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

October 23, 2020


Another Japanese cavalcade

Japanese, half-Japanese, and not Japanese at all Japanese whiskies.








Akkeshi ‘Sarorunkamuy’ 2016/2020 (55%, OB, Lightly peated)

Akkeshi ‘Sarorunkamuy’ 2016/2020 (55%, OB, Lightly peated)
This is the very first whisky from Akkeshi Distillery on Hokkaido – nothing to do with Akashi - and was matured in bourbon, sherry, red wine and mizunara casks. The Japanese too enjoy marquetry. Colour: straw. Nose: a very young spirit, with bready notes, a slightly feinty side, and quite some oak. Husk, sawdust, ale, hints of eucalyptus – the mizunara I suppose, sourdough… Nutshell, it feels young but that’s normal and you have to start from somewhere. With water: williams pears and white cherries, apple peel... Mouth (neat): more mature than on the nose, spicy, smoky and fruity, with curious notes of sake (I swear), fermentation, plantains… No red berries, that’s good. And I rather love sake. With water: even better. Smoked beer, kirsch, williams pear, barley and banana bread. Finish: medium, with a little more oak, cocoa and cereals, plus hints of bananas. Comments: please do not take my score too seriously, this is 3 years old malt whisky and many 3 yo malt whiskies are pretty undrinkable – or made-up. Not the case at all here, very well done Akkeshi.
SGP:552 - 80 points.



Mars Tsunuki 2016-2017/2020 ‘The First’ (59%, OB)

Mars Tsunuki 2016-2017/2020 ‘The First’ (59%, OB)
The very first Tsunuki distilled at Tsunuki, although I seem to have noticed that some single casks are also being launched. I have to say I have a rather high opinion of Mars/Hombo. Colour: straw. Nose: a proper fresh baguette around 6am, then crushed bananas, vanilla, croissants and muesli. Pristine malt whisky, pure and unvarnished. So no wine in sight, we are safe. With water: wonderfully barley-y. Splendid very honest young malt. Mouth (neat): high-power, tight, on dough, lemon liqueur and peppermint. That part is spectacular, let’s see if it’s still there once water’s been added. With water: rather some kind of lemon-mint? Melissa water? Lemongrass? Indeed, splendid drop at this age. Finish: medium, with a little sawdust – which was to be expected, with even more of that in the aftertaste, which was to be expected too. Comments: I don’t think you can do any better with some 3.5 years old malt whisky. The side of Nippon whisky that we love!
SGP:651 - 88 points.



Mars Komagate 2014/2020 (61%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, first fill bourbon, cask #1789, 192 bottles)

Mars Komagate 2014/2020 (61%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, first fill bourbon, cask #1789, 192 bottles)
This ought to be a revolutionary barrel (you may google ‘France 1789’). Different distillery, this time we’re in Shinshu. Colour: white wine. Nose: less consensual, a little more metallic, with more chalk and prickly fruits, granny smith, perhaps green gooseberries… I find this nose perfectly acidulated, but remember, 61%, so water may make it way smoother (yes I’m part of the AWETKUWS, the association of whisky enthusiasts that keep using the word smooth). With water: a little menthol was added, perhaps eucalyptus, wondering if they haven’t used a little mizunara. Remember mizunara is like yuzu in food, ten years ago no one was even talking about them. Mouth (neat): a tad glue-y, but that’s the high strength. Otherwise it’s amyl diacetate galore! So pineapples and pears… With water: back to malt and sweet beer, phew. But almonds and varnish are still there, which is not unpleasant. Finish: medium, sweet and candy-like. Viket sweets in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent for sure, but I liked the new Tsunuki’s tighter and yet fatter style even better.
SGP:741 - 85 points.



Karuizawa 1999/2018 (58.8%, Artist #10, LMDW, sherry, cask #872, 313 bottles)

Karuizawa 1999/2018 (58.8%, Artist #10, LMDW, sherry, cask #872, 313 bottles)
This bottle, although bottled in 2018, just came out as a 10th Anniversary bottling (anniversary of this very lovely and elegant series I suppose). Colour: mahogany. Nose: not all late-period Karuizawas have been out of this world, but it seems that this one’s sharing a few attributes with the earlier ‘sherried’ vintages, such as old tools, prunes, tar, black cherries, then ganache, rose wood, peonies and Turkish currants... I really cherish all this metal polish too, which reminds of some old motorbikes that I still have somewhere. With water: pipe tobacco joining in, earth, walnuts and raisins, more prunes, malmsey… I find this nose superlative. Mouth (neat): what? Tell me about some heavy whisky! Doesn’t quite feel like a proper sherry cask, rather some obscure fortified wine aged in pinewood or something. The thing is, the end result is rather superb. Ex-Soviet Republic ‘konjak’ without all the sugars and sauces. With water: more towards raw chocolate, raspberry jelly and camphor. Not a very usual combination, but one that wins. Finish: rather long, on pretty much the same flavours, plus just wee touches (how do you say wee in Japanese?) of sulphury and tarry rubber. Comments: the finish pulled it down a little bit, but otherwise, it’s rather a late-period-early-style Karuizawa I would say.
SGP:562 - 90 points.




