Thosop bottlings (a label founded by Luc Timmermans) are now co-selected and distributed by The Whiskyman a.k.a. fellow Lindores member Dominiek Bouckaert.
Recently we’ve had Longmorn 1976’s bottled by Malts of Scotland and The Whisky Agency, both very attractive. Let’s find out how this new one compares. Unfortunately at the moment I can only do a direct head-to-head with the Malts of Scotland version.
Longmorn 35 yo 1976
(53%, Thosop, bourbon barrel, 134 btl.)
Nose: very fruity and apparently more complex than the other 1976’s I’ve tried so far. Citrus, tropical fruits (kumquat, mango), gooseberries. Quite some mint and eucalyptus as well, certainly more than the MoS release. Less vanilla though, and almost none of the great pastry notes (you can’t have it all). Then a plethora of small layers in the background: soft and slightly dusty oak, hay, pepper and cinnamon. Excellent. Mouth: oily, with plenty of fruits: grapefruit, tangerine, mango. Balanced by spices (ginger, pepper) and softly resinous oak. Overall more fruity than the others. A little leather. Herbal tea (without the dryness) and hints of toffee towards the end. Finish: long and fruity, with a soft resinous / grassy edge.
On the nose, this Longmorn plays the card of freshness and complexity. The Malts of Scotland version is warmer on the nose (slightly more honeyed / marzipanny), but overall there are more layers to discover in this Thosop version. I’m happy to give it an extra point for its wonderful balance and richness, despite the fact that I’m instantly in love with the MoS nose every time I try it. Around € 200. I’m sure it will be gone quickly.
Nikka Pure Malt White is our final review in the Japanese series. As a matter of fact, it’s not entirely Japanese. Pure Malt White is a blend of Scotch Islay whisky (Coal Ila?) and a smaller portion of peated Nikka whisky. Nikka Pure Malt Black is also peated but it contains mainly Nikka whisky and no Scotch.
Nikka Pure Malt White (43%, OB 2010, 50cl)
Nose: a very refined mix of elegant peat (clear and present, but not a kick in your face) and juicy fruits. Cold ashes, medicinal notes in the distance. Great balance with the Japanese influence: coconut cream, oranges, nectarine, passion fruit, a little leather. Hints of vanilla. I really like the fusion. Mouth: starts Caol Ila-esk: smoky and slightly peppery. Hints of walnuts. Evolves on malty notes with honey and a distinct floweriness, which develops into a clear soapiness. Is this Yoichi and 1980’s Bowmore then? Bowmore is owned by Suntory, so it’s unlikely they would sell spirit to their opponent Nikka, but you never know. Finish: again quite floral (violets and lavender) with a dry peatiness.
Flowery notes are sometimes a bit tricky and personally I have difficulty with all kinds of soapy notes. Maybe other batches are more enjoyable? Around € 30 (50 cl).
This concludes our little Japanese series. Some great Longmorns coming up after the weekend.
A newborn of only 4 months old, from a Japanese distillery founded in 2007. The label says this Chichibu was distilled June-July 2008 and bottled October 2008. It was one batch of 400 kg of Braemar barley.
After this release, there have been other limited single malt Chichibu bottlings (new hogshead, double matured and heavily peated).
Nose: clean and sweet with candy sugar and pear drops. Orchard fruits. Plum eau-de-vie. On the other hand, it’s also slightly spicy, like a good Dutch jenever, which is less typical for new spirit. Also slightly flowery (jasmin?). Mouth: strong, big notes of muesli and oats, some dried apricots. Hints of grappa. Also a faint earthy element (nice to see this in new-make already). Finish: grainy and quite spirity.
I don’t have the experience to spot a really good new-make among the normal ones, but this Chichibu shows a few notes that I hadn’t seen in new-make before. Simple but promising I would say. Around € 75.
The first time I tried Yamazaki 18yo (at Spirits in the Sky four years ago), I immediately bought a bottle. Now’s the time to pay homage to this Japanese classic. One of my all-time favourites when it comes to (relatively affordable) Japanese whisky, although the price has taken a big hike since it won a couple of awards.
Yamazaki 18 is composed of toasted American oak sherry puncheons, European oak sherry butts and Japanese Mizunara oak puncheons.
