Friday, April 6, 2012

Ichiro's cigar spirit

Post by Nonjatta contributor Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.

This special bottling is a two-year old (distilled in 2009, bottled in the fall of 2011), so that doesn't make it a whisky quite yet (in Scotland, that is, but serious craft distillers in other countries seem to self-impose those regulations, too).

To get the facts and figures out of the way: it's a single-cask release (cask #461), bottled at 61.9% abv, limited to 332 individually numbered bottles and relatively reasonably priced at 6,825 yen (about 80 USD). Sceptics may be tempted to dismiss this as just another example of a malt bottled way too early by a new distillery strapped for cash. They would be wrong... very wrong. What makes this bottling interesting is the fact that it is a heavily peated malt matured in virgin oak (a new American oak hogshead).

The colour the spirit picked up from the wood in just two years is incredible... a beautiful dark mahogany. The nose is extraordinary with notes of banana fritters, macademia nuts, annin dofu (almond tofu), pencil shavings, old chapels and a hint of maraschino liqueur. The smoke/peat is relatively subdued even though this is supposed to be a "heavily peated" newborn. On the palate, the smoke comes out more and combines beautifully with the sweet (vanilla, marzipan, lychee, creamy nut toffee, ...) and woody flavours (pencil shavings, new plank, oak polish, ...) suggested by the nose.

With water, the peat is more pronounced without ever overshadowing the other notes, however. This is a stunning malt, and I'm convinced that it was bottled at absolutely the right time. A few years more and the wood could have disturbed the gentle balance of flavors--which goes to show one cannot get too hung up on received notions of age / maturity. It may not be a "whisky" and on paper it may seem very unlikely that a two-year old could pull this off, but in reality it is an amazing complex of aromas and flavours - and it feels just right.

Akuto-san suggests that "the fascinating taste goes well with a cigar". That may well be true (I'm not a smoker, so I wouldn't know), but this beauty doesn't need anything at all, save a few drops of water. You can spend hours with a dram of this, without every getting bored.

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