Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.
Purely by accident, I ended up in one my favourite neighbourhoods in Tokyo today - Nihonbashi / Tokyo Station / Yurakucho - so I went to all my regular liquor haunts. That was before lunch and on a half-empty stomach battling the humid summer weather: dedication or plain madness? Well, it's a thin line, sometimes. Here's a short report.
Next stop: Liquors Hasegawa. I was keen to try the new Black ("Premium") Label "Malt & Grain" produced by Ichiro Akuto. I knew chances were high they'd have a bottle open, and sure enough, they did. Just nosing it, I knew the Black Label was a vast improvement on the White Label (which I was not a fan of, to put it mildly - see my earlier post on "Ichiro's Blends"). This was very different - a really lovely blend. To this nose, the dominant notes were orange peel and pine tree / forest notes; on the palate, it was clear some virgin oak must have gone into it (pencil shavings, anin dofu, coming through). I didn't take any detailed tasting notes, but I remember thinking it couldn't have been released at a better time. Just perfect for the hot, humid summers here; also excellent value for money, I think.
After the Black Label Malt & Grain, I explored some recent Scotch single cask bottlings, and just as I was about to wrap up my little morning impromptu tasting - feeling the need for some solid food - one of the members of staff - they are fantastic, without exception, and extremely knowledgeable, by the way - asked me if I had tried the NAS Hakushu and Yamazaki. I hadn't. Five minutes later, I had. And what a revelation that was: they are superb beyond description. The person who put these beauties together deserves a big, fat summer bonus. Both are constructed around a core of 8- / 9-year old malt but enveloped by much older malt (up to 25yo). The Hakushu is very-lightly peated, with some of it finished in sherry casks (they must have been second- or third-fill, because the effect was very subtle, never overpowering those typical, lovely forest notes). The Yamazaki is an absolutely stunner: the core (young) malts were finished in wine casks, but older stock was also used (including some mizunara). I loved the Hakushu, but the Yamazaki really blew me away. It is such a beautifully harmonized whisky - words just don't do it justice. Don't take my word for it. Try it for yourself. You'll see. Kudos to the people at Suntory for creating this piece of art.