Google The New Japanese Sessions, Session Two, Shizuoka

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

November 10, 2023



The New Japanese Sessions, Session Two, Shizuoka

Today we'll do a Shizuoka special, checking both still-styes they have. After mash bills and cask bills, can we now start to talk about still bills? Would come handy also with rum distilleries that do pot still, 'creole style' columns and others, up to huge multi-columns… But that would need the distillers to be as transparent as their new makes, ha…



Shizuoka 2019/2023 (50.5%, OB, Whiskay, Mecha Series, Mars, non-peat, KS still, ex-bourbon, cask #218-529, 235 bottles)

Shizuoka 2019/2023 (50.5%, OB, Whiskay, Mecha Series, Mars, non-peat, KS still, ex-bourbon, cask #218-529, 235 bottles) Five stars
We've tried some of Whiskay's Warrior Series of Shizuoka and they've all been nothing short of excellent. This other series is dedicated to a wider theme: the universe! In this very case the Karuizawa still has been used (KS). Colour: white wine. Nose: high-precision crystalline dough, leaven, chalk and lemon, with these touches of varnish and acetone that we always love. Then hints of peaches plus apricot and cherry stones (kirschwasser). With water: more acetone, nail polish remover, gummi bears, and even a hint of Red Bull (but it is incomparably better than Red Bull, including for your health – well not too sure about that). Mouth (neat): not much to say, except that it is a tad hot at first, then very fermentary. Notes of rotting bananas and mangos, plus once again a feeling of varnish and apricot and peach syrups. Forgot to say, it's pretty brilliant. With water: even doughier.  Baker's yeast, green bananas, very fresh kougelhopf… In short, Danish pastry (joking). Finish: rather long, with a little williams pear spirit, almonds, this varnish, paint… A little mint in the aftertaste (crème de menthe). Comments: sadly the Karuizawa 1999 we tried just yesterday was ex-sherry, I'd have loved to compare the distillate and see if we could recognise the still. Hmmm…
SGP:552 - 90 points.

Quick try, the same cask as new make…

Shizuoka 2019/2019 (63.9%, OB, Whiskay, new make, KS still, cask #218-529)
This one was filled on the very day it was distilled, on May 11, 2019. I think they only did a handful of small 20cl bottles, but I could be wrong. We learn that the yeast they've been using was Pinnacle (dry distiller's yeast). Colour: white. white. Nose: what's striking if this bacterial side, with the kinds of ester that you could also find in a lighter Jamaican rum. The casks would then erase these, I suppose. With water: williams pear spirit first, and kirschwasser once more. Mouth (neat): very good, you could sip it as the best white rums. Or perhaps do a Japan mojito? With water: raw earthy barley, yeast, some brine, heavy salted porridge, real ale… Finish: same. Comments: we shan't score this, mind you, but we liked it a lot.

It's truly fascinating to see how an active enough barrel will filter your spirit and smooth out some edges. The industry will tell you that it only removes the flaws, of course. But yes, of course…

A smaller cask, perhaps…

Shizuoka 2019/2023 (60%, OB, Hong Kong, KS still, ex-bourbon octave, cask #2019-511, 44 bottles)

Shizuoka 2019/2023 (60%, OB, Hong Kong, KS still, ex-bourbon octave, cask #2019-511, 44 bottles) Four stars and a half
A similar set-up, but a small octave instead of a regular ASB. Colour: straw. Nose: speaking of varnish and nail polish remover… Well I suppose water should be added right away. With water: good one, we almost recreated the previous one. This one is just a little more extractive indeed (candied ginger and cinnamon cake), and that may be exclusively thanks to the smaller cask. Mouth (neat): very punchy, seemingly rather extractive indeed (a lot of vanilla) but frankly, it burns a little bit. With water: awesome spices, softer Madras style, sweet and sour sauces with fried bananas, custard, and certainly less of that infernal 'varnish and acetone' combo. Less kirschwasser too. Finish: long, rather rich, spicy, Indian-style. I mean Indian cuisine (friends, I now there are so many of them) and not exactly Indian whisky. Comments: love it, I just loved the tighter, pure bro. even better. A little better.
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Shizuoka 'Pot Still K imported barley 1st Edition' (55.5%, OB, 100% imported barley, 3,000 bottles, 2022)

Shizuoka 'Pot Still K imported barley 1st Edition' (55.5%, OB, 100% imported barley, 3,000 bottles, 2022) Four stars
I have to say the 'Japanese barley' version did not impress me that much back in July (WF 83), it was a tad spiely. Colour: white wine. Nose: it's rather grassy an a little medicinal (bandages). Rather a lot of camphor too, then eucalyptus pastilles, sauna oil, thyme oil…  This should cure a cold. Then stones, pebbles and sands of many kinds, oyster shells, limestone, plaster… With water: it moves towards full chalkiness, with a little fennel. Mouth (neat): very smoky. This is almost some peat-smoked green chartreuse. Good fun. With water: excellent! Slightly evocative of ultra-fresh sake, then young Islay (first distillery from Port Ellen, on the shore). That should be the medicinal side. Finish: rather long, peaty, ashy, with some lemony fatness. Shall we mention that Italian lemon liqueur once more? Comments: imported barley! It reminds me of the old story of the Scottish chef who goes to a restaurant in Paris. He orders smoked salmon from Scotland, the best he's ever eaten! At the end of the meal, he goes to talk to the cook and asks why his salmon is so much better than his own in Scotland. The French chef replies: 'Oh but that's because our Scottish salmon is imported!'
SGP:564 – 87 points.

Shizuoka 'United S 1st Edition' (50.5%, OB, 100% imported barley, 3,000 bottles, 2023)

Shizuoka 'United S 1st Edition' (50.5%, OB, 100% imported barley, 3,000 bottles, 2023) Three stars and a half
So united stills, thus a blend of their ex-Karuizawa and wood-fired pot stills. Colour: white wine. Nose: it's very nice, but it falls a bit into the usual category, with croissants, fresh brioche, damp herbs, some wildflowers, vanilla, a bit of sesame oil, and the hummus that goes with it... At the risk of exaggerating a bit, it comes close to Glenmorangie. With water: the vanilla comes out more, as do the herbal teas, the woodruff, the chamomile... Mouth: no, not Glenmorangie, let's not overdo it. A bit of sweetness, pepper and yeast, then strong (Trappist) beer, oranges, a bit of sawdust, a few Indian notes once more, mild curry... With water: a nice progress, towards the oranges and the spices for mulled wine, a bit of ras el hanout... Finish: quite long but very spicy, which erases the distillate a bit. Pepper, cumin, nutmeg, even juniper... Bitter oranges as a signature. Commentary: very good of course, but I find that the casks mark this magnificent distillate a lot. They should never have let us taste their new makes or their 1 or 2-year-olds!
SGP:561 - 84 points.

I believe that Shizuoka's single casks, especially the private ones, and even the new makes or quasi-new makes, display sharper, more idiosyncratic characteristics than their larger batches, which are inevitably a bit more homogenised in terms of profile. That must be a bit tricky.

Next up, either Chichibu or Kanosuke, we'll see… Eenie meenie…

(Merci Bert and Lars!)

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