Nagahama is the smallest distillery in Japan, installed within the Nagahama Roman brewery and operational since 2016. It works with small alambic stills that are reminiscent of Arabic architecture. Single malts are called Nagahama but their blending experiments are spelled backwards: Amahagan.
Apart from the proper Japanese single malt, the distillery releases World Blended whisky as well as World Malt. It contains some of their own malt distilled at Nagahama but also imported malts. The first release dates back to 2018 and recently they presented the fourth edition from Yamazakura Wood (cherry tree wood). The fifth version is quite new, finished in sherry casks.
Amahagan Yamazakura Wood Finish (47%, OB 2019)
Nose: a juicy, fruity nose, on orange juice, apricots and plums. Rhubarb compote. Some vanilla notes, light biscuits perhaps. It reminds me of a young Glen Elgin for instance. Light hints of cherry blossom too, I’m (almost) sure it isn’t just the power of suggestion. Even whiffs of fabric softener appear (some of which have rather complex aromas these days).
Mouth: a similar idea of juicy fruits and bright floral notes. Pears and plums, with orange peels and hints of orange blossom. Vanilla custard. Hints of honey and light caramel sweetness. Then also a subtle touch of alcohol, which could be the portion of Nagahama new-make that went into this. Light peppery wood.
Finish: medium, on sweet wood, pepper and heathery notes.
This is not a bad first encounter with this distillery. It’s young, quite tasty and fresh, with a bright nose and a reasonably balanced palate. Of course the majority of this composition consists of sourced whisky, but they’re honest about it. We’re hoping to try some of the true Nagahama single malt in the future. Still available from The Whisky Exchange. Also as a 3cl sample if you like.