Archive for August, 2010

Guest Review: Ichiro’s Malt, Mizunara Wood Reserve (bottled 2010), 46%, £85

Friday, August 20th, 2010

The Ichiro of the title is Ichiro Akuto, scion of the family which owned the now demolished Hanyu distillery, and proprietor of the brand new and incredibly cute (yes…distilleries can be cute) Chichibu distillery — even the name’s cute. This release is a vatting of different (un-named) single malts from more than one distillery which have been aged in Japanese oak (mizunara, or Q. Mongolica). Mizunara has a highly distinctive aromatic spectrum — the Japanese say that it smells of temples, specifically the incense which scents Zen temples, but while totally accurate, that’s not much help if you haven’t been to one. Think of a heavy, exotic aroma of allspice, sandalwood, even redwood, and you’re almost there. In fact, if you think of the perfumed aspects of rye, but turned up a notch, then you’re in the right ballpark. In this one there’s even a hint of trail bar — maybe it’s a hike in a California old-growth forest. The palate is soft and slow to start, then picks up mouthwatering acidity — there’s that rye parallel. Green plum and peach, balanced with spiciness on the end. Once encountered, never forgotten.– Dave Broom

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 89

Guest Review: White Oak 5 year old, 45%, £55

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

The Eigashima distillery, on the Akashi Strait near Kobe, may be the least well known of Japan’s single malt plants, but has a sound claim to be the country’s oldest, as its license tomake whisky was granted in 1919 — four years before Yamazaki was built. It has, however, specialized in shochu, and even now only turns its hand to whisky making for two months every year. This 5 year old — bottled for independent Japanese specialist Number One Drinks — represents a tentative move into the single malt market once more. Pale in color, it shows a typically Japanese cleanliness on the nose that’s cut with a touch of waxiness. It opens with a scented angelica-like lift, there’s even a whiff of something like gooseberry jam. As it opens, the aroma darkens slightly, showing a touch of roasted tea. Water brings out a little yeastiness (typical for some younger whiskies), alongside cucumber, borage, and lime. The palate is sweet with vanilla custard and a sweet, ginger-accented note leading to ripe pear. A charming malt, and already well-balanced for its age. Here’s Japan at its lightest. – Dave Broom

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 80

Guest Review: Karuizawa cask 4592, 1977 (bottle 2010), ’Noh Series,’ 60.7%, £130

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

The (sadly mothballed) Karuizawa distillery is at the opposite extreme to Eigashima. Peated malt, small stills, and sherry casks give a single malt of uncompromising weight and solidity. Those of you who thought Japan was all about the ethereal and limpid, think again. In musical terms, if Eigashima is the Modern Jazz Quartet, then Karuizawa is late period Coltrane, or if you prefer, it’s Black Flag to Eigashima’s Carole King. Anyhoo, did I mention this bottling (like all of this quartet from Number One Drinks) is green? Or at least has a color akin to tarnished silver? The note is all chicory and coffee, earthiness and cardamom — whisky reduced to some weird essence by long maturation. The effect is one of an old-fashioned cough medicine(with less laudanum). The palate is explosive with masses of camphor, tar, licorice, and squid ink. This is Japanese whisky at its most extreme, and fainthearts should not venture here. Those with a taste for the big and the bold will love it, however. – Dave Broom

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 89

Guest Review: Ichiro’s Malt, Hanyu 23 year old “sherry casks,” 58%, £450

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Japanese whiskies are hot property in Europe these days, but for some reason few have yet to penetrate the US market. In the following reviews over the next two weeks, Dave Broom either gives you the heads up on what’s available or taunts you by talking about whiskies you can’t try.  We prefer the former.

This oldie (from a distillery which closed in 2000) seems pretty straightforward compared to the Mizunara [see following review], but has less dried fruit than the sherry note on the label might suggest. Think dried peels rather than raisin, then stir in some freshly-polished floor. The aromas are saturated and heavy — almost as if they are drifting towards you on humid air. The palate shows light smoke and then a pleasant quinine bitterness mid-palate. This has the Japanese quality of laying flavors out very precisely on the tongue while also heightening their intensity. Water reduces the quinine effect, allowing the richness of the spirit to come through. Hanyu was a pretty big and firm (even rigid) whisky. Here that shell has cracked, allowing anise and blueberry to come through. – Dave Broom

