I am really excited about this Zoetrope Ichiro's Malt, not solely because of its own qualities but also because it is a bottling by Shot Bar Zoetrope, which, as I never tire of pointing out, is the world's best Japanese whisky bar. The owner Atsushi Horigami is one of the key personalities on the Japanese whisky scene. Far from sitting back and simply flogging the excellent drinks Suntory and Nikka put out, he has taken on an active role in encouraging some of the exciting independent distilleries that have begun to emerge in recent years (more on that theme next week). This whisky was Horigami san's independent bottling for his bar's third anniversary last year.
It was distilled in 2000 at the Hanyu distillery. That, incidentally, was the last year that Hanyu made whisky. This one was matured in a hogshead and then a rum cask (no. 9800) and bottled for Zoetrope by Venture Whisky (ie. Ichiro's Malt) in 2009. A total of 263 bottles were produced. At 60.7 per cent alcohol, it definitely benefits from a few drops of water:
Nose: Quite subdued. The first smell was of honey and lemon with a bready aroma underneath. There was a very distant hint of smoke - gun barrel and matches - but that stayed firmly in the background. Perhaps I was trying to hard but I also got a rather bizarre smell of muddy knees and rugby changing rooms but I will leave that sort of spiel to Ron Manager.
In the mouth: Without water, this was quite overpowering for me: bitter and dry, with sharp grapefruit tastes dominating traces of caramel. I added water. Contrary to my expectation, the sweeter caramel actually subsided and the citric (lime) tastes continued to dominate. If often like very dry, controlled whiskies and this definitely fell into that category. It was quite linear, by which I mean that it maintained a very similar profile from nosing, through first tasting to the finish, which was shortish, with a chewing sticks bitterness.
I was tasting this Zoetrope Ichiro on one of the hotter evenings May threw at us this year and it occurred to me to try it with some ice. I don't normally go for ice with whisky, but given the very controlled profile of this whisky it seemed an experiment worth trying. It turned out to have a peppery dryness, with the struck match taste I had detected on the nose. Very clean. I poured myself another one and popped in another cube.