The third and last sample for now: Karuizawa 1981 cask #6207, which was part of the 2012 Collection from La Maison du Whisky.
Karuizawa 1981 (58,3%, OB for LMdW 2011, sherry butt #6207, 543 btl.)
Nose: nicely aromatic. A lot of sandalwood and sweet pipe tobacco (slightly vanilla’d), a bit of eucalyptus and chestnuts. Some fragrant touches, like old roses. Oranges. Chocolate fudge. Black prunes. Hints of damp wood as well. Mouth: spicy and slightly hot, but with a nice fruity sourness underneath. Black cherries, cinnamon cake, raisins in rum. Becomes drier over time, showing liquorice, pepper, ginger and leather. A bit of herbal bitterness (cough syrup) towards the end, as well as traces of smoke. Finish: long, with forest fruits and plenty of spices.
A good Karuizawa again, although not stellar like casks #158 or #162 from the same year. Originally sold for € 250, now closer to € 1300 in auctions.
Forgotten sample n°2. This Karuizawa 1984 cask #3692 was bottled in 2012. A big part was allocated to Sweden but it was also found in other countries.
Karuizawa 1984 (61,6%, OB 2012, sherry butt #3692, 359 btl.)
Nose: dark prunes and dates, with a box of chocolates that has just been opened. Unfortunately it also shows heavy gunpowder notes and matchsticks, dried mushrooms and a bit of marmite. Sulphur, yes. Beef jerky. Leather. Roasted nuts. A few heady notes too, in between soy sauce and wine vinegar. Not really my style. Mouth: again quite heavy, with less fruity notes than we’d like. Smoky wood, flints and some gunpowder again. Dry herbal notes, chestnuts and toasted bread. Dark prune jam. Cinnamon. Drying leathery notes. A meaty touch. Finish: long, oaky and spicy, with dark chocolate and ashes.
This is not my favourite Karuizawa. Of course they’re all intense and oaky, but this one is slightly over the top and not as fresh as some others. Fetches around € 1300 in auctions.
Blimey. I have so many samples that I tend to forget some of the interesting ones that are hidden in my drawers… how stupid is that? Not that I mind discovering three Karuizawa expressions that I hadn’t tried, of course. One of them is this Karuizawa 1981 Sakura cask #158, a release of only 45 bottles! The rarest Karuizawa ever?
Sakura is the typical Japanese sherry blossom. It was a special release for Prineus, the German distributor for No.1 Drinks and Karuizawa.
Karuizawa 31 yo 1981 (62,8%, OB 2012, Sakura series, sherry cask #158, 45 btl.)
Nose: the fruity, sweet kind of Karuizawa. Lovely black cherries, prune jam and blackberries. Fig compote – all typical, but also frankly tropical notes, like papaya and passion fruits. Tobacco-infused pralines (yes, they exist). Lots of pipe aromas actually. Precious exotic woods (sandalwood, thuja). Oil paint. Cinnamon. Soft hints of camphor and menthol. Wet forest soils. Just exquisite. Water brings out waxed papers. Mouth: very big. There’s a big mentholated / peppery heat that almost numbs your palate. Let’s add a few drops of water. Sweeter and fruitier now (plums, figs), but still peppery and gingery. Dry ashes, mixing with tobacco, earthy tea and dry wood, including a bit of sourness and smoke. Coffee. Finish: very long, with lots of herbal notes, almost medicinal hints. Tannins too.
Stunning Karuizawa, with one of the fruitiest noses I’ve come across from this distillery. The palate is significantly drier though, but still really impressive. Originally around € 350 but I don’t think it actually arrived on the shelves. Now around € 7500 (!) in auctions.
Nose: heavy sherry, GlenDronach-style. Raisins, figs, some orange peel. Quite oaky, with peppery notes, menthol and eucalyptus, as well as bit of smoke. Hints of cedar and pine needles. Mouth: the mentholated hints now become frankly medicinal, bringing cough syrup and antiseptics. Also big toasted wood and ashes. Charred meat. Walnut cake, bitter chocolate and plums in brandy. Oak polish, pepper and nutmeg. Quite firm, even a little aggressive but water helps. Finish: long, herbal, with liquorice and burnt sugar.
This Glenlivet has seen some very active wood, inducing a bold, medicinal profile with lots of dry notes. Impressively powerful, almost too much. Thanks, Joeri!
Chichibu On The Way is the work in progress of Ichiro Akuto. He founded his distillery in 2008 at the foot of a mountain in the region of Saitama, and he is on the way to release his first 5 years old whisky.
