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

April 21, 2022


To Japan

Quite. I mean, not always totally in Japan. Or say, 'not only in Japan', once again some whiskies have simply been Japanised.

Togouchi 'Pure Malt' (40%, OB, +/-2021)

Togouchi 'Pure Malt' (40%, OB, +/-2021) Three stars
Tja, pure malt. So many people still believe that that wording is equivalent to single malt. This is, naturally, a blend of malts from various countries (Canada, Scotland…) that was launched last year. It remains legally a 'Japanese whisky', but technically and, should we add, ethically, it is not. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: there's probably a little peated Scotch, pretty nice I have to say, and rather little sweet/vanilla-ed Canadian. Pleasant notes of greengages, mirabelles, apples and porridge and dough. I'm not sure we shall cry foul. Mouth: reminds a bit of Nikka's 'pure malt' little bottles, I think the white, except that this is lighter, ashier, a little thin, but once again, not unpleasant. I would categorise it a peaty whisky. Finish: short and saltier. More ashes as well. One could believe there is some peated Bunnahabhain in there, if that rings a bell. Comments: beyond the nasty – but legal indeed - use of the appellation 'Japanese whisky', I would say I'm rather positively surprised with what's in the glass. It is said to be partly ex-sherry, but I did not find one single sign of any sherry aromas or flavours.

SGP:354 - 82 points.

Hold on, there's also a single malt…

Togouchi 'Single Malt' (43%, OB, Sakurao Distillery, +/-2021)

Togouchi 'Single Malt' (43%, OB, Sakurao Distillery, +/-2021) Two stars and a half
Unless I'm off the mark, this is genuine Japanese 3 years old malt whisky distilled in their own Distillery this time, which is located in the Hiroshima prefecture. Glad to try it. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: this one's unpeated, fermentary, 'craft', fruity and with some vanilla. Some fresh fruitcake, ultra-fresh kougelhopf (still alive, as we sometimes say here in Alsace when it's from the morning), porridge and pancakes. Also apple compote and indeed vanilla. Mouth: good drop! There's a little oak, tea, cocoa powder… Now it would tend to become a little too oaky for me, which happens often when you bring these new makes down to pretty low strengths, they get teaish and tannic. Finish: short, tannic. Comments: it is a very young drop, let's remain caring and gracious (yeah). Not Mars or Shizuoka yet.

SGP:451 - 79 points.

Sakurao 'Single Malt' (43%, OB, 2021)

Sakurao 'Single Malt' (43%, OB, 2021) Three stars and a half
Most possibly the same juice under the proper name of the Distillery, this time matured for three years in bourbon, with a finishing in mizunara oak. Let's just hope the 43% vol. will have been potent enough to keep any excessive oak at bay. Colour: straw. Nose: very different, this time coastal and less vanilla-ed, with yellow melons ala Bruichladdich and some lime tea, doughs, fresh eucalyptus leaves rubbed between your fingers, perhaps wee whiffs of tomato leaves… Is this the mizunara? Mouth: spicier, with some kind of medicinal caraway cordial (perhaps) and notes of myrtle, sorb, elderberry eau-de-vie… Quite some white pepper too, that's the oak. The Togouchi was gentler and easier, while this is both a little rougher, more interesting, more singular and more… hold on, more good, in my book. Finish: medium, with a little grapefruit, granny smith and some kind of pine smoke. Comments: I find this very good; we'd just need more power (just to better handle the oakiness, not power for power).

SGP:462 - 84 points.

… as if by magic…

Togouchi 'Cask Strength 1st Release' (52%, OB, 2021)

Togouchi 'Cask Strength 1st Release' (52%, OB, 2021) Three stars and a half
This is, I believe, proper Sakurao too. All these Togouchis are very widely available in France. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: perhaps a little closed (that'll teach you, S.). Sawdust and vanilla, apples… apples… apples… With water: very clean barley, bananas and custard. And apples. Mouth (neat): sweet, with jelly beans, marshmallows, sugarcane syrup, pear and lemon drops, mirabelle jam… With water: it's a little hard after the Sakurao, which was rather more complex, but this elementary profile on ripe apples and just cornflakes coated with honey cannot not work. Finish: medium, cakier. Some apple liqueur in the aftertaste (the Spaniards are king) and some grassier spices. Comments: akin to some good very young ex-refill Speysider. Say, wait, Miltonduff (just an example).
SGP:441 - 83 points.

Let's move on to pastures new…

Yamazakura Asaka 'Single Cask' (46%, OB, bourbon, cask #18109, +/-2021)

Yamazakura Asaka 'Single Cask' (46%, OB, bourbon, cask #18109, +/-2021) Four stars
A 3 years old for, apparently, the French market. Not too sure about the 140€ they're asking for it, for that price you get some 40 years old armagnac of super-high quality. This is from Sasanokawa Shuzo, in the Fukushima prefecture. We've had some junk Yamazakuras in the past but I believe those were just cheap whiskies sourced from abroad, often the same story with J-Whisky, it's going to be a little long to get over all that. Colour: straw. Nose: weissbeer, fresh baguette, wholegrain bread, touches of violet and orange blossom, Greek yoghurt, porridge… Mouth: good, 'Japanese', with oranges and citrusy spices, orange-flavoured yoghurt, polenta… As usual with these slightly doped-up youngsters, the oak becomes a little dominant but it's all remaining under control. Soft paprika, nutmeg, bitter oranges, peppermint… Finish: medium, malty, vanilla-ed, with some ex-bourbon marmalade in the aftertaste, as well as tropical fruits and lovage. Love lovage (you're good today, S. – LOL). Comments: very good. Many new distilleries all over the world are making this style these days and I think we shan't complain.

GP:551 - 86 points.

