I reviewed a Japanese restaurant yesterday and will have a review of another Japanese restaurant tomorrow. Here in between, therefore, is a review of a Japanese whisky. This marks a dramatic return to my usual practice of pointless reviews (from the perspective of people looking for buying guides): not only is this Yoichi single cask no longer available, it was only ever available at the shop at the distillery—meaning you’d not only had to have gone to Japan to be able to buy it, you’d had to have gone to Hokkaido. I did neither of these things. This sample came to me through a swap, a couple of years ago, with a generous fellow whisky geek—he was also the source of the other Genshu casks I’ve reviewed: a 10 yo, a 15 yo and a 20 yo. I think these were all 500 ml bottles and that the full name of the series is “Taradeshi Genshu”. Who or what that refers to, I’m not sure, and the internet is not being of much help. If you know, please write in below. Continue reading
After two 20 yo Yoichis let’s close out this mini-run of Japanese malts with this very young whisky from the relatively new Chichibu distillery. Founded in 2008 by Ichiro Akuto, the grandson of the founder of the now shuttered Hanyu distillery, and the man whose name is on the famous “Ichiro’s Malts” series, Chichibu has already become a bit of a sensation in its young life—somewhat predictable given the founder’s pedigree and the general excitement these days about Japanese whisky of any kind. It is a small distillery and so far they’ve released a number of small batch malts in a number of different styles (peated, unpeated, different cask types)—most of which have been very well received. (The prices, it should be noted, are very high for the age.) The one I am reviewing today is from chibidaru or smaller quarter casks. It is I believe a vintage, small batch release, not a single cask. Well, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
On Monday I reviewed the (now discontinued) Yoichi 20, which used to be part of the distillery’s core range. Here now is another Yoichi 20, this a so-called Genshu single cask, a series that, as I understand its, used to be/is only available at the distillery and at select bars in Japan. I’ve previously reviewed a 10 yo single cask, and also a 15 yo, in this series and have a sample of a 5 yo waiting in the wings as well. Well, let’s see how this one compares to the regular 20 yo.
Yoichi 20, Genshu Single Cask 100126 (60%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Quite a bit peatier than the regular 20 yo: phenolic notes waft up through the sherry. The sherry is much richer and fruiter too (apricot, orange peel); some leather and brine and cured ham below that along with some pencil lead and just a hint of savoury gunpowder. Far less oak than in the other. After a couple of minutes there’s some toffee and a bit of maple syrup. Water knocks back the smoke and pulls out more toffee and fruit (some plum now with the apricot); some slightly dusty oak too now. Not much change with the added drops of water.
The Yoichi 20 used to be the oldest malt in the distillery’s core range. I say “used to be” because it has been discontinued (and it never made it to the US). As you are probably aware, there is a tremendous shortage of aged Japanese whisky. Between declining stocks and sharply rising prices, quality aged Japanese whisky is more and more out of the reach of regular drinkers. Which is not to say that the Yoichi 20 was ever affordable. Even four years ago it was well north of $200 for a bottle. Keep in mind that at that time you could still find the Yamazaki 18 in the neighbourhood of $100. This is probably due to the fact that in 2008 a 1987 vintage edition of the Yoichi 20 won a major award, right around the time that Japanese whisky began to become hot. Pretty much every release since has received rave reviews, though it’s not always easy to tell non-vintage releases apart*. Anyway, I’ve long wanted to try it and am glad to be able to through a sample swap. Continue reading
The Karuizawa I reviewed on Tuesday didn’t impress me overmuch; will this one, a single cask bottled for K&L in 2013, be better? This came with one of the striking “Noh” labels usually associated with much older single cask Karuizawas—it doubtless helped justify the cost: about $150 at the time (which would, of course, be a steal now, just two years later, for a 13 yo Karuizawa). Let’s get right to it.
Karuizawa 13, 1999 (57.7%; cask #869 for K&L; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Oh, this is much better to begin. Rich, nutty sherry with hints of chocolate, leather and earth (I was gardening today) with some orange peel and gunpowder behind it. The gunpowder starts getting stronger and then transitions to rubber and then, alas, to the sharper kind of sulphur. But most of it burns off soon enough, leaving behind tobacco and a growing fruitiness (marmalade, apricot). With more time there’s some cola concentrate and some beef stock. Water brings out some toffee and some caramel and cream and knocks the sulphur back even further. Continue reading
This is the first of two Karuizawa reviews this week. This is of one of the “Asama” releases that came out right around the time that Number One Drinks purchased all remaining casks of Karuizawa. The big money releases at the time were the single casks, but a few vatted releases emerged as well. The Whisky Exchange had a “Spirit of Asama” at 55% and another of the same name at 48% (I believe, though I could be wrong, that this was the same whisky at different strengths), and there was also an earlier release for the EU at 46%. To make matters even more confusing it’s also possible that the EU release at 46% was from the same vatting as the later ones at higher strength. At any rate, what I do know for sure (I think) is that this sample is from the EU release and that all these Asamas were from whisky distilled in 1999/2000, right before the distillery shut down for good. These were priced quite reasonably at the time—about half the price of the 1999 that K&L sold in the US a couple of years ago (and that’s the next one that I’ll be reviewing later this week).
I don’t have very much experience with Yoichi. The few that I have reviewed are the only ones I’ve had. I do have a few more on hand thanks to some sample swaps and my experience will have doubled or tripled in the next month. One of the three that I have reviewed was another of these “Genshu” single casks, a 15 yo—I believe this series of single casks is only available at the distillery (and heartfelt thanks again to Gimmeadram who was generous enough to share a number of samples from the bottles he got on his visit there). I found that 15 yo single cask to be a bit of a departure from the regular release 15 yo. As I’ve not had any other younger Yoichi I’m not in a position to compare this 10 yo Genshu cask to anything else. I did want to get to it though before tasting the older ones I have on tap for either later this month or in July.
Anyway, let’s get to it.