- Hakushu Heavily Peated 2013
- The “Asama Casks” and Karuizawa Cask-Strength “1st Release” for Taiwan
- “Deep Harmony” – a new, limited Hibiki
- Nikka Coffey Grain also to make debut in US
- Karuizawas for Taiwan: 1970 Geisha with Paper Crane
- Two 1977 Karuizawas for Taiwan
- Perspectives on the Karuizawa 1960
- Final Curtain Call for Yamazaki 10 and Hakushu 10
- From TIBS/Whisky Live 2013: A chat with Douglas Cook about the TIBS Glendronach and Benriach bottlings
- Hakushu Grain Whisky Facility in production
- Nikka to launch Coffey Grain in Japan
- Japanese Whisky Hot-Spots Worldwide (2): “Ronin”, Hong Kong
- TIBS/Whisky Live 2013 Bottlings Now Available to Bond#1 Members
- Required Reading: Recent Online Resources about Japanese Whisky
- From TIBS/Whisky Live 2013: Spotlight on the Samaroli “Evolution Cask-Strength” for TIBS.
- TIBS/Whisky Live Day 2: Highlights
- From TIBS/Whisky Live 2013: Stanislav Vadrna on the “Masataka Swizzle”
- TIBS/Whisky Live 2013 Day 1: Highlights
- TIBS / Whisky Live 2013: Day 0 – Bond#1 Private Tasting with Dave Broom
- New Tasting Rules at Liquors Hasegawa
- World Wonders: Macallan 33yo
- TIBS/Whisky Live 2013 Preview
- Kakubin 43% Retro Label x Bar Rockfish
- La Bento Box by Nikka
- Suntory to release “Premium Kakubin”
POST BY STEFAN VAN EYCKEN, TOKYO here.
POST BY STEFAN VAN EYCKEN, TOKYO When Number One Drinks bought the entire remaining inventory of Karuizawa distillery, they quickly discovered the vast majority of the stock was from the 1999 and 2000 vintages, the final years of production. It was immediately clear that this relatively young malt needed to be categorized as soon as possible – there was loads of it and it was uneven in terms of taste profile – and so they brought in their Master Blender who tasted every single cask. Some casks were earmarked as “immediately ready to be bottled as single casks”, but most needed re-racking. (A few were rejected altogether.) The stock that had been put aside for vatting was nosed and tasted again to confirm the relative maturity and the taste profile. It was then decided to create two different vattings, both of which involved bringing together the liquid from a number of casks and then returning the contents to the original casks, all of which were still very active sherry butts. Obviously, since each of the original casks was less than full, fewer casks were needed to re-rack the vatted contents. The first batch was a vatting of 77 casks – re-racked into 60 casks – that were considered to be mature already. These 77 casks were the ones needed to produce the final profile the Master Blender was looking for. The second vatting was of those casks he felt needed more maturation, with 59 casks re-racked into 46 casks. This was all carried out in late 2011, early 2012. Since then, there have been a few releases drawn from these re-racked 1999/2000 casks – let’s call them the “Asama casks”, for the sake of brevity. Everything so far has been from the first vatting: (1) the “Asama” (46%), released in 2012 – which was first available in Sweden, and then in other markets as well; (2) two single marrying-casks for the Tokyo International Bar Show / Whisky Live 2012, bottled at cask-strength; (3) two “Spirit of Asama” releases for The Whisky Exchange, bottled at 48% and 55% abv respectively; (4) a cask-strength version (61.7%) called “1st Release” for Taiwan A fifth one – a 2013 version of the first vatting, which has benefitted from 18 months of marriage, bottled at 50.5% and with new packaging – will be launched over the summer. here.
POST BY STEFAN VAN EYCKEN, TOKYO
POST BY CHRIS OF THE WHISKYWALL announced on Nonjatta a few weeks ago. Theres no word on what the price point will be at this time.
POST BY STEFAN VAN EYCKEN, TOKYO here.
POST BY STEFAN VAN EYCKEN, TOKYO Today, we’re continuing our series of Karuizawas for Taiwan with two specimens from the 1977 vintage. KARUIZAWA 1977 / 2011, CASK #4747, 66.9%ABV FOR TAIWAN (VINTAGE LABEL) sudachi_, lime, pencil shavings, eucalyptus and Damask rose wax. It’s extraordinary. _Sudachi_ is one of the signature notes of old Karuizawas – something I’ve never found in any other whiskies, Japanese or other – and here it’s at its most beautifully defined. It leads the attack, hand in hand with lime notes – refreshingly sour. Then, there’s a long interlude of pencil shavings and new plank, before the Damask rose notes (wax, rose water) enter and melt into air (the finish) rather than fade. You couldn’t orchestrate the progression of flavours and aromas any more beautifully. Water makes the nose and palate a bit more candied – personally, I prefer it without. KARUIZAWA 1977 / 2011, CASK #3584, 64.1%ABV FOR TAIWAN (GEISHA LABEL) here.
