If one looks at the various whiskies bottled exclusively for the Taiwanese market over the last couple of years, a pattern starts to emerge that seems to indicate a preference for heavily-sherried whiskies and for old whiskies. I'm sure many whisky drinkers elsewhere in the world would self-apply such a preference, too. What makes Taiwan a little different is that a large segment of the whisky drinking population there actually has the means to put their money where their mouth is. And so, it should not come as a surprise that Karuizawa has been and continues to be a big hit over there. Over the next weeks, we'll review some Karuizawa single casks exclusively bottled for Taiwan and what better way than to start with these "young" beauties... and I'm talking about the ladies on the label here. They're part of a series of "geishas" lost in various types of reveries. What's not to like?
Karuizawa 1983 / 2012, cask #2656 [sherry butt], 57.6%abv, 589 bottles
Karuizawa 1981 / 2012, cask #2100 [sherry butt], 60.4%abv, 409 bottles
In my opinion, Karuizawa's golden age was the early 80s - i.e. the 1981 to 1984 vintages - and this bottling is a classic example of that style: heavy, thick and rich but never incoherent in all its abundance. On the nose, you get raisins, prunes, some fig jam, marzipan, old balsamic vinegar, new leather, but also rosemary, macademia nuts and a subtle smoked char (the fish, "iwana", that is) note. Given a bit of time in the glass, things will get a bit more nutty (beech nuts, cashews) and meaty (coppa, dried pork sausage). The palate is a lush feast of assorted dried fruits, stewed prunes and roast lamb - incredibly mouth-coating (it just won't leave - not that you'd want it to). The finish is really long and gives you this beautiful brown-sugar-and-balsamic dressing note and something akin to a smoking room "the morning after". Water gives it a bit more definition on the nose, but disturbs the coherence on the palate. Classic Karuizawa and certainly easier than the 1983, but sometimes "easy" is not what you want or need. Then again, sometimes it is...
In the second part of our mini-series on Karuizawas for Taiwan, we'll be looking at two specimens from the 1977 vintage. Watch this space.