Let's be careful, there's Asaka, Akashi, Akkeshi… Not the same thing!

Akkeshi 'Usui 2021' (48%, OB)

Akkeshi 'Usui 2021' (48%, OB) Four stars and a half
This is blended, the label is lovely and the price insane (175€). The half of it seems to be stemming from Akkeshi, the rest having been sourced from abroad. So, this is 'semi-fake' Japanese whisky by our own standards and I can't see what would justify this ridiculous price. Good, had to get that off my chest before trying it, as I'm sure it's excellent... Colour: light gold. Nose: new wellies, bicycle inner tube, teak oil, smoked bacon, light coal tar, then Swiss cheese (gruyere) and fermenting plums. Very regrettably, this is an awesome nose. Hate to write this, given the set-up and the price. Mouth: I quit, I give up. Smoked eucalyptus, kippers, natural rubber, tobacco, salt, cigar-smoked salmon (that's easy to make with an empty box of cigars into which you've drilled a hole the size of your corona), amontillado, walnuts… Finish: very long, salty, rubbery, tarry, superb. Comments: one of those spirits that I hate to love. Long time not seen my shrink. This one (the whisky, not the shrink) has got something of that make they produce very close to the remains of Dunyvaig Castle.

SGP:465 - 89 points.

Akashi 'Heavily Peated' (50%, OB, 1st fill bourbon barrel, +/-2021)

Akashi 'Heavily Peated' (50%, OB, 1st fill bourbon barrel, +/-2021) Three stars and a half
Made at Eigashima from malt that had been peated to 50ppm. This is a 3 years old. The price is that of a Mercedes-Benz Diesel, but it's true that the Mercedes-Benz Diesel have become really cheap. Good cars though. Colour: like gold. Nose: what, smoked chocolate and butterscotch? What's this trick? And many oils, a little sugarcane juice, praline, new boots, proper Van Houten hot chocolate, gianduja… For once we won't even add any waters, that would be superfluous. Mouth: perhaps a little heavy on the tars, oils and bitters. This time we'll add a little water… With water: the youth feels, it is too young and the tars too loud for me. Finish: long, tarry, rubbery. Comments: licking an ashtray and the rear tyres of a badly-tuned Porsche after Monaco (yeah, right, of course). Seriously, had it at 89 for a while and then it lost one point every ten seconds. For me, the smoke's too massive and too, say undigested. But I suppose we'll try these batches again around 2030 (depending on what Putin does in the meantime).

SGP:377 - 83 points.

Some Mars. Love Mars.

Mars 8 yo 'Asagi Madara' (48%, OB, 2020)

Mars 8 yo 'Asagi Madara' (48%, OB, 2020) Two stars and a half
I've given up, I don't get much about how they name their whiskies at Mars's, all I know is that I'm finding them excellent. Now this is a blend, and yet it's certified 'all Japanese'. No whiskies from Outer-Mongolia or Venezuela (or Canada) in there. Colour: gold. Nose: wood dust, flour, tapioca, milk chocolate, barley, maize and bread crumble. I've almost added wet-noodle, as I'm finding this a little thin and too grainy. Mouth: good but light, with a little coffee, praline, grain whisky, Canadian Club, café latte, and rather a lot of oak. Finish: short, thin, on caramel and sweet maize, plus a little preserved pineapple. Comments: disappointing. I mean, the flavours were very okay, but the body's too thin. Totally un-Mars in my book – love Mars!
SGP:630 - 77 points.

Hatozaki 'Pure Malt' (46%, OB, +/-2021)

Hatozaki 'Pure Malt' (46%, OB, +/-2021) Two stars and a half
I believe this is another fantasy Japanese malt. Too many kanjis to be totally honest, ha. It is from Akashi, but it is not Akashi. Indeed, reading Wittgenstein is much easier than trying to understand 'Japanese' whisky. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: a light, fruity composition, between fruity and sweet cider and custard. A tiny touch of tar. No one will be against this fine little drop that, what's more, hasn't been bottled at some lousy and meagre 40% vol. Mouth: honest but thin, getting oaky, losing steam, falling flat. Finish: not bad but not quite, short, a little beerish and ueber-drying. Mashed eggplants in the aftertaste (sort of). Comments: rather honest and kind of loyal.

SGP:541 - 77 points.

We need to understand that when you sell a NAS Scotch blended malt as a Scotch, that would be £35, whilst when you sell it as a Japanese (with kanjis, Mount Fuji, samurais et al), that's going to be £75. But there are costs too I suppose, ha… Now let's quickly have a last one, for the flag!… 

Shizuoka 2019/2019 New Make (63.8%, OB, Japan) Five stars
Unpeated and from the Karuizawa still, having used Pinnacle yeast. Distilled and bottled on the very same day (Sept 12, 2019), you cannot do them any fresher than this. Colour: totally white. Nose: masterful asparagus and white pot-still rum. Amazing distillate, great fatness, and naturally, just zero wood influence, as I suppose this came straight from the receiver. With water: white rum agricole, straight from the column, as they say. Olives! Mouth (neat): fabtastic rotting pears and a little saccharose, with a drop of rose essence. With water: luminous, fabulous, and more proof that great whiskies only need wood to catch their age count – and oxygen. Olives and suet. Finish: earthy pears, apricots, cherries… The fruits are starting to sing. What a make! Some varnish in the aftertaste, that's funny too, as varnish would usually appear upfront, never in the finish. Comments: I won't score this since it is pure new make, but we would be very high… I can't wait to taste the first official whiskies by Shizuoka (I know, old news already), having said that there are so many new whiskies around, we're rather spoilt for choice and we do not really 'need' Shozaokiu. Hold on, what was the name again?
SGP:761 - (none) points.

(Many thanks to Chris)

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







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