POST BY STEFAN VAN EYCKEN, TOKYO Tokyo International BarShow / Whisky Live 2013, the absolute highlight of the weekend was the unveiling of the oldest single cask Japanese whisky ever bottled: Karuizawa cask #5627 (250l ex-sherry hogshead) from 1960. There are just 41 bottles of this and they will be available from the Karuizawa partners in Japan, France, the UK, Taiwan and a few in Scandinavia as well at 2,000,000 yen / 12,500GBP. © Julen Esteban-Pretel We spoke with Marcin Miller (on the right in the picture above) of No 1 Drinks, and Matt Chapman (left) of Contagious, the company who designed the packaging. MARCIN: “I first started working with Karuizawa in 2006. We began by bottling single casks and selling them around the world. After a while, it became apparent there was an opportunity to buy the entire inventory and in August 2011, we finally signed the contract enabling us to have all remaining casks. It was a long process and it was quite a painful process.” “In February of last year, I took a party of people – including Dave Broom and some friends from Taiwan, France and the UK – to the distillery. On the one hand, it was a very happy occasion because we were in Japan, with friends, at a whisky distillery. But it was actually quite sad, because a distillery has to be a working place, a living place. There had been no whisky made at Karuizawa since 2000 and when our group left the distillery, the two last remaining employees locked the gates behind us. The result is that every time one of us opens a bottle of Karuizawa, we are effectively drinking Japanese liquid history.” “My love of Karuizawa is based on the character of the whisky and the decision to buy the entire inventory wasn’t just a purely commercial decision. It was driven by our passion for the whisky. Within the inventory, the oldest cask we had was from 1960. The angels of Karuizawa were relatively thirsty, so we only have 41 bottles.” Marcin asked the people at Scottish design agency Contagious to create something to ‘frame’ the whisky in the right way. here.
POST BY STEFAN VAN EYCKEN, TOKYO
POST BY STEFAN VAN EYCKEN, TOKYO We were delighted to be able to spend some quality time with Douglas Cook of Benriach / Glendronach / Glenglassaugh at TIBS and we asked him about the special bottlings for the BarShow. We started with the Glendronach 2002 Sauternes Hogshead (10yo, #2534, 55.1%abv). DOUGLAS: A sauternes-finished single cask is actually quite unusual for Glendronach. At Glendronach, we tend to only use sherry casks for the maturation of our whisky. However, we do have a small quantity of bourbon, port and sauternes casks, and we use those casks for finishing. In this case, what we’ve done is: we’ve used a bourbon cask for nine years and finished it in a sauternes cask for about one year. So it’s actually one of the younger Glendronach bottlings we’ve ever done. NONJATTA: _It seems like there are a lot of ex-bourbon cask Glendronachs from 2002 around. What happened in 2002?_ DOUGLAS: It’s an important date because between 1996 and 2002, the distillery was mothballed. Production commenced again in 2002 and the new owners started to fill bourbon casks. That’s just part of the history of the distillery. Over time, however, as the new owners since 2008, we’ve started to re-rack – to fill sherry casks with some of those ex-bourbon casks. I suppose the whisky evolves a little bit, but we want to bring it back to the origins of sherry cask maturation. Today, actually, to find a bourbon cask from 2002 is quite hard. I honestly think there’s only a handful of them left. Sometimes my customers are interested in buying one and I speak with our director and am informed there are actually very few available to sell because they’ve been re-racked into sherry already. In this case, what we looked for was something slightly different. We didn’t want to go down the road of sherry. We wanted to show the Glendronach spirit with a different type of maturation. So it was quite unique to have a Glendronach Sauternes 10yo.
POST BY STEFAN VAN EYCKEN, TOKYO
POST BY STEFAN VAN EYCKEN, TOKYO On June 11th, Nikka is officially launching its regular – i.e. not a single cask (of which there have been many) – no-age-statement Coffey Grain in Japan. It was first launched in September 2012 at Whisky Live Paris, and has since been available as part of the regular Nikka range in Europe. Now, it will also be part of the standard range in the home market. For some reason, the only difference between the European and the Japanese version is the size (500ml and 700ml, respectively).
