Sunday, April 25, 2010

Has anybody ever tried this stuff?

Aioi Unibio in Aichi Prefecture

An obscure Japanese whisky called "Rainbow". I think I briefly mentioned its maker at the bottom of this post, but basically I know absolutely nothing about it except for some very basic information about its maker, Aioi Unibio Co. Ltd.. Has anyone tried it?

They are a general alcohol maker and they trace their history back to 1872. I think they have always been fairly strong in mirin (a sort of Japanese equivalent of sherry, often used for cooking but recently experiencing a rebirth as a quality drink), shochu and sake.

"General alcohol" makers are a distinct breed in the Japanese alcohol industry. I`m not sure how their business model works (or worked) but they seem to carry ranges of products that touch on just about every type of alcohol. Quite often, these makers will have a page of their websites entitled "Other stuff" featuring one or two whiskies alongside brandies, vodkas, neutral spirits etc.. Long-time Nonjatta readers will know that I am fascinated by this liminal Japanese whisky world but that I have never quite known what to make of it. I have called it "ji-whisky", by analogy with small local Japanese producers of beer and sake but, whereas "ji-biru" and "ji-sake" are associated in my mind with good quality, I am afraid I am not so confident of these "ji-whiskies".

I have never tasted Rainbow. It might be great. But I am skeptical.

Back to the facts:

English address: Aioi Unibio Co. Ltd.
5 Shimomachi, Maruyama, Nishio,
Aichi Prefecture
Japanese address: 〒445-0891 愛知県西尾市下町丸山5番地
Telephone: 0563-56-2101

Aioi Unibio (what a great name!) appear to make two types of whisky.

Their basic offering is the 37 per cent alcohol "Rainbow Whisky". That 37 alcohol percentage is a dead giveaway for a cheap Japanese blended whisky. It is lower than a standard Scotch but you will find many of the cheapest blends in Japan sit themselves exactly on that 37 per cent fence because the Japanese tax regime charges extra for every percentage point of alcohol by which that figure is exceeded. This blend retails for just under 1,000 yen a bottle, which is just a little bit more than brands like Nikka Black and Suntory's Torys. The ingredients on the bottle say it is made of "malt and spirits", which implies to me that it uses neutral alcohol rather than grain whisky, the accepted Scottish second ingredient.

The company's premium offering is "Rainbow Sanshu" at 40 per cent. It appears to retail at just under 4,000 yen a bottle, which is not cheap. You could get a decent single malt from an established maker for that kind of price. It says it is 12-years-old. This is also a blended whisky.


Because this distillery does not appear to make single malt whisky, I have not put it on Nonjatta's main single malt distillery map. However, I have started a new map, called "Other Japanese Distilleries", to which I will add a few more of these obscure blend makers as they come up.

View Other Japanese distilleries in a larger map

Photographs from the Aoi Uniboi website and this prefectural marketing website.

1 comment:

TOM said...

Rainbow whisky...rare (??) and cheap (less than 1,200 yen) ji-whisky found at my local liquor shop. Produced by UNIBIO in Aichi Pref. Drinking it right now. Taste? "Is this whisky or shochu?" that's how it tastes like to me. No depth, almost no nose (just plain 37% alcohol mixed with Tsukiji fishmarket odors), virtually no aftertaste except that of mugicha barley tea. Should have gotten a bottle of mugijochu instead![IMG][/IMG]