Single malt whisky - tasting notes

20 Feb 2013

Karuizawa 1981 (Cocktail series)

Tasting notes by Ruben Luyten - Posted in * Japan

Karuizawa Cocktail series LMdWThe Cocktail series is a range of four Karuizawa bottlings exclusively sold by La Maison du Whisky, featuring labels by the Japanese artists Hideyuki Katsumata. He was inspired by the link between single malts and cocktails that apparently exists in Japan. Also, bars are the 2013 theme for LMdW (check their catalogue).

There’s a 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1984. This 30 years old 1981 is the darkest of the pack, even though the picture exaggerates its colour a little…



Karuizawa 1981 Cocktail seriesKaruizawa 30 yo 1981 (55,8%, N°1 Drinks for LMdW, sherry butt #162, 584 btl.)

Nose: not exactly the opening I was expecting, but that’s not a bad thing here. It’s sweet and quite fruity. Black cherries, wild strawberries, lots of dates and a hint of passion fruits. Also notes of lacquered pork belly. Sweet pipe tobacco. Huge notes of polished oak, sandalwood I’d say, with some ‘good’ wood glue. And a whole array of tiny notes like cinnamon, lychee, incense, rum, eucalyptus and sugared nuts. Quite perfect. Mouth: more powerful now, and quite smoky. Earthy notes, a certain farminess as well. Lots of tobacco again. Then chocolate coated nuts and coffee beans. Cured ham. Bread crust. Sweetness of dates and figs too, as well as hints of fresher fruits (honeydew melon). A bit of sweet liquorice. Finish: almost as long as a trip to Japan, still quite sweet, showing coal, honey and polished oak. Even a slight medicinal herbalness in the end.

This was pretty much an instant favourite. The fruity sweetness is outstanding. No sulphur nonsense either. And great to see the roundness is coupled to a bit more earthy power on the palate. A gem. Around € 315. Still a few bottles available!

Score: 94/100

Karuizawa 1981 (Cocktail series) 5 Ruben Luyten 2013-02-20
  • Rogier

    Nice. Would you say out of all Karuizawa’s you tried this is only trumped by the 1967 cask #6426?

  • WhiskyNotes

    If you insist on making that kind of statement, then yes, you’re right. I’m quite confident about the score, but it’s tricky: I’ve reviewed Karuizawas over a timespan of four years and the majority was never tasted head-to-head… A lot of others were 92, not a major difference I’d say.

  • Rogier

    I definitely agree that it is splitting hairs. :) I’m just glad to see that I didn’t make a mistake buying this.

  • John Fredrik Thomter

    It is really excellent. Agree to the words “No sulphur nonsense either”. In that way similar to the really excellent 1977 Noh cask #4592, but not quite there. Anyway, the color in the picture above is somewhat misleading. It is not that dark.

  • Anthony

    I also have a botte and there are way darker Karuizawas than this one. So Ruben, have you really tried this Whisky ?

  • WhiskyNotes

    I bought a sample from – it was pretty dark in the glass but I guess the pictures influenced me in writing it was extremely dark. In the meantime I’ve received my bottle it and indeed, it’s not as black as the images make us think.

  • John Fredrik Thomter

    Just passed 605 EUR on WhiskyAuction. Madness.
    They were still selling it for 315 at LMDW a couple of weeks ago. Anyway, it is kind of comforting to see that excellent whisky reach these prices, not just the “Glenwonkas” with expensive packaging.

  • WhiskyNotes

    Karuizawa is on the edge of becoming a Glenwonka though. But indeed this 1981 was still available from LMdW until a few days after this review.

  • Matieto

    I’ve tasted the “Cocktail series”: 1969 cask #8183, 1970 cask #6177, 1981 cask #162, and 1983 cask #8597. The 1983 one is the only bourbon barrel (the three others were sherry butt). I absolutely loved it. It was just the most wonderful dram I’ve ever had. Bought the bottle for 300€.

  • ChainWhip

    Did you bump up the score from 93 to 94?

  • WhiskyNotes

    Yes I tried it again a couple of days ago, while tasting the 1983 #7576 that everyone keeps raving about. I still think I like this one better so I felt I had to make that clear in the scores.

  • ChainWhip

    That’s an impressive statement for this cask 162… Very cool!



November 2015
« Oct    

Coming up

  • Amrut 2009 (cask #2701)
  • Lagavulin 12 Years (2015)
  • Lindores 2015 festival bottling
  • Glenlivet 1981 (#9468 for TWE)
  • Talisker Distillers Edition (2015)
  • Laphroaig 32 Year Old
  • Glen Grant 65yo 1950 cask #2747 for Wealth Solutions
  • Mortlach 1959/1960 (G&M Royal Wedding)

1929 notes by Ruben

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