POST BY STEFAN VAN EYCKEN, TOKYO Despite the high tax on spirits (a staggering 100%), there is a flourishing whisky culture in Hong Kong and even though only a handful of Japanese whiskies are officially imported, we are happy to be able to include not one but two “Japanese whisky hot-spots” there in our ongoing series of must-visit drinking establishments outside Japan. Today, we’re thrilled to introduce the first, Ronin, and the man behind the beverage program, Elliot Faber. Yardbird – which has since become one of the hippest places in town – and it was then that his studies of Japanese whisky really began: “When we opened Yardbird, we decided to have only Japanese whisky and to use Japanese whisky for everything – so for our Old Fashioned we use Taketsuru 12 to highlight the bourbony sweetness and vanilla; for our Rob Roy we use Nikka From The Barrel, and so on.”
POST BY STEFAN VAN EYCKEN, TOKYO Hanyu 1990, Karuizawa 2000, Chichibu 2009 (all single casks) and an amazing cask-strength Yamazaki Mizunara. All of these are now exclusively available to Bond#1 members, and if you’re not a member yet, well, it doesn’t take long to become one. So treat yourself to something special – it is Friday after all – and see what all the excitement was about. But dont wait too long - the secrets out...
POST BY STEFAN VAN EYCKEN, TOKYO Japan Whisky Reviews” is a blog devoted exclusively to tasting notes of Japanese whiskies and it is, really, the only quality blog exploring this field. It’s the work of Michio Hayashi, who was born in Japan, but moved to Germany when he was two. His first contact with the amber liquid was in the form of Irish whiskey and then Islay whiskies. It wasn’t until he saw “Lost in Translation” that Michio decided to give Japanese whisky a try. Upon seeing the movie, he remembered the bottle of Hibiki had bought on a whim – it just happened to be a good deal – a few years before. He recognized his bottle in the movie, opened it and that’s when his interest in Japanese whisky really took off. Michio has grown particularly fond of Yamazaki and reckons the 1986 Yamazaki Mizunara for LMdW is his absolute favourite. The Japanese whisky industry is notoriously secretive, so for a rare look behind the scenes, the following three resources are particularly useful: - Chris Hoban of the “Edinburgh Whisky Blog” did an in-depth interview with Marcin Miller of No 1 Drinks. Parts 1, 2 and 3 are up already; the last instalment is under way. - Tim Forbes of The Whisky Exchange has written a multi-part (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and more to come) account of his trip to Karuizawa and Chichibu early last year, when the Karuizawa partners (TWE, LMdW and Magny (Taiwan)) were over to check the remaining stock. Tim is taking his time, but his posts – part travel log, part reflections on various aspects to do with the reception of Karuizawa abroad – are well worth the wait. - A few months ago we wrote about a special bottling to celebrate the Welsh writer C.W. Nicol’s 5 decades in Japan. He’s written a fascinating piece about his involvement with Nikka since the early 80s for the Japan Times entitled “All aglow with the ‘water of life’”. Read it online here. We hope you’ll enjoy these excursions and hope to welcome you back with us tomorrow for our feature about the launch of the Karuizawa 1960 (including exclusive interviews with the people who made it happen).
POST BY STEFAN VAN EYCKEN, TOKYO Samaroli is a household name among whisky enthusiasts worldwide. The man behind the company, Silvano Samaroli, started in the 60s when there were only a handful of independent bottlers and none of any significance outside the UK. A true pioneer, Mr Samaroli started in the business as a sales rep in charge of the distribution of the Springbank and Linkwood portfolio, among others, for an Italian spirits company. He visited many distilleries in Scotland at the time, built up close personal relationships with master blenders there, and gained the respect of people in the industry. In 1968, he took the enormous risk to set up his own company. Since then, many of his bottlings have acquired near-mythic status.