Yamazaki 18 yo (43%, OB 2008, L8CP3)
Nose: very very smooth, with a great interaction of chocolate, raisins and oak polish (maybe even a little glue). Soft vanilla. Luscious fruity notes, both dried (dates) and fresh (red fruits). Rather oriental as well: hints of baklava and incense, with a wonderful dampness. Herbal tea. Leather. Hints of dark rum. Syrup. Mouth: quite oaky now (with a resulting sourness) but this adds to the oriental character. Dried fruits (dates, prunes) freshened with citrus peel. Caramel. Creamy sherry notes. Bramble and honey. Tobacco. Finish: balanced sweet / dry and medium long. Maybe a hint of smoke?
A top quality dram, full of Japanese character but very rounded as well, which is slightly less common for Nippon whisky. No surprise it wins so many awards, this is highly recommended.
Be sure to shop around, because I’ve seen prices between € 85 and € 135 from retailers that usually have a similar price setting.
Nikka From the Barrel is a blend of grain whisky from Miyagikyo and malt whisky from Yoichi. Three more Japanese whiskies to go in this little series.
Nikka ‘From the barrel’ (51,4%, OB 2010, 50cl)
Nose: fruity and floral, with apricot, banana and pineapple aromas, oranges and some fresh oak. Honey. Almonds. Cinnamon sticks and vanilla, a little pepper as well. A balanced sherry nose. Mouth: creamy with plenty of punch at the same time. The grains are maybe a little too sharp around the edges, but the rest is very tasty. Malt and nougat. Caramelized sugar. Fresh lemon. Fruit tea. Drier towards the end, with spices like nutmeg. Even a hint of peat? Finish: quite long, malty and spicy with a lightly bitter edge.
This is a well-made, intense whisky that’s not easy to recognize as a blend. Around € 25 (50 cl) so great value for money.
Here’s another Japanese whisky selected by Dave Broom and bottled to celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Whisky-Live in 2010.
Hakushu 12 yo 1997 (56%, OB for Whisky-Live 2009, hogshead BJ41521)
Nose: dry flowers, hay and polished oak. Then soft fruits (apple, pear, whitecurrant). A little vanilla and mint. Mouth: sweet and fruity (candy sugar, pineapple sweets, peaches) backed by spices (vanilla, ginger, pepper) and fresh oak. There’s a light floral element as well. Clean, sweet and quite simple. Finish: medium length, half fruity / half spicy.
This is a youthful and modern Japanese whisky. As often, the oak (nice and fresh) and spices play a big role. Not too far from Scotch matured in first fill casks or Virgin oak. Around € 130.
One of the youngest Karuizawa we’ve tried so far, a 1991 released in 2007. Back then, Number One Drinks had just started the import and the distillery was still building up recognition. This bottling won a silver medal in the 2008 Malt Maniacs awards.
Karuizawa 1991 (62,5%, OB 2007,
sherry cask #3318)
Nose: very strong and slightly rubbery. Volcanic ashes? At the same time, the hotness prevents other aromas to come out, it definitely needs some time to open up. Some sherry notes (of the earthy, mossy kind) and spices (pepper, ginger). Roasted nuts and baked pie. Blackberries and dried figs. Getting more floral over time. Mouth: hot, dry and sherried, with the original malt shining through after a few moments. Sweet coffee. Plums and dates. Very spicy, quite overwhelming. Slightly smoky and salty. Not much difference with water. Finish: long, hot and spicy.
An earthy / ashy expression of Karuizawa.
Not a quick charmer, but it gains balance if you let it breathe. Around € 90 at the time, now sold out. Thanks for the sample swap, Johan.
This single cask of Yamazaki was selected by whisky writer Dave Broom to celebrate the 10th Anniversaries of Whisky Live held in Tokyo and London during February 2010. We’ve previously reviewed the Karuizawa 1990 that was launched for the same occasion.
Yamazaki 12 yo 1996
(60%, OB for Whisky-Live Japan 2009,
sherry butt AX70012)
Nose: deep sherry with fruity notes (sourish raspberry, red apples), nutty notes (walnuts) and oak resin. A little mint. Heavy sherry but faultless. Mouth: thick and compact. Starts dry and hugely oaky with dried fruits, walnuts and ginger. Evolves nicely on sweeter, creamy flavours like vanilla and chocolate ganache. Exotic woods. Pepper. Finish: smoky with great roasted coffee beans and milk chocolate.
Very big and packed with wonderful sherry notes. Not very complex though, and there are heavy wood flavours. Now sold for € 200 and more here in Europe, too much from a quality perspective.