Tenjaku (40%, OB, +/-2020)

Tenjaku (40%, OB, +/-2020)
Produce of Japan my hat! Probably one of those numerous fake Japanese whiskies that have been dragging down the whole category for years and years. Apparently, beyond a few unnecessary statements, no one’s moving a toe. But yeah, there’s Covid… Colour: straw. Nose: it’s an easy blend. 100 Pipers or some Indian Scotch-like cheapos. Not really terrible, in fact, just empty and pretty grainy (which is the same thing). Mouth: not too bad, in fact. Let’s be honest, this is drinkable at a BBQ party and with a ton of crushed ice and lime. Low-shelf stuff for sure, but it’s not poisonous. Finish: very short, not too bad. Comments: a good example of a 60-point whisky, or of $15 stuff sold for $40. Probably created by Tesla-driving brand-builders ;-). And and the way they've put the ABV on the label, oh!
SGP:320 - 60 points.

Kaiyo ‘Japanese Mizunara Oak’ (43%, OB, +/-2019)

Kaiyo ‘Japanese Mizunara Oak’ (43%, OB, +/-2019) Two stars and a half
This is pretty smart, it says both ‘Kaiyo whisky’ and ‘Japanese Mizunara’, but nowhere does it say ‘Japanese whisky’ (well they do on, naturally). What’s more, all Kaiyo bottles are superbly designed. Colour: straw. Nose: not much, a little sawdust, cardboard, grist and wee herbs. Watercress, perhaps. Not ugly at all, just extremely thin on your nose. Mouth: its more than okay this time. Sawdust and cardboard plus a little marmalade and corn syrup. English breakfast tea (the French’s favourite, hope Brexit won’t make it harder to find it in Paris – of course I’m joking, I’m more concerned about Lagavulin!) Maple butter, some cinnamon. Finish: short, but with nice cappuccino and chlorophyl notes. Is that the mizunara? Comments: actually, it was pretty good on the palate. A higher voltage and it would have reached the 80-mark in my book. Could it be that this one was really Japanese?
SGP:451 - 79 points.

Shizuoaka 2019/2020 (61.7%, OB, cask sample, octave, cask #2019-526)

Shizuoaka 2019/2020 (61.7%, OB, cask sample, octave, cask #2019-528) Five stars
This one’s non-peated. Shizuoka are the new kids on the block, I believe they have no whisky yet and yet they already command high prices. For their new makes! It’s true that they have the Karuizawa stills, of which one is still working… Colour: white wine. Nose: yeah well, this is disappointingly superb. Heavy varnish and nail polish remover, acetone, mezcal, bitter almonds, paint thinner, sourdough, leaven, yeasts… Indeed the yeasty side is crazily superb. With water: oh damp husk, flour, yoghurt sauce, and anyone’s holy grail (well mine), olives! Mouth (neat): between great white whisky and great white rum, with quite some stone fruit eau-de-vie poured in. It’s all as if they were doing heavy bacterial fermentation, really. High esters in whisky! With water: what what what what what? The world of whisky is going real fast these days… (just a general observation) Finish: long and amazing. Comments: this oozes of style. The future of malt whisky may lie around these places and concepts, well I think they found the key. F***** crazy. We’ve got many more Shizuokas, I think we’ll do a bespoke session for them. In any case, best Japanese distillate, by far.
SGP:363 - 91 points.

Wow, really. Let’s just celebrate with a last well-chosen Japanese whisky… Preferably an old one…

Shinshu Mars 25 yo 1988/2013 (46%, OB, American White Oak, cask #555, 468 bottles)

Shinshu Mars 25 yo 1988/2013 (46%, OB, American White Oak, cask #555, 468 bottles) Four stars
I believe this is Komagate, but I’m not sure I’m getting Hombo’s whole concept perfectly right. Between names of locations, names of distilleries, and names of whiskies, you can get lost over there. Colour: light amber. Nose: starts with a little camphor, varnish, overripe bananas, ylang-ylang and coconut, as if it was light rum from the Indian ocean. Quite some cedarwood then, mashed turnips, old waxes, Moroccan Ras el hanout spice blend, old planks in the yard… Feels complex and a little fragile. Mouth: some old woods, cedar, pine… Some fruit skins too (banana), then mead and pollen, drops of fino sherry (I’m not saying there is any), bamboo shoots, then more and more salt, wondering where that’s coming from. Buttered salted caramel. It’s perhaps a little shaky and wobbly at times, but it’s a very charming old Japanese drop. Finish: medium, on some waxy and mentholy old wood. Old tobacco. Comments: it’s extremely difficult to ‘judge’ (hate that word) such a pretty fragile old malt whisky. That’s almost like driving an old Porsche, they’re much slower than the new ones, and yet… Oh forget about all that please.
SGP:562 - 87 points.

(Many thanks Lucero and Trevin)

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







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