Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ardbeg Perpetuum

I never miss an opportunity to check in at one of my regular bottle shops when it's nearby. Yesterday morning found me passing through the Shinjuku Takashimaya, a higher-end department store here in Japan. Usually, their prices border on insanity, but at times they do end up with some limited-edition offerings at the same prices as major liquor stores, likely because the makers have imposed restrictions to make it that way.

I scanned and double-scanned the few shelves there dedicated to whisky and was about to leave when some Ardbeg boxes on one of the bottom shelves caught my eye. At first, I just stared in disbelief; it was May 30, Ardbeg Day at the Islay Festival, so the arrival of Perpetuum on that day made perfect sense, but I had heard from multiple sources that they wouldn't be available in stores until well after that date. They were there, though, and instinctively I grabbed the two bottles I had been waiting to buy for months.

When you grab two $100 bottles of whisky at Takashimaya's wine & spirits shop, one of the many shop clerks will quickly swoop in for the kill.
"Would you like me to take those to the counter and wrap them up for you?"
I asked to her to give me a minute and remained there, stooped down, looking at the boxes to make sure they were the genuine articles.

Seriously, I don't know why I was so surprised, but it must have been the anticipation; I'm a total Ardbeg donk and would probably buy a bottled turd if they produced it.

Anyway, I did a quick online check (whisky hunting in the smartphone age - gotta love it) of the standard selling price for Perpetuum. The clerk didn't back off, though, and I uncomfortably spent several minutes making sure I wasn't paying too much.

Fortunately, It seemed I was about to pay a reasonable price for the bottles and I asked her to do her thing so as to complete the purchase.

Facts:

  • 47.4% abv
  • Matured in bourbon and sherry casks
  • NAS
  • Ardbeg Day 2015 limited edition (200th anniversary) - not the distillery release
  • Paid ¥11000 ($89 US) in Tokyo


Tasting Notes

Appearance:
Clear, light gold a la Ardbeg Ten Year

Nose:
Honey-glazed ham, coastal fog, wet grass, slightly medicinal, day-old barbecue pit

Palate:
Acrid smoke becoming spicy, oak and ash, burnt bacon, slight taste of liquorice, some chocolate as well. A bit thin, though

Finish:
Bitter, long and warming, smoky to the end

Conclusion: A tasty, enjoyable Ardbeg to be sure, but I'm not convinced at this point that it's better than last year's Auriverdes. However, I'd like to give Perpetuum another go in the next few days and see if anything changes.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Templeton Rye

I mix most of my whiskey cocktails with rye, not bourbon. Of course, there are some that demand a good bourbon, but for the most part, it's the spiciness of the rye whiskey that helps balance things out when other ingredients tend to be on the sweet side.

And, I don't mind admitting that I enjoy sipping neat a cocktail-grade rye like Wild Turkey 81, or even Jim Beam or Old Overholt.

However, after having it recommended to me by a friend, I decided to pick up a bottle of Templeton Rye (not widely available here in Tokyo) and take my rye drinking a little more seriously.

Long story on Templeton Rye here.

Short story:
Good-quality American whiskey with a sweet, floral, well-balanced nose available immediately after pouring neat. Tastewise, it's short and sweet with a lingering spicy aftertaste on the finish. Vanilla, cinnamon, toffee, orange...

More on the story:
A lot of controversy surrounds Templeton Rye (as well as several other Bourbons and Ryes). According to many sources, it seems that consumers have been suckered by excellent marketing and have been persuaded to pay a higher price for a rye that can be purchased more cheaply as another brand. Check out the following links for more on the story:

Next time I buy a bottle of rye whiskey for sipping, I'll be looking at Russell's Reserve.

Note: I make a definite distinction when talking about 'whiskey' cocktails and 'whisky' cocktails, Maker's Mark being a notable exception.

Monday, May 25, 2015

And the Best Whisky in the World Is...


...not the best whisky in the world.

Or, at least I think so.

And, so does Bob down the street.

No, I'm not attacking the choice made at the World Whiskies Awards 2015 which named Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique Best Single Malt of 2015; we all know that taste is subjective anyway.

Or do we?

With Jim Murray calling Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 the world's best single malt late last year and Taketsuru 17 Year Old being named World's Best Blended Malt, also at the World Whiskies Awards 2015, coupled with the overwhelming popularity of the morning TV drama 'Massan' here in Japan, the demand for Japanese malts has never been greater. You see article after article saying that the Japanese have dethroned the Scots as the whisky-making kings and plenty of non-Japanese Japanese-whisky enthusiasts writing Japanese-whisky-themed blogs.

So, are Asian whisky makers poised to become the most respected in the world?

Who knows? And who cares? As long I can always have bottles of Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Bruichladdich, Springbank and Talisker around, I'll always be a happy whisky drinker. I do enjoy several Japanese whiskies and enjoyed the Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique from Taiwan, but I'm not keeping any of them in my cabinet if I'm ever told that I must limit my whisky collection to 10 bottles...

Monday, May 18, 2015

Japanese Whisky Update: Mid-May 2015

Some very disturbing news regarding Nikka whisky has come out this week. I won't go into details here; I'll just provide the following link:

Informative article at Whiskies R Us

In summary: Asahi, which owns Nikka, is planning to raise prices across the board and much like Suntory's price increases, they are ridiculous. On top of this, there are credible reports, yet not official, that all age-statement single malts from Miyagikyo and Yoichi will be gone in the near future and may not return for several years. This is most likely due to depleted stocks.

Just as people have gotten completely caught up in the Japanese whisky craze, things are falling apart for true lovers of Japanese malts...