Friday, December 9, 2011

Support Fukushima by buying its whisky

Whisky fans in Japan wanting to do their bit for quake and nuclear accident-hit Fukushima prefecture could do worse than invest in a pure malt whisky from Sasanokawa distillery. Although Sasanokawa`s XXV Cherry Whisky is not new to the market, I think the cute barrel design is (see above).

Sasanokawa distillery is based in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture, which is inland from the main tsunami-hit areas and about 40 miles from the stricken Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant. Nevertheless, it did suffer significant damage in the March 11 quake including damage to a storage tank, warehouses, a chimney, plumbing and stocks (as these photographs show).

Sasanokawa and its Cherry Whisky brand have been consigned to the footnotes of the Japanese whisky story on Nonjatta. I have mentioned the distillery a couple of times, but never really spent much time on the subject (despite getting quite a few inquiries about them in comments and emails). That needs to be put right. Cherry Whisky is actually a significant name in the development of whisky culture in Japan. Sasanokawa is an old sake and shochu making house, dating back to 1765, but they started making whisky in 1946 and built themselves into quite a force in the postwar whisky market in northeast Japan, prevalent enough to rival Nikka or Suntory in the region. One of the firm`s more recent interventions, helping Ichiro Akuto to save stocks from the old Hanyu distillery and therefore enabling him to launch his Ichiro's Malt brand, was genuinely significant for preserving diversity in the Japanese whisky world.

The XXV brand was launched in the 1980s by Yamazakura, another company that was later bought by Sasanokawa. I think it commemorated the 25th anniversary of that company`s move to a new location in Asaka district. According to the Rakuten page I have linked to, it is made from 10 year aged malt made under the old regulations that used to divide Japanese whisky into grades. It may contain a considerable amount of imported malt. One reference I found was talking about a 6:4 ratio of imported whisky to the company`s own whisky and the designation of it as "pure malt" rather than single malt does imply more than one source. As usual with these Japanese "ji-whiskies" it is all a bit difficult to understand, but, anyway, it is 6,280 yen for 720 ml.

Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2011 No age statement

Review by Nonjatta contributor - Dramtastic:

Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2011 No age statement. 48 percent alcohol.
Nose: Dry sherry, oak, raisins, dark cherry chocolate, figs, Arnott's mint slice biscuits, leather, blackberry jam, bran, ginger.
Palate: Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, brown sugar, figs, brazil nuts, leather, a mix of dark jams, mint, dry sherry, bran, oak. Nicely punchy.
Finish: Medium length. An excellent balance of sweet and dry flavours.
General comment: A superbly crafted whisky.

`Spirit of Unity` raised £90,000

The Spirit of Unity whisky was released by a group of Scottish distillers to raise money for Japan earthquake relief. They have already raised £90,000 and hope to collect more next year with the release of boxed sets of the whisky containing bottles signed by the distillers involved (Arran, BenRiach, Bladnoch, GlenDronach, Mitchell’s Glengyle, Kilchoman and Springbank.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nikka Tsuru 17-year-old

Review by Nonjatta contributor - Dramtastic:

Nikka Tsuru 17-year-old. 43 percent alcohol.
Nose: Malty. Freshly baked apple pie, lemon meringue, cloves,  freshly cut timber, a little sherry, vanilla.
Palate: Again, nicely malty. Nutmeg, cloves, popcorn, apple pie with a white sugar dusted crust, vanilla custard, mango.
Finish: Short to medium and continuing the flavours from the palate and the freshly cut timber. A liquid desert."

Golden Horse 12-year-old

Review by Nonjatta contributor - Dramtastic:

Golden Horse (Toa Shuzo) 12-year-old. 50 percent alcohol.
Nose: Earthy peat, oak, soy sauce, oyster sauce, seaweed, sandalwood, malt, maple syrup. Lovely.
Palate: Sweet lemon, earthy peat, leather, oak, soy sauce, malt, dates, maple syrup on lightly burnt pancakes, marzipan, nougat
Finish: Medium with the flavours onthe palate. Ends with ashy dryness and gentle oak. Tasty.

Monday, December 5, 2011

1960s Suntory ads targeting young tipplers

These two ads from an old Suntory Red blended whisky campaign (found here) are new to me. Love the look.

 The ad above seemed to be aimed at the younger generation, but would perhaps not be possible nowadays, in these politically correct, health conscious times. The text on the tap just says "Suntory Red,"and the text between the bottle and the drinking man says: "All those youngsters who can drink water should be able to drink Red." The body text at the top right says: "Do you prepare yourself before drinking water. No you are not scared. You drink it in one swig. Take you red in like that! Red is just a little bit heavier than water but much much lighter than your usual whisky. Furthermore, water is tasteless, while Red's taste and flavour... Oh!"

 This ad is also aiming at the same younger generation. The top text says: "Announcing a brand new method to change the rainy season into sun!" The body text at bottom right says: "In the middle of the rainy season, the rain comes day after day. How depressing! How boring! Please put a massive block of ice in the middle of your glass and pour an ample amount of Red, which is currently in fashion. This way you will taste its original soft flavour most acutely. This one glass will make you very happy.". Soft whisky for young people, Suntory Red." Bottom, done during the rainy season. "We will introduce you a method to change rainy into sunny."

This extra one dates it for us: "Bye Bye 1966! The sky is rusty with smog, but look the sun is renewed again. Life's wonderful. Happy New Year! Cheers! Cheers! Cheers! Have a good time with your soft Red this year again." So, this campaign was from around 1966-1967. Love the smog detail. The skies round here are really clear now, but then again Japan isn't leading the world economy anymore either.

One thing that does leap out from these ads is the cost of the whisky. 500 yen for a bottle of Red in 1967! That is not that different from a bottle of Red now.