Akashi blended whisky
Update 28.7.2011: Eigashima and LWdM released statements saying the Akashi blend was in line with EU regulations.
Update 22.7.2011: Rival importer La Maison du Whisky commented on the issue.
It has been over a month since I posted the exciting news of a new range of whiskies being imported into Europe by Les Whiskies du Monde. Eagle-eyed readers noticed a loose end in that initial report in which I said cryptically that "other importers into Europe" were raising questions about the contents of one of the whiskies. I got some messages asking what on earth I was talking about.
I can now be a little more specific. The "other importers into Europe" were La Maison du Whisky and the specific whisky they were talking about was the Akashi White Oak blended whisky from the Eigashima distillery. La Maison said the whisky was not a blended whisky as Europeans might understand it and had some quite specific figures on its composition. I decided it was necessary to directly contact Eigashima, a company I have always found to be completely straightforward and honest, before publishing anything about this.
Mikio Hiraishi, who runs Eigashima, has just replied with a very full statement of what is in that whisky. It is not conventional blended whisky.
The first thing to point out is that there has never been any attempt by Eigashima to obfuscate about the contents. They have always been perfectly straightforward. The back of the bottle says in Japanese that the whisky is made of "malt whisky and spirits," (see below) something that makes it clear to Japanese consumers that it does not contain grain whisky, as would normally be expected from a blended whisky where I come (UK). The issue here is in the translation of the Japanese whisky market's rules and norms into the international market. This does not normally come up because most of the big players, like Suntory and Nikka, play by the international rules on their premium products. Eigashima plays by the international rules on their single malts. But this was a blended whisky that was, I suspect, made with a very local market in mind, and which Les Whiskies du Monde's enterprise has plucked out of obscurity.
What Hiraishi-san says it contains is the following: White Oak (Eigashima) malt whisky and imported (ie. non-Japanese) malt whisky which together comes to 34 per cent of the whisky in the present blend. The rest, 66 per cent, is made up of molasses spirit (some of which has been stored in barrels). The malt has been stored for an average of 5.6 years. In 2013, the proportion of malt used will rise to 40 per cent, with the average storage time falling slightly to 5 years.
I will follow this up with comments from La Maison and Les Whiskies du Monde if they want to give them, but I just want to give out the basic facts laid out in the message from Hiraishi-san. From my perspective, this is a classic case of different historic norms for mass market spirits (as opposed to premium whisky, which now has very little divergence in norms) causing possible misunderstandings. I really hope nobody is going to blame Eigashima, who have been totally straight forward about what they are producing throughout this.
'Whisky and spirits' are listed as ingredients.
The photos are taken from this page.