Karuizawa 1981 single cask #4333 has just been bottled for their Belgian distributor The Nectar. It was presented last weekend during the open doors of TastToe (one of the leading whisky shops in Belgium, owned by The Nectar). The news spread rapidly and given the low yield of just 94 bottles, I suppose the vast majority is gone by now.
It’s surprising that a big sherry butt would only provide 94 bottles, so it’s safe to assume this is just part of a cask, as was the case for the 1977 Wait La Mazurka bottling for The Nectar. I’m guessing we’ll see the remaining part with a different label in the future.
Karuizawa 31 yo 1981
(66,3%, OB for The Nectar 2013, sherry butt #4333, 94 btl.)
Nose: very direct with loads of varnished church furniture and turpentine. Hints of wood glue. Such is the intensity that it even reminds me of chlorine at times. But don’t get me wrong, it’s big and beautiful. Mint and eucalyptus, prunes, some toasted notes. Espresso. Sandalwood. Mouth: rather extreme again. Heavy attack on liquorice, menthol, walnuts and earthy sherry. Goes on with roasted chestnuts and hints of unlit matches. High on tannins and herbal notes, the oak has given everything it possibly could. A tad brutal, water is needed here. Finish: very long, dry and even medicinal, with bitter herbs and litres of espresso.
Now let’s add water (quite a lot to be honest) and do this tasting again…
Nose: nice stewed fruits come out, raisins, blackberries and prunes. More sweetness, and a better balance with the fragrant varnished notes. Hints of kirsch and roasted nuts. Also church incense and tobacco. Mouth: on the palate too there are more fruits, but the whole stays rather dry and rough. Quite challenging – not for beginners. I’ve had rounder and more balanced 1981’s. Finish: more or less the same. Dry and rather tannic, still plenty of coffee.
Remember the 1981 Cocktail Series which is one of my favourite Karuizawas so far – well, this one is a very different 1981. The extra 10% make it an explosive sherry bomb with most of its fruitiness buried under oak extracts. Be sure to add water though, it’s a pretty good swimmer and you will unveil a lot of the classic Karuizawa character. Nonetheless the bottom line is a high octane, oak-driven palate. Around € 320.