I’ve only reviewed one other release from Hanyu, a closed Japanese distillery. That was back in 2013, not too long after I’d started the blog, and I see that in that review I’d threatened a review of another cask of Hanyu. This whisky is not that one—I think I know which one that was supposed to be but I have no idea where the hell that sample disappeared to. Maybe I drank it and forgot to review it? This particular whisky was distilled in 2000, the year Hanyu stopped production. It’s another in the Ichiro’s Malt series—named for Ichiro Akuto, best-known now for the Chichibu distillery. I don’t really follow Japanese whisky very closely—what would be the point when there’s so little worth drinking that’s affordable these days?—and so I don’t really know if there are still casks of Hanyu emerging, or for that matter what the story is with Chichibu. Anyway, this one was bottled in 2012 for the Tokyo International Bar Show and was finished in quarter casks (that’s what the “chibidaru” refers to). Let’s see what it’s like.
Hanyu 2000-2012, Ichiro’s Malt (58.4%; for the Tokyo Intl. Bar Show; chibidaru cask 349; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Old polished oak and cinnamon make the first and second impression; a touch of nutmeg too. Then some lovely, subtle notes of dried orange peel mixed with dried flowers emerge along with some green apple and salt. A lick of smoke plays around it all. With more time the fruit expands: apricot, candied lemon peel, tart apple pie; then some toffee. Just lovely stuff. With more time still there’re are some berries mixed in with the apple. A few drops of water make the oak a little more spicy, a little dusty and the baked apple note expands as well.
Palate: A harmonious blend of fruit and polished wood here too—more rosewood than oak. It has a sharp bite at full strength but it’s not tannic and is quite approachable with a nice, oily texture. On the second sip all the citrus and apricot from the nose emerge along with the salt. Not much change with time. Water softens the oak and makes the whole more acidic.
Finish: Long. Oaky and spicy. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This manages the rare miracle of being oak-forward without being oak-dominated. I don’t know what is done to these chibidaru casks to prepare them but the finish must be very highly monitored. This tastes like it was bottled right before bumping up against the “too much oak” line. All the other notes of spice and fruit are very lovely indeed and framed nicely by the oak,
Rating: 90 points.
Thanks to Gimmeadram for the sample.