POST BY STEFAN OF TOKYO WHISKY HUB their plug of Nonjatta’s TIBS/Whisky Live coverage._ _Thanks also to our Hong Kong friends for help with some of the photography for the forthcoming Karuizawa 1960 post and for the pleasure of their company all weekend long._
POST BY STEFAN OF TOKYO WHISKY HUB Stanislav Vadrna, of the Analog Bartending Institute, at the show this year so don’t leave without visiting his section of the Nikka area. We asked him to tell us a little bit about what went into the creation of this amazing cocktail: “In 2008 or 2009, for Paris Whisky Live, we did a promotional event for Nikka on the river Seine and I was presenting some drinks there. I came up with this idea: “let’s make a swizzle”, because I was very much into tropical drinks and I wanted to come up with some drinks which, based on whiskies from the Nikka range, would have a kind of tropical feel. There’s a tropical part of Japan – Okinawa – so why not? But there’s also a whole range of climates, up to the cold north of Hokkaido, so … crushed ice and a tropical feel, combined. But the main idea behind this drink was to create something to honour the father of Nikka whisky. That’s why I named the drink “Masataka Swizzle” because for me, Masataka Taketsuru is the very first Japanese person who really, somehow, built a bridge between the West and the East. And for me, he is a huge inspiration in my professional life as well because when I thought of his way – of going to a very foreign country and learning the culture, the art and bringing it back to your culture and mixing it together – it reminds me a little bit of my own way. I first came to Japan, in 2006, and I was lucky to be trained by Ueda-san of the Tender Bar and then I went back to Slovakia and starting spreading the things I had picked up here all around… and now, it is as it is. So, Taketsuru-san is a real inspiration for me, because he respected the foreign country, its culture and art, and knew he could learn a lot from that. But for him, it wasn’t just enough to get to know the taste. He wanted to get to the essence. And this is very much my personal philosophy as well. I’m not satisfied with the taste of the food, but I have to get to the essence. And, to get back to the Masataka Swizzle, that year I was very much into the history of ‘swizzling’ so my mindset back then was very focused on the swizzle category, which is a mixture of strong spirit – usually it’s rum, but in the very beginning, in the 18th century, it used to be jenever, but then people switched to rum – so: some spirit, some citrus, some sugar, some bitters and crushed ice. That’s the basic form for swizzles and for me… it’s very Japanese, because what I learned here in Japan is to focus on the process. The process is as important as the final result. So, I thought: maybe by creating a swizzle with Japanese whisky, I could turn these guys’ attention to swizzling. Because this technique has been forgotten. In the West, now, it’s increasing in popularity, but in Japan, it’s still an almost unknown thing. And I believe that, as soon as the “Masataka Swizzle” starts to spread across Tokyo and Japan, the Japanese people are going to start swizzling – and then, what will happen is: they will be the best in the world. So, they’re going to refine the style of swizzling and again, maybe in one or two years, we’re going to come back and see them doing that ritual. Because in bartending here, everything is a kind of ritual: shaking, stirring, jiggering, serving… everything. I’ve been influenced by this way very much, so now, I would like to bring something back. A kind of exchange. I do not need to push this, you know. It’s just here. Now, I have two days – somehow – to swizzle as best as I can and to share my passion with the customers, the bartenders and then we will see. But I truly believe it: this is a real ritual. It is a real connection, through this piece of wood [i.e. the swizzle, the wooden sticks on the left in the picture, ed.], and I really believe you can channel somehow your state of mind, your positive attitude into the drink, through this piece of wood.” _So what goes into a “Masataka Swizzle”?_ “It calls for 50mls of Nikka Coffey Grain, 15mls of Amaretto, 15mls of fresh lemon juice, 2 dashes of orange bitters, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters and you can adjust the recipe to suit your taste. I started with 2,5mls of simple syrup. If you like it sweeter, you can go up. If you don’t – if the amaretto is sweet enough for you – you can skip the sugar. But I think it needs a little sugar. Then add crushed ice, swizzle it and swizzle it until the glass gets frosty and the surface gets foamy. Then you know that it’s nicely blended, that you’ve got the proper water dilution and the proper aeration because when you swizzle it, you don’t just want to properly blend it and get the right amount of water in it, but it must be nicely chilled and nicely aerated, because that gives you that smooth texture on your tongue. And then garnish it with a bit of fresh mint and a dash of bitters.” _If you’re at the show tomorrow, let yourself be seduced by the “Masataka Swizzle”. If not, follow the master, and swizzle something yourself. You never know..._
POST BY STEFAN OF TOKYO WHISKY HUB The first day of TIBS/Whisky Live 2013 has just drawn to a close and one thing’s for sure: it’s even better than the previous editions. The new venue is perfect – much more spacious than the Midtown or Big Sight venues – and the list of participants reads like a Who’s Who of whisky anno 2013. Nonjatta will be there tomorrow, too, so keep in mind, what follows are just the highlights of what we experienced today. There’s much more left to explore tomorrow.
POST BY STEFAN OF TOKYO WHISKY HUB
POST BY STEFAN OF TOKYO WHISKY HUB here (in Japanese) and my good friend Eric over at the Malty Moments blog took the trouble to translate them for us. Basically, tasting is now only possible when it is in the context of helping you decide what to purchase, with a limit of 2 samples at a time (and 5 a day, for which you’d have come back a few times on the same day, I guess). The new rules will come into effect on April 20th, the first day of Whisky Live.
