3,600 €) but Nikka have assembled their oldest cask of Miyagikyo, a 1969 and their oldest cask of Yoichi, a… 1945, while the malt content lies around 70%. I find the fact that they haven’t decided to bottle the 1945 as a single cask priced at 100,000€ particularly noteworthy and, I’d add, even more elegant. Unless, of course, that one was ‘worn-out’, but I doubt they’d have even used it here in that case. That would have been very un-Japanese! Colour: deep gold. Nose: e.x.t.r.a.o.r.d.i.n.a.r.y. It’s not whisky, it’s a journey, through Japan of course, with three main stages. First, the most subtle combination of tropical fruits. Two, a delicate blend of soft spices and precious woods. And three, more essential oils. Oh and four, after fifteen minutes, everything at the same time, but with calm and serenity. It’s almost music. As for more specific aromas, I’d mention mangos, bergamots, papayas, ripe strawberries, incense, cinnamon, camphor, eucalyptus, aniseed, crème de menthe and perhaps 5,000 tinier aromas. The freshness is absolutely flabbergasting. Forgot to mention touches of roasted sesame seeds. Love roasted sesame seeds. Mouth: a touch ‘below’ the nose, as always with old whiskies. Remember a significant portion of this whisky is 69 years old! So we have quite some dark chocolate and cinnamon in the arrival, as well as some black tea and tobacco, but what happens after just thirty seconds is rather miraculous, with some zesty lime, lemon balm and bitter oranges ‘lifting’ the whole. A wee touch of paraffin/plasticine, but that’s no handicap, especially since the orangey side tends to grow over time and balances it. Finish: sure it’s not the longest ever but it’s still fresh and lively, actually fresher than during the arrival. Comments: a gorgeous whisky. The nose was otherworldly. Happy birthday, Nikka! SGP:661 - 93 points.

Yeah go find a worthy opponent… An old Scottish blend? Or, wait, another brand new Japanese, such a new Karuizawa?...

Karuizawa 33 yo 1981/2014 (55.3%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, sherry, cask #136)

Karuizawa 33 yo 1981/2014 (55.3%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, sherry, cask #136) Five stars La Maison seem to be leading the pack these days as far as numbers of new Karuizawas are concerned. They already had a wee bunch earlier this year, and here’s a brand new sherried 1981, possibly similar to their excellent cask #152 that came out around April. Colour: rich amber. Nose: isn’t Karuizawa the only malt that’s capable of standing heavy oak in such… err, relaxed manner? Because this is very oaky (some old bourbons come to mind), and yet it’s very superb, perfectly mentholated, infused with liquorice wood, wormwood, old-style herbal liqueurs (Bénédictine) and plenty of other roots and herbs, such as ginseng. The sherry’s not very exuberant here, but that may come once water’s been added. So, with water: love this. Much menthol, anise, camphor, fresh pinewood, almond oil, hessian, old wardrobe… Hey, I even find (half a) mothball. Mouth (neat): it’s amazing that all old Karuizawas are so different from each other. Once again, the oak’s playing first fiddle here, but some dried fruits are singing in the background (S., musical metaphors are very last year, you know.) Plenty of kumquats and bergamots, for example. Or some kind of lemony raisins. Mandarine Impériale, quinine, more ginseng… All this is very huge, concentrated, and yet it’s neither heavy nor too ‘massive’. With water: the most wonderful wood extraction. Herbs and roots ad libitum. Finish: long, herbal, earthy… Comments: ginseng whisky? That should be good for our health! More please… SGP:471 - 93 points.

Oh and it’s a tie.

(With heartfelt thanks to Thierry and Didier)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Japanese whiskies I've tasted so far







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