Single malt whisky - tasting notes

17 Oct 2012

Karuizawa Spirit of Asama

Posted by: Ruben Luyten In: * Japan

A last review in this little series for Nonjatta (more to come in the future of course). Spirit of Asama is a vatting of European oak sherry casks from the last years of Karuizawa production, 1999 and 2000.

There seem to be different versions. A first one is simply named “Asama” and popped up in Asia early this year, and soon after also in the Swedish Systembolaget and LMdW. It was bottled at 46% but now there’s a higher strength “Spirit of Asama” version bottled for The Whisky Exchange. It’s supposedly the same vatting – I’ve heard they used 77 casks in total – but now at 48% and 55%.



Karuizawa Spirit of Asama 48%Karuizawa 11yo ‘Spirit of Asama’
(48%, The Whisky Exchange 2012, vatting)

Nose: not extremely punchy and the first thing that does come out is a sharpish winey note. The sherry is slightly vegetal, with mushrooms and rubber before it evolves to raspberry jam, dates and prunes. A hint of earthy smoke in the background. Mouth: medium fruity notes (oranges, apples), a burnt sugar note / toffee and a light smokiness. The sherry is quite winey and dry – a bit of extra sweetness would have been welcome. Quite some ginger and pepper. Fades away on exotic wood and mint. Finish: medium long, fairly oaky, with some herbal tea and oranges.

Update: around € 68 from TWE.

Score: 82/100




Karuizawa Spirit of Asama 55%Karuizawa 11yo ‘Spirit of Asama’
(55%, The Whisky Exchange 2012, vatting)

Nose: essentially the same aromas, but the higher strength leaves a slightly more volcanic, spirity impression. It’s a little more closed but it also seems to block the mushrooms a little. Dried fruits again. Slightly more spices. Tobacco and leather too. Cigar boxes. Mouth: more punch, more weight and more flavour altogether. First some fruits like raisins and figs. Then some chocolate. Ginger and cinnamon, and fruit cake. A little tobacco. Finish: medium long, a classic orange / chocolate combination with spices.

Update: around € 78 from TWE.

Score: 85/100


This is a slightly thinner style of Karuizawa that holds the middle between older, more flavoursome Karuizawa and traditional sherried Scotch, say a cask-strength Glenfarclas or A’Bunadh. Both bottlings are slightly rubbery and mushroomy, but the 55% version gets away with it more easily and has more diverse and intense flavours to balance it.

The 46% Asama is € 60-75 in France and Sweden, we’ve heard the UK Spirit of Asama version will have a similar price tag. Given the inviting price level it’s a correct introduction to the Karuizawa style in my opinion.

Karuizawa Spirit of Asama 3.5 Ruben Luyten 2012-10-17



December 2014
« Nov    

  • Dirk V.: I think Inge L. does a fantastic job with her whisky flavoured chocolates ;-)
  • SK: And just to prove a point, all of the bottles are still available in places where they usually run out. Lets see how many will be still available whe
  • SK: 2 years ago I tried the Caol Ila 1982 from Archives. What a fantastic whisky. Since then I always try to stock these Caol Ila from the 80s. Sadly no

Coming up

  • Octomore 6.3 258ppm
  • Peated Irish 1991 (Eiling Lim)
  • Ardbeg 1974 for Christmas
  • Spirit of Freedom 30 Years
  • Arran #3 (TBWC)
  • Auchentoshan 1990 (Archives)
  • Ben Nevis 1996 (Whisky Mercenary)
  • Elements of Islay Cl7
  • Benromach 5 Year Old

1683 notes by Ruben

WhiskyNotes - Ruben LuytenThis blog is my personal collection of impressions, written while searching for the ultimate single malt whisky.