Thursday, December 20, 2012

Memories of Karuizawa 1999/2012

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.

Just when you thought there couldn't possibly be any more Japanese whisky to distract you from your year-end shopping, along comes this new release and what a stunner it is. It's the first in a new series of Karuizawa single casks for the Japanese market (but those of you living abroad, read on!), entitled "Memories of Karuizawa". It's a younger Karuizawa - a 1999 vintage, the year before the distillery stopped producing - aged for 13 years in a sherry butt (#879), and bottled at a cask-strength of 62.9% abv. It is incredibly dark so you would be forgiven for thinking this was one of those ex-sherry-cask whiskies on steroids ... that is, if you didn't know Karuizawa very well. If you did, you would know to always expect the unexpected, and this is no exception - or is that a contradiction in terms?
Anyway... one of the first things that struck me on the nose were notes of dry summer grass and heather. Immediately after, you get figs (like a "fig log") and Ehime mikan juice; then, mint, rosemary and a hint of porcini. If you give the whisky a few minutes in the glass, a wonderful stew of pears and apricots appears, and then a mild espresso note. If you're really patient - I know, it's a difficult concept - you get a couscous with loads of raisins and sliced almonds. It doesn't really need water, in my opinion, but if you do add a splash, you will find it tends to foreground the grassy notes for a little while, which is nice. The palate is rich, thick and meaty (pork ribs with a cranberry-whisk(e)y sauce, chicken mole, ...) but you also get notes of roasted marshmallow and kuromame (sweet black soy beans, one of the many Japanese dishes traditionally eaten on New Year's). The finish is long and lingering, leaving a lovely chocolate afterglow as it gently fades. Young (well, relatively young), sherried whisky just doesn't get any better than this: multi-dimensional, little surprises left and right, wonderfully balanced... what more can I say?

Oh yes, where to get it. Here things get a bit tricky. The official release date is Christmas Eve (if you haven't made any dining arrangements yet, just get a bottle of this - it's the best Christmas meal you can imagine, albeit in liquid form). Some shops in Japan have already started pre-selling. Googling is pointless - the handful of shops that have put them up for sale online already sold out their allocation in no time. So, you'll just have to wait and keep your eyes peeled. If you live abroad, I have some good news for you. In spite of the overwhelming domestic demand, Whisk-e has been so kind as to set aside a few bottles for die-hard Karuizawa fans abroad. These will go on sale on December 24th, from 6pm local time, limited to 1 bottle per customer (to make as many people happy as possible). Consider this tip to be our Christmas present to you: Memories of Karuizawa at Malt City.


Lucas said...

Thank You for Karuizawa Christmas present. I live in Poland and managed to buy this on Whisk-e. It would not be possible without prior information from Nonjatta. Karuizawas were sold out very quickly, after about 5 minutes everything was sold out. Can't wait for delivery.
Lucas, Poland.

Stefan said...

Thanks for your kind words, Lucas. Glad to hear you managed to get hold of a bottle. The interest from our readers abroad was overwhelming, and there were some technical issues, so you're one of the lucky few. However, we're working on something exclusive to please many more of our readers, so keep an eye out for an announcement on Nonjatta very soon. Thanks again.

Rogier said...

I myself was not able to buy it. I placed it in my basket at whisk-e, but then when I tried to pay after I typed a small note trying to explain that I do not live in the Nagano province (the site requires a Japanese province in the address data) I got the message that there wasn't enough stock for my one bottle.

It turns out on their website it's possible to buy an item even if it is already in someone else's basket. Very disappointing.

Stefan said...

Thanks for the feedback. I'm sure the people at Whisk-e will be looking into these issues. It was the first time, really, that the online shop was opened to customers abroad. They knew there would be a risk more people would be disappointed than pleased, but wanted to set aside a few cases of this Karuizawa anyway - a courageous move, believe me, because they could have sold the entire cask twice over in Japan alone! Please keep supporting them, because this is just the first step (hence the unforeseen trouble) in a much more ambitious plan to make Japanese whisky available - straight from the source - to serious whisky enthusiasts abroad. And, as I said, there's something in the pipeline exclusively for Nonjatta-readers! Thanks again for your support.