POST BY STEFAN OF TOKYO WHISKY HUB
POST BY STEFAN OF TOKYO WHISKY HUB With just a few days to go before the most important event on the whisky calendar in Japan kicks off, we thought it would be useful to give a quick overview of the special drams that will be available at this year’s Tokyo International BarShow / Whisky Live. There will be four commemorative bottlings from Japanese distilleries: - Hanyu 1990 - Chichibu 2009 - Karuizawa 2000 - Yamazaki Mizunara The last one is a special vatting for TIBS, centred around the 1984 vintage (but including younger and older components as well), and will be priced at a little over 50,000 yen. It may be worth taking this into account when putting together your Bar Show budget. here) - two new single casks from Nikka (a 1988 Yoichi and 2001 Miyagikyo) - BenRiach 1977 Sauternes Cask - Glen Grant 1985 from Samaroli - the Yamazaki and Hakushu 25yo - White Bowmore 43yo and many others at prices that you just won’t find anywhere else in the world, and that’s a fact. One more thing, in case you’re still thirsty after all this: a little bird told us the liquor section (B1) at Isetan Shinjuku – one of our favourite whisky places in Tokyo - has managed to get their hands on a couple of bottles of the 1967 Karuizawa for Taiwan (see our review here). And they may have some of the BarShow bottlings too… Check it out and be sure to tell them how you found out!
POST BY STEFAN OF TOKYO WHISKY HUB here) is very particular about his highballs. He swears by the old, now rare 43%abv yellow-label Kakubin (the present, regular version is the 40%abv yellow-label one, which is ubiquitous here in Japan). When Suntory discontinued the 43% yellow-label type, Maguchi started scouring mom-and-pop stores all over the country to make sure he had the stocks to continue making his Rockfish highball. Now, Suntory is paying tribute to Rockfish with this special edition, featuring a retro label, bottled at 43%abv and with the old flavour profile. Word is it’s only available at Aeon group malls/supermarkets. It went on sale today, so I quickly drove to the nearest Aeon after work and was lucky enough to be able to intercept a case before the staff in the liquor section were going to put the bottles on the racks. It’s priced at 1,598 yen but it’s not clear what the outturn is, how long it will be available, and whether it is, in fact, available at Aeons nationwide. Also, you won’t find these Aeons in the big cities - they’re usually located on the outskirts and in the countryside - so this may be the perfect excuse to get in touch with your family, in-laws, ex-boy/girlfriends, old classmates, or whoever else is not enjoying the big-city life here in Japan.
POST BY STEFAN OF TOKYO WHISKY HUB Sous les cerisiers” – and Nikka Whisky and it includes the following: aubergine fritters, stuffed with chicken and nuts, prepared with Nikka From the Barrel; macha soba with salmon and raisins macerated in Taketsuru 12; foie gras maki with Miyagikyo 10; and for dessert, mochi with milk-chocolate and apple cooked in Nikka Coffey Grain. It’s a seasonal thing, obviously, (available until the end of the month) so for those lucky enough to be in Paris, this is one opportunity not to be missed. Nonjatta will be spending the summer in France – exploring its calvados and whisky (yes, don’t laugh!) culture, among other things – and “Sous les cerisiers” is one of the places we’ll be checking out on our travels. And even though this “La Bento Box by Nikka” won’t be available anymore by then, we’re sure there’ll be new marvels to try. Address: 12 Rue Stanislas, 75006 Paris Tel.: 01 42 77 46 24
POST BY STEFAN OF TOKYO WHISKY HUB Black Nikka Rich Blend”. Now, we’re thrilled to be able to introduce a “premium” version of Suntory’s iconic “Kakubin”. The first three months of this year, Suntory’s regular “Kakubin” sold 105% compared with last year, so the Suntory execs felt people were ready for something a bit… well, yes … “richer”. This blend is built around ex-sherry and ex-wine cask matured Yamazaki and Hakushu and it’s advertised under the slogan “手に届く贅沢” (“Te ni todoku zeitaku”, which loosely translates as “luxury within reach” or “luxury you can get your hands on”). You’ve been working long hours. Your boss is riding you - as usual. It’s late. You’re tired… and on your way home, you want something a little special to say to yourself: “well done, buddy”. And that’s where the “Premium Kakubin” comes in. (I paraphrase but that is how Suntory is marketing this.)