Monday, April 27, 2015

Talisker 18 Year Old

A couple of different online reviews from respected whisky connoisseurs gave the Talisker 18 y.o. currently available on shelves excellent marks, with one of the reviewers saying it's on his top-five-must-have-whiskies list.

I picked up a bottle a couple of months ago and thought, Nah. Good, but not great. However, a few nights ago I gave it another go after letting the opened bottle sit for awhile, and I have to say I now understand where those reviewers were coming from. Below are my tasting notes from my first glass two months ago...

Facts:

  • Bottled at 45.8% a.b.v.
  • Purchased for ~$100 US in Tokyo


Appearance:
Golden caramel

Nose:
Wet dog, coastal tang, sea spray, briny, grassy, honey, fruit, tropical, cranberry, raisins, toffee

Palate:
Sweet, vanilla, maple syrup, malty, fruity, apples, raisins, black pepper and ginger

Finish:
Medium-long

Smoky, peat, dry, oak, melon

Initial Conclusion: Definitely Talisker, but a bit too mellow, bordering on dull compared to Talisker 10 y.o. 

Updated Conclusion: Wow! More Talisker intensity showing up. Much more balanced; the true quality of this whisky finally shines through. As of this week, this is my favorite Island single malt yet.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Japanese Whisky Situation: April 2015


To say that things have gotten crazy with Japanese whisky lately would be to understate things; For true fans of the stuff, things are getting a bit scary. Of course, those who've been watching the seemingly endless stream of alarming developments in the Single Malt Scotch whisky world will not be surprised.

In the last few weeks, here's what I've observed regarding the availability of Japanese whisky in stores here in Tokyo:

Suntory

  • Yamazaki 12 and 18 Year Old Single Malt whiskies - unavailable on the shelves of most stores on any random visit.
  • Hakushu 12 Year Old - available at at least half of the stores I visit on a regular basis.
  • Hakushu 18 Year Old - same as the situation for Yamazaki whiskies mentioned above.
  • Hibiki 12 Year Old - same as the situation for Yamazaki whiskies mentioned above.
  • Hibiki 17 Year Old - available in a couple of the higher-end department stores I frequent, but not at most standard bottle shops.
  • Hibiki Japanese Harmony (N.A.S.) - available everywhere for about the same price as Hibiki 12 Year Old (seems as if this one's going to replace Hibiki 12 yo)
Notes: The Yamazaki 12 and 18 yo whiskies became a lot rarer immediately following the announcement of Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 as World's Best by Jim Murray. Hibiki 12 yo disappeared almost overnight upon release of the Japanese Harmony expression.

Nikka

  • Yoichi and Miyagikyo 10, 12 and 15 Year Old Single Malt whiskies - 10 yo is fairly available for both distilleries, the 12 yo for both distilleries can be found at about half of the stores I visit, the 15 yo is a bit difficult to find, but is around if you look.
  • Taketsuru 17 Year Old - This was available everywhere until about three weeks ago, coinciding with it being named Malt Blend of the Year at the World Whiskies Awards; for now, the situation is about the same as the one for Yamazaki 12 and 18 yo as mentioned above.
  • Taketsuru 21 Year Old - This expression was available at around a third of the stores I frequent until three weeks ago, and then going the way of Taketsuru 17 yo.

Chichibu


  • Ichiro's Malt Chichibu new single malt releases (3 Year Old) - typically limited to 5000 or fewer bottles and are usually all bought up quickly. Couple this with them usually ending up on shelves without much warning, and you can see how elusive these bottles are. I made almost daily visits to several bottle shops for months hoping to be there on release day, and was last week. I was allowed to buy only one of the remaining two bottles of The Peated 2015 CS. I picked up a second bottle a few days later at the same shop after a restocking.
  • Ichiro's Malt Malt Blend whiskies (Mizunara Wood Reserve, Double Distilleries, Wine Wood Reserve) - available at most shops most of the time.

Shinshu


  • Single Malt releases (3 Year Old) - limited to usually around 6000 bottles. Komagatake 2011 The Revival and Komagatake Sherry and American White Oak are gone for the most part.
  • Blended Mars Whisky (3&7, Twin Alps) - abundantly available at low prices. I haven't tried them myself.
*Inspired by a post at Diving For Pearls 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ichiro's Malt Chichibu The Peated 2015 Cask Strength

I'd been on the lookout for months for a new Ichiro's Malt Single Malt Release from Chichibu Distillery 秩父蒸留所 when, without any advance notice, I came across two bottles of Ichiro's Malt Chichibu The Peated 2015 Cask Strength, which I'll shorten as IMC The Peated 2015 CS (or something like this), for the rest of this post.

Heavily peated whiskies are my favorite whiskies, so I was pretty excited when I learned in February of this year that the next IMC single malt release would be another 'The Peated' peated to Ardbeg levels. But as I made the bottle-shop rounds and asked owners if they'd heard anything, the collective response was NO. So, I was taken aback when it suddenly appeared on the shelf at my favorite whisky store here in Tokyo. There were only two bottles remaining, and when I attempted to buy both, the shop master asked me to leave one of them for another customer, and in a sense 'share the Ichiro's Malt love.'

So I did.

I took the bottle I bought to the bar and opened it soon after, and was very pleased with my timely purchase.

Facts:
Limited Release - 5980 bottles (bottle 1265 of 5980)
Distilled - 2011
Cask Strength - 62.5% abv
Purchase Price - ¥8000 (~$67 US as of this writing)

For a 3-year-old whisky, this is exceptionally mature. The nose gives dry, earthy peat with a cinnamon sweetness that turns buttery over time (slightly Octomorish), with some seaweed as well. On the palate, immediate delivery, intense, sweet and spicy (consistent with the nose), vanilla and black pepper. The finish is long and smoky, oak and ash.

The quality of Chichibu Distillery really shows in this one, and I have to say it's my favorite Japanese whisky yet.