Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
1st and the 2nd, so we thought it was high time we tried the 3rd and the 4th.
There’s more than just family resemblance here. The 3rd and 4th release are eerily similar – the whisky equivalent of identical twins – but that’s one of the things that makes this series so interesting, the fact that one has to adapt to smaller dimensions (a bit like Alice in Wonderland) to find the characteristics that set the releases apart and give them individuality. On the nose, the 4th release is a bit more immediately attractive. Compared with its twin, you get more sultana raisins, strawberry sauce and overripe peaches here, as well as slight hints of smoke (humidor, smoked mackerel) and wood polish. It’s a bit rounder and smoother – sexier – than the 3rd release. There, you get a bit more of the character of the spirit, hints of pommeau and young-ish armagnac, and a more sour dimension. The strange thing about these two releases is that – if you give them time in the glass (say 15 minutes) – they sort of settle and become almost indistinguishable again, as if their breathing time increases your distance from the whiskies and, in doing so, similarities are emphasized again.
On the palate, the 3rd release is more savoury and slightly more earthy than the 4th, which is a bit sweeter and fruitier. With the former – in addition to blueberry jam, figs and some tiny vegetal notes – you also get candied ginger and a drizzle of sudachi (a Japanese citrus fruit). That’s the sour dimension hinted at by the nose and it really works well in this context. The 4th release stays safely in sweeter territories (prune juice, rum-raisin cake, mince pies), which is nice and makes for an easy drinking experience.
We’re big fans of this Cask-Strength series for Taiwan and hope there are more to come in the near future. These affordable Karuizawas are clearly aimed at the drinker rather than the collector, and that’s to be applauded. They’re exclusive to the Taiwan market, but they’ve also started appearing on auction sites in Europe, so if you get the chance grab a bottle or two (different releases), open them and you’re in Wonderland… just like Alice.
Read more about Karuizawa Distillery here.