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 91

Guest Review: Caol Ila, 25 Year Old, 43%, $205

Monday, August 16th, 2010

This is to be a permanent addition to the core Caol Ila range, but it will raise a few eyebrows, completely ignoring the current peat battle between Ardbeg and Bruichladdich and heading off into an altogether more refined and delicate direction. This is a dignified and complex malt, which doesn’t give everything up immediately. There’s soft pear and guava on the nose, and the trademark oiliness and distinctive peat are there, but there’s a buttery quality, too, as well as some brine and spice, apple pip, and traces of aniseed. You get a sense of its age late on, with some oaky tannins and sharper spice, but overall this is an unhurried, complex, and sweet whisky with just enough peat to keep it honest. Very impressive. (Limited general releases, excluding the U.S.) – Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 88

My schedule for the rest of August

Friday, August 13th, 2010

I’ll be on vacation next week (August 16-20). While I am gone, I have scheduled a guest whisky review each weekday, so there will still be plenty to entertain you. Dominic’s reviews will conclude Monday. Then, beginning Tuesday, Dave Broom’s reviews of Japanese whiskies will begin.

The week after that (August 23-27), I’ll be back here again with more blog posts. I’ll also be going through all the great guest blog submissions I have been receiving.

Then, the week after that (August 30-September 3), I’ll be on vacation again. This is the week I will post up one guest blog each day. Believe me when I say you will enjoy the guest posts. You will not want to miss them.

I have more surprises for you beginning in September, including reviews of all the new whisky books coming out and many more new whisky reviews by me, so don’t go anywhere!

What will I be doing while I’m gone? Hopefully a lot of what you see here in this picture: taking it easy on a beach my wife Amy, with a good drink in my hand. (I also plan on taking my boat out in the ocean and doing a little fishing.)

Guest Review: St. George’s Chapter 9, 46%, $60

Friday, August 13th, 2010

The name’s a little misleading — this is actually the second whisky to be released from England’s only distillery. It’s only three years old so don’t expect too much depth, but it’s a significant step up from the first release, it’s made by legendary former Laphroaig distiller Iain Henderson and it’s peated, so expect a treat. There’s not much happening on the nose, with some fluffy fruit masking a touch of charcoal smoke. But on the palate it goes through the gears, with melon and pear giving way to a wave of licorice before the peat kicks in and stays. It’s a bit like seeing a talented teenager try out for a sports team: lots of talent, no obvious weaknesses, but not yet big enough to front up to the first team, and in need of some muscle. Nevertheless, surprisingly balanced and rounded, and a sign of good things to come. (Selected British whisky outlets.) – Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 80

Your summertime whisk(e)y?

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

It has been very hot here in Pennsylvania. And it’s been unseasonably hot over a large part of the United States this summer.

My question for you: are you still drinking whisky in this warm weather? If so, what? And how are you drinking it?

(For me, I’m just drinking the same stuff I would normally drink–whatever I’m in the mood for. I’m just waiting until later in the evening to drink it, after the temperatures have cooled off.)

Guest Review: Glen Grant 170th Anniversary, 48%, $125

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Four years ago Glen Grant was in a sorry state, its beautiful gardens in need of some love and attention, its malts neglected and seemingly unloved. Then Campari bought it and we have heard very little more since. That’s until now. With a new visitor center, the gardens in full bloom, and the owners determined to make it a major player, things are looking up. This limited edition 170th anniversary bottling is made up of vintages stretching back to the 70s. They include a couple of sherry butts and some peated spirit. The result is a rich malt with some buttery toffee notes at first, distinctive lemon and green apple notes, and a touch of aniseed. Midway through, it sets off in a more feisty direction, with some peat, sharp spice, and green banana skin. Beguiling and unusual, it’s a statement of intent from an iconic distillery — watch this space. (Selected specialist outlets, excluding the U.S.) – Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 82

Guest Review: Ardmore, 25 year old, 51.4%, $195

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Ardmore is a rising star in the world of single malt. Until four years ago it was little known in its own right, its main purpose being as a key malt in Teacher’s. Then Ardmore Traditional was released, and it’s been winning over drinkers ever since. That malt is a delicatessen whisky: smoky, oily, and savory, a unique Highland malt with much to recommend it. This is a different proposition altogether. It’s clean and sweet, with pineapple candy, dusty and almost incense-like spices, and a liberal dose of sweet peat. Some citrus notes, too. The peat holds out until the end with impressive effect. There’s talk of this becoming a permanent part of the Ardmore portfolio. Let’s hope so: it’s further proof that Ardmore is a very interesting distillery indeed. (Travel Retail and selected specialist whisky shops.) – Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 83