Review by Ruben of WhiskyNotes
Spirit of Asama is a vatting of European oak sherry casks from the last years of Karuizawa production, 1999 and 2000. There seem to be different versions. A first one is simply named “Asama” and popped up in Asia early this year, and soon after also in the Swedish Systembolaget and LMdW. It was bottled at 46% but now there’s a higher strength “Spirit of Asama” version bottled for The Whisky Exchange. It’s supposedly the same vatting – I’ve heard they used 77 casks in total – but now at 48% and 55%.
Nose: not extremely punchy and the first thing that does come out is a sharpish winey note. The sherry is slightly vegetal, with mushrooms before it evolves to raspberry jam, dates and prunes. A hint of earthy smoke in the background.
Mouth: medium fruity notes (oranges, apples), a burnt sugar note / toffee and a light smokiness. The sherry is quite winey and dry – a bit of extra sweetness would have been welcome. Quite some ginger and pepper. Fades away on exotic wood and mint.
Finish: medium long, fairly oaky, with some herbal tea and oranges.
Karuizawa 11yo ‘Spirit of Asama’ (55%, No°1 Drinks 2012, vatting)
Nose: essentially the same aromas, but the higher strength leaves a slightly more volcanic, spirity impression. It’s a little more closed but it also seems to block the mushrooms a little. Dried fruits again. Slightly more spices. Tobacco and leather too. Cigar boxes.
Mouth: more punch, more weight and more flavour altogether. First some fruits like raisins and figs. Then some chocolate. Ginger and cinnamon, and fruit cake. A little tobacco.
Finish: medium long, a classic orange / chocolate combination with spices.
This is a slightly thinner style of Karuizawa that holds the middle between older, more flavoursome Karuizawa and traditional sherried Scotch, say a cask-strength Glenfarclas or A’Bunadh. Both bottlings are slightly rubbery and mushroomy, but the 55% version gets away with it more easily and has more diverse and intense flavours to balance it.
The 46% Asama is € 60-75 in France and Sweden, we’ve heard the UK Spirit of Asama version will have a similar price tag. Given the relatively inviting price level it’s a correct introduction to the Karuizawa style in my opinion. Both should be available from The Whisky Exchange in the near future.