Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Yamazakura 16yo: a new expression for the European market

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo

In February 2016, French importer Les Whiskies du Monde will be releasing a new Japanese whisky specifically developed for the European market: Yamazakura 16.
The whisky is ‘produced’ by Sasanokawa Shuzo, a liquor company – mostly active in the sake and shochu field – based in Koriyama, Fukushima prefecture. They have been selling liquor since 1765, and entered the ‘ji-whisky’ field in 1946. Like most ‘whisky producers’ at the time, provenance of the liquid that went/goes into making the products is shrouded in mystery (spanning the spectrum from spirit imported in bulk from abroad and aged in Japan to actually making it from scratch). Sasanokawa may be known to Hanyu / Ichiro’s Malt fans of the first hour, since it was that company that helped Akuto-san with the practicalities of saving the stock from the old Hanyu distillery after its bankruptcy. Post-2004 and pre-Chichibu, the Hanyu stock was stored at the Sasanokawa warehouses and some of the first Ichiro’s Malt expressions were bottled there.

‘Yamazakura’ is a relatively new brand in the Sasanokawa portfolio – a high-end brand to complement their bottom-shelf whiskies destined for mixing. A few expressions are available in Japan (some of them at prices that are a bit steep, e.g. a 20yo single cask – again, provenance undisclosed – retails for over 30,000 yen), but this Yamazakura 16 will be exclusively available in Europe. It was aged for 16 years in ex-bourbon casks before being transferred to tanks for an undisclosed period of time, and then briefly returned to ex-bourbon casks to ‘wake up’ the spirit. It contains a relatively high proportion of grain whisky (80% corn, 20% malt) and is bottled at 40% (which may be the abv at which it was resting in the tanks). It’s limited to 1,992 bottles. Expected to retail for around 130 euro.

7 comments:

Marc Pendlebury said...

Does the name mean anything in Japanese? Sounds like Yamazaki and Karuizawa combined; which makes me think it is just an attempt to cash-in on the exploding popularity and prices for Japanese whiskies.

sandran said...

Japanese whisky is fast losing popularity of the ridiculous pricing. Also the NAS versions are poor in quality.

Powerlifter said...

Yamazakura means "mountain cherry blossom" or to botanists, "Cerasus jamasakura."

Japan Fan said...

I'm happy to hear about whisky from Japan with age.

Kavey said...

Have any of the Nonjatta team visited the distillery, by any chance? My husband and I are visiting Japan in April and wondering whether this might be an option. I really want to head to Ichiro's Malt but not sure we can swing that into our itinerary. This may be possible from Hakone...
Kavita
(kaveyf@gmail.com)

Stefan Van Eycken said...

Hi Kavey, it's not really a 'distillery' - it's more like a NDP in the world of bourbon (non-distilling producer). So there's nothing to visit there...

MooreT said...

Very nice! Look up everybody wondering whether this might be an option. I really want to head to Ichiro's Malt but not sure we can swing that into our itinerary.Current Events About Health