Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
2nd ‘Ghost’ release) and decided to run a lottery. People had one week to register – that was last week – and the lucky winners will be contacted from today. As someone said, tongue-in-cheek, “now you have to win the lottery in more than one sense to get a Karuizawa”.
On the nose, the initial impressions are: lamb kebab, old armagnac, pu-erh tea, chinsuko cookies, pretzels, molasses syrup and balsamic glaze. The nose really takes you on a trip: one moment you’re in an antique shop, the next moment you’re in the back of a classic Wolseley car… eating smoked salmon quiche (no, that’s not a figure of speech!) with the windows open while someone is driving you through an autumn forest after rain. It really is that suggestive… and narrative! You also get lovely earthy, vegetal notes (beetroot and burdock) and hints of maraschino cherries and Turkish delights. (You can make up your own story line here…) In the background, there’s some teriyaki sauce and a handful of porcinis. The sort of nose that only an old Karuizawa can deliver.
In the mouth, it’s really dynamic – and narrative, again (although the story lines on the palate are a bit different from those suggested by the nose). Following a short, savoury attack, you get a sweet phase (dried prunes, Rokkatei butter sandwiches and Caramella Mokatine, a classic coffee-flavoured caramel candy from Antwerp), followed by a lengthy sour development with loads of beautiful citrus notes (kabosu, yuzu, Seville oranges). A transition on fresh ginger leads to a phase in which slightly bitter notes are foregrounded: kale juice, goya, grapefruit peel… nothing excessive, though – all in good balance. You also get some pepper and spice (cloves, nutmeg, pink pepper, ...). The amazing thing about the palate is that the flavours morph across these phases so that, to give just one example, you get lemon meringue which then becomes yuzu tea which then transforms into candied grapefruit peel which is then dipped in dark chocolate spiced with cloves, nutmeg and red pepper flakes. And that’s just one line running through the palate… (I was tasting this while my son was watching a ‘Crayon Shin-chan’ movie on DVD and there was more happening in my glass than in the movie, which is quite a feat!) The finish is one long, gorgeous sour coda, lush and tingling with spices from the wood.
With water, the nose loses some of its complexity – you get more orangettes, candied lime peel, sour cherry pie and sultanas, but that’s at the expense of the savoury aromas and some of the secondary and tertiary notes. On the palate, it doesn’t swim all that well, either. Water messes up the interplay of flavours and emphasizes the bitter components a bit too much. This Karuizawa is at its best the way it is – no need for water.
The good folk at TWE have a knack for selecting phenomenal casks and this is no exception: a brilliant, multi-faceted Karuizawa from its “Golden Age”. If you manage to get your hands on a bottle of this, you really have won the lottery, in more than one sense. We’ll review some of the other Karuizawas bottled for TWE very soon. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed!