Tuesday, July 8, 2014

5th Ghost: Karuizawa ‘4 Decades’ Auction

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
As of today, interested parties can bid on a unique Karuizawa release. It is a special vatting of malt distilled over the course of 4 decades – from 1960, right through to the final vintage (2000) – which was married for several months. Only 24 bottles were produced of this, and it truly is liquid history… the history of Karuizawa distillery merged into a single dram. For detailed information about this release, please check this post.

One of the things that makes this release very special for us, is that all proceeds (save for government taxes and banking charges) will be donated to two children’s charities in Tokyo: Carillon Kodomo Centre (who run several children’s shelters in and around Tokyo) and Shine On! Kids (specifically their program to provide therapeutic dogs to children with cancer).

This release will be sold by auction to the highest bidders. Individuals can only bid for one bottle (i.e. placing multiple bids for multiple bottles is not allowed). Bidding starts at 55,000 yen – which is 10% of the price that the initial bottle, auctioned off live at the ‘Spirits for Small Change’ charity event went for.  To place a bid: simply go to the Malt City page (English or Japanese), check out the 0 yen item and IN THE COMMENTS SECTION place your bid. Check out in the normal way – you will not be charged until the auction closes, one week later (on July 15th at 5pm, Japanese time), if you are among the lucky winners.

Every day (except at the weekend), the current lowest acceptable bid (CLAB) will be updated at 5pm, Japanese time. People can re-bid as many times as they want, up to their own personal limit, as long as it is above the CLAB. The last day, the CLAB will be updated at 2pm and 4pm, Japanese time, before the auction is closed at 5pm.

Do read the fine print on the Malt City page – any and all questions you may have are answered there!
Good luck – and thanks for your support!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

2 New Nikka Anniversary Releases: Taketsuru 21 NC and ‘Rita’ Apple Brandy 30yo

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo

Nikka keeps pumping out limited edition variations on their standards in this, their 80th anniversary year. Details have just been announced of two interesting new bottlings, both of which will be released on July 2nd, the anniversary day of the company. One is a non-chillfiltered version of their Taketsuru 21yo Pure Malt (48%abv), the other an apple brandy named after Taketsuru’s Scottish wife, Rita, matured for over 30 years (43%abv).

The non-chillfiltered Taketsuru is, in a way, a follow-up to the well-received Taketsuru 17 Non-Chillfiltered, which was released in 2012. (A handful of bottles were available through LMdW in early 2013.) The non-chillfiltered Taketsuru 21 is limited to 3,000 bottles and will retail for around 18,000 yen.

The ‘Rita’ Apple Brandy 30yo is limited to 1,000 bottles and will go for around 30,000 yen. This will probably be the more sought-after of the two releases, in spite of the hefty price tag, for historic reasons. Fans of Nikka will know that the company originally dabbled in apple juice, and related products (apple cider and brandy). The name ‘Nikka’ is, in fact, a contraction of Dai Nihon Kaju Kabushiki Kaisha (The Great Japan Juice Company).

Both products will be limited to the domestic market and will be available from selected liquor shops. A handful will be offered through the online Asahi shop.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

4th Exclusive Nonjatta ‘Ghost Series’ Bottling: Kawasaki 1980/2014

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo

Today, we’re thrilled to be able to announce details of the fourth release in our series of bottlings of rare Japanese whiskies featuring prints from the great Yoshitoshi’s “New Forms of 36 Ghosts”. As always, it is a really special release: a 1980 single cask grain whisky from the mysterious Kawasaki distillery.
Lost in the mists of time, all that is known about Kawasaki distillery is that it used to provide the backbone for Sanraku Ocean’s blends in the 70s and 80s. The distillery vanished at some point during the bubble years (nobody knows exactly when), but not without a trace.  A handful of casks were discovered in a warehouse in Yamanashi and then transferred to Chichibu distillery. A few of these were released as single casks by Akuto-san five years ago; others were used to make premium blends. We’re thrilled to be able to offer this 1980 Kawasaki #6165: not only is this just the 8th bottling of a single cask Kawasaki (and most likely the last), it is also the only known specimen from the 1980 vintage. It is also the oldest (in terms of age) bottled Kawasaki at the time of writing. These sort of catalogue data are interesting, but for us, it’s all about the quality of the juice, of course. So what’s it like?

On the nose, the initial impressions are a Middle Eastern spice shop, old rum, polished wood and a multitude of sweet delicacies: butter tablet, coconut spread, crema catalana and chinsuko cookies. But there’s a lovely savoury side to the whisky as well: apple balsamic spare ribs, rafte (Okinawan simmered pork belly) and some foie gras with apricot preserve. Then, if you dig deeper, you find loads of other tiny aromas: overripe Yubari melon, baked vanilla custard with nutmeg, tupig (Filipino sticky rice logs with coconut cream and molasses, wrapped in banana leaves), Dutch spice cake and hints of rosemary, eucalyptus, spearmint and maraschino cherries. Water spotlights the savoury side and the spices, but at the expense of some of the lovely sweet notes.