The current Chichibu On The Way is a vatting of three casks:
one Mizunara oak hogshead filled in 2008, in fact this was the second oldest cask in the distillery
one American oak ex-bourbon barrel filled in 2009 (used for ‘The Floor Malted’ batch 2009
another American oak ex-bourbon barrel filled in 2010 (used for ‘The Floor Malted’ batch 2010
Although the packaging says five years old, this refers to the oldest whisky in the vatting – Japanese rules are different from Scottish. Despite its high alcohol volume, it is not entirely cask strength.
Chichibu ‘On The Way’ (58,5%, OB 2013, 9900 btl.)
Nose: a brightly oaked profile, showing grassy notes, fresh oak shavings and hay. Sweet malt, youngish pear and vanilla. Quite a lot of herbal notes too: fennel seeds, menthol and pepper. New leather. Mouth: lots of sweet pears and apple pie, sweet breakfast cereals and a thick, syrupy side. Lychee juice. Popcorn. Apricot jam. A wide array of spices again, giving it an oriental touch as well as a potpourri-like edge. Some green, oaky notes on top. Finish: long, drier, with lots of wood spices and a hint of incense.
A really interesting Chichibu, showing the powerful aromas of Mizunara oak. All those spices make it quite oriental. I hope the real 5 year-old finds a better balance, but this is certainly promising. Around € 135. Thanks, Angelo.
The Ultimate is a series from the well-known Dutch bottler / importer van Wees. It’s a wide range with a fairly good value for money ratio.
We’re trying the latest Tamdhu 2005 bottled in January 2015. Several 2004-2005 casks have been bottled before.
Tamdhu 9 yo 2005 (60,3%, The Ultimate 2015, sherry butt #353, 631 btl.)
Nose: lots of toffee, butterscotch and marzipan for starters. Then the more typical dried fruits (dates, figs), as well as blueberries, candied orange peel and a hint of eucalyptus. Something of a creamy vanilla / raspberry combination, which gives it a hint of cupcakes. A slightly musty undertone of overripe melons, but otherwise very nice. Mouth: very punchy and creamy, with some intense sherry notes, big caramel toffee and molasses sweetness. Raisins. Hints of toasted oak, ginger and a chili heat. Again a very light mustiness underneath, but nothing dirty. Finish: long with a peppery heat, sweet malt syrup and a red berry sweetness.
This Tamdhu is a punchy, creamy, modern sherry bottling for people with a sweet tooth. Or two. Really good value for money. Around € 50.
Talisker Skye is the latest release from this distillery, which is effectively on the Isle of Skye. It’s the fourth (and supposedly youngest) No Age Statement release in under two years (after Talisker Storm, Talisker Dark Storm and Talisker Port Ruighe). Apparently it’s here to stay as a permanent extension of the core range.
Talisker Skye is matured in refill and toasted American oak casks, with that last type having the biggest proportion.
Talisker Skye (45,8%, OB 2015)
Nose: fairly sweet and youngish with pears, orange juice and a little apricot. This mixes with a soft, rounded smokiness and hints of toasted oak indeed. Vanilla. There’s brine as well, but the typical peppery notes are much less obvious. More nutmeg this time. Mouth: much more spicy now (pepper, ginger) and smoky, but again balanced by a candied sweetness (baked apple, peach candy, berries). Hints of dark chocolate with a pinch of salt towards the end. Some tarry smoke growing stronger. Finish: medium long, with the spicy warmth and smoke standing out, coming to a drier, ashy finale.
This is an uncommonly sweet and fruity Talisker. Young alright, but the toasted oak works out quite well. A nice entry-level whisky and the best NAS so far from Talisker. Around € 35.
Ian MacLeod bottled a whole series of Rosebank 1990 casks. Sister casks #611, 612 and 614 were all bottled in 2008.
Rosebank 18 yo 1990 (48%, Ian MacLead Dun Bheagan 2008, sherry butt #611, 618 btl.)
Nose: a solid, sweet malty base, with some butter pears, apple and mango. Honey. It shows a bit of an old-style side as well, think waxed dental floss and library dust. Mocha. Hints of walnuts and ginger. Mint. Of course there’s also the typical lemony side. Mouth: sweet fruity notes (peach, pear, orange) alongside slightly bitter fruits (grapefruit). Grassy and herbal touches, even some salt. Candied ginger, a little juniper. Sweet peppermint and faint hints of camphor. Slightly funny to get the Lowlands austerity combined with so much sweetness. Finish: medium long and bittersweet. Lemon, orange zest, ginger and nutmeg.
Good Rosebank, interesting because of its sherry sweetness that mixes well with the more typical Lowlands notes. Around € 160 at the time. Thanks, Stefan.