Nothing prepares you for the intense citrus attack on the palate: grapefruit, yuzu peel, kumquats and Seville oranges out in full force! As the citrus settles down, other fruit notes start to emerge – ripe mangoes and balsamic roasted stone fruits (peaches, plums and cherries) – but it doesn’t stop there. You do get a bit of the sweetness hinted at by the nose (coconut scones and vanilla custard) but not as much as you would think. You definitely get more of the savoury notes and lots of spice (cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg) on the palate. A subtle bitter transition (grapefruit albedo) leads into the long finish where you get echoes of the citrus along with brown sugar on toast, lychees, fig sorbet and hints of ginger and After Eights.

Incredibly complex and lush, this is the grain equivalent of those glorious early 80s Karuizawas – which shouldn’t come as a surprise, really, since they come from the same stable.
Now for the bad news: as with most whiskies this rare, quantities are limited. There are only 60 bottles and to give everyone who is interested a fair chance at obtaining a bottle, we – together with our partners at Malt City, who take care of the actual sale of our releases – have decided to go for the lottery approach that we tried out for the first time with our 2nd Ghost release.

Basically, interested parties can register for the lottery starting now (i.e. Wednesday, June 18th, from 4pm Japanese time). We will close the lottery application process on Tuesday, June 24th at 4pm, Japanese time. Then, after removing applications in breach of the rules (more about this below), an innocent hand – our editor’s five-year old son – will draw the lucky winners. Winners will be contacted on Tuesday, July 1st. (Please do not email us or Malt City before that date.) Winners will have one week to conclude the transaction. As always our releases are priced more than fairly. This Kawasaki will be 25,000 yen plus tax and shipping costs.

Our friends at Malt City have pretty impressive systems in place to remove applicants who try to game the system. (We’ve seen them in action when we had the lottery for our 2nd Ghost!) Attempting to enter multiple times is highly likely to have a negative impact on your chances of winning a bottle… so do read the fine print at the end of this post! Winners must conclude the transaction using an address and credit card that corresponds to the name and address used in the lottery application. Thanks, as always, for your continued support. We look forward to many more Ghost releases.

 ---Instructions to register---

- Go to this exclusive Malt City webpage.
- Please click the "Add to cart" button, and proceed in the NORMAL WAY. Entry is completed with this.
- No charge is made at this stage.
- Limited to one entry per person. Two or more entries by the same person will be disallowed.
- Entry is based upon the delivery address. Any entries with the same delivery address will be invalidated.
- Double (or more) entries will not be accepted.
- No forwarding services are accepted for this product. Malt City can only ship to a private address (the address of the person registering).
- Entry will close at 4pm (Japanese time) on June 24th.
- The Nonjatta team will draw the winners based on automatically assigned registration numbers.
- Malt City will email the winners and explain the purchase procedure on their website.
- The right to purchase the bottle is valid for 1 week after Malt City has contacted the winners (by email).
- Purchases by any people other than those chosen by the lottery will be disallowed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Two New Chichibu Single Casks

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
© Stefan Van Eycken
Just in time for Father’s Day (which is next Sunday in Japan), our favorite department store in Tokyo has launched two brand new Chichibu single casks. One is drawn from a French oak cask (2009/2014, #2357, 63.1%abv), the other from a so-called ‘chibidaru’ (literally ‘wee cask’, Chichibu’s original quarter cask; 2010/2014, #877, 61.5%abv). They just went on sale today and it looks like they won’t be around for very long, in spite of the ever-increasing prices (16,000 and 14,000 yen resp.). We had the chance to quickly try the French oak offering – on the fly, between two appointments – and it is a real stunner… definitely warrants closer inspection. The ‘chibidaru’ in particular, because of the necessarily limited quantities, was already close to selling out when we were there… Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hakushu Exclusive for Whisky Shop W.

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
Photo courtesy of Whisky Shop W.
In the run up to father’s day (next Sunday in Japan), the people at Whisky Shop W. – Suntory’s flagship store in the HQ building in Osaka – have released their 6th exclusive mini-bottle. We’ve written about this series before : it is aimed at people who are interested in trying high quality malt, but may be reluctant to shell out 10,000 yen for a bottle. By offering special vattings in 300ml bottles, Suntory is hoping to encourage people to take the leap without having to break the bank. It seems like the strategy is working and these limited editions are especially popular around gift-giving times.

The 6th release is a vatting of Hakushu matured in bourbon wood, and bottled at 48%abv. It is available at Whisky Shop W. or from their online shop, while stocks last.