Friday, March 30, 2012

Miyagikyo single cask seminar at Blender`s Bar

The Nikka Blender`s Bar will host a tasting seminar for the 1990 single cask Miyagikyo at 7pm on April 13, 2012. 3,000 yen admission. Japanese language ability will probably be necessary to make the most of it.

Coffey Sonic

Post by Nonjatta contributor Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.

Nikka is one of the big players in the drinks industry here. I, for one, am very fond of most of the things they put out, their single cask releases in particular--while these have made quite a name for themselves abroad (mostly because of Nikka's ambassador/distributor in Europe, La Maison du Whisky), they kind of quietly come and go here in Japan.

There's not a big fuss on the net, and that's got just to do with the fact that they are only available through the Asahi webshop. I usually make sure I get hold of a couple of bottles before they go, because they are, without exception, superb... in my experience, at least. They've also got quite a variety in their single cask range: there's the two distilleries, of course (Yoichi and Miyagikyo); they have a wide variety of peat-levels (from unpeated to highly peated) and cask types, but one of the interesting things about these releases is that they also, from time to time, include a Coffey grain or Coffey malt single cask. (For those not familiar with the Coffey still... google's your best friend.)

To get to the point, Nikka have got their own bar in Tokyo, the Blender's Bar in Minami-Aoyama. I avoid it as the plague far various reasons: it's a pain to get to when you live on the Chuo-line (as I do) and it's rather expensive (yes, here we go again...). Those are minor points, but what really gets on my nerves is the snobbishness and aloof "dignity" masquerading a profound incompetence and lack of knowledge on the part of most of the staff. Anyway, that's just my perception so don't be deterred and go check it out for yourself. Occasionally, I make my way to the Blender's Bar for special events (tastings, blending "seminars", etc.) and I must say, with a bit of practice, it is possible to block out the surroundings and enjoy the liquid marvels on offer there.

On my last visit, I noticed something of interest on the menu - a new concoction called the "Coffey Sonic" (sounds a bit like a Britpop band name, now doesn't it). I just had to find out. Well, it's a highball of sorts with a Coffey single grain base (and a twist of lime). Sceptics might think: "What's the point of wasting grain whisky that's good enough to be bottled as a single cask on a highball?" I say, "Get out your cloak of invisibility, head on over to the Blender's Bar and order one... You'll see."

It's absolutely phenomenal!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ocean's early years (Part I) - Daikoku Budoshu and the birth of the brand

Intro: The delightfully lewd world of Ocean whisky // Map: Charting the Ocean tradition // The early years (Part I) // The early years (Part II) // Sanraku Ocean // Death and the afterlife

Way back in July 2010, I started a series of posts about the Ocean whisky lineage. This is the third part of that series and deals with the top-left tributary illustrated in the graphic above: the Daikoku Budoshu/Ocean story from the early Meiji period to 1960. It is a pretty difficult history to try to follow but the author of the Japanese-language Malt Whisky Blog has done a fantastic job of untying the knots and it is definitely worth looking into. The post below reveals a long-lost malt distillery called Shiojiri in Nagano and deals with the start of distilling at Karuizawa. I hope it will be of some interest.

This part of the Ocean story has its source in the late 1870s, with the founding of one of the pioneering wineries of the early Meiji Period, the Kaitakushi Budo Jozojo in Sapporo. That name is quite significant in the early history of Japanese wine, but we can skip ahead to the early 1920s, by which time a successor firm was controlled by Kotaro Miyazaki (the first), was selling products under the “Daikoku ten” brand (since 1892), and had started to experiment with whisky production.

The first whisky we know to be connected to the company was called “K.M. Sweet Home Whisky” and came out in 1922. According to the company’s publicity, the then Crown Prince Hirohito suggested, while visiting the Yamanashi distillery, that it would be a good idea to make a port wine. A port wine, a champagne and a whisky were distributed on the back of the suggestion. The “K.M” brand may have been based on Miyazaki’s initials.

In 1934, the firm officially changed its name to “Daikoku Budoshu.” It was still basically a wine firm, with brandy and fortified wines in its catalogue but no whisky in that year. Miyazaki has a central place in the popularizing of wine in Japan (that you can read a little about it in “Drinking Japan,” if you want) and was strident in his championing of the benefits of fruit rather than grain-based alcohol. In 1935, he wrote a column in a newspaper: “The ingredients for alcohol should never be the rice and grains that are our people’s daily food. I am not saying sake is wrong or beer is wrong, but what country would waste the nation’s staple for anything other than eating... I hope you understand the national benefit of using fruit alcohol instead of grain and support us in our humble business.”

The push into whisky came after WWII, when the firm was controlled by Miyazaki’s grandson (through his first daughter), also called Kotaro Miyazaki. I will call him Miyazaki Jr.. He took over the firm in 1947, when the older Miyazaki died and it was under his stewardship that Daikoku Budoshu began to establish itself as a significant producer of whisky.

Changing regulations
In the late 1940s, set pricing of western-style spirits was abolished and, in 1953, a three-level classification system for whisky was introduced (“special” 1st class whisky, 2nd class, and 3rd class). The effect of the changes was to very significantly cut the tax on cheap blends, effectively democratising what was to become the iconic drink of post-war Japan but also putting back the cause of quality whisky by about half a century. The father of Japanee whisky, Masataka Taketsuru, was a vocal critic. The changes also abolished a regulation insisting on three years maturation for whisky. Japan has still not reinstated that legal requirement, although the big companies abide by the Scottish 3-year rule.
In 1946, amid the chaos of post-war Japan, Daikoku Budoshu released its first “Ocean whisky.” It was competing in an extremely crowded market, with more than 30 whisky brands fighting for market share, but production expertise and equipment was thin on the ground. Few companies could actually make their own malt whisky and many of the cheap, 3rd-class whiskies that emerged in the 1950s actually had little malt in them at all.

Ocean was initially produced from Daikoku Budoshu’s site at Shimo Ochiai in Shinjuku, Tokyo, and it is unclear what exactly was in those first bottles. By the early 1950s, however, Miyazaki Jr. had developed a strategy of marketing cheap, mass-market whisky with a good amount of proper malt in it. At first, Ocean whisky was using malt bought from Nikka Whisky’s distillery at Yoichi, Hokkaido, as well as malt from other makers like the Takara, Tokyo and Toyo distilling companies. However, in 1952, Daikoku Budoshu started trying to produce its own malt whisky at its Shiojiri site in Nagano prefecture. Shiojiri, one of Japan’s lost distilleries (I have never seen any whisky containing its malt on the modern market), continued operating until 1955.

Akira Sekine, who worked at there from its first year, has left a candid account of the firm’s struggles to get its production going. The first problem was getting a government licence to produce whisky. Although Shiojiri could produce brandy and wine, it did not have the documentation to produce whisky, and the authorities were extremely restrictive about granting new permissions. It was only after a major lobbying effort that the go-ahead was given in 1952.

There was only one pot still and Sekine said the initial spirit produced was not, in his opinion, worth maturing. There were a series of further technical problems: the well on which the distillery was relying for water ran out and a new, deeper one had to be dug. However, the water from that deep did not work well with the yeast they were using, forcing Shiojiri to start filtering the water before use. In the end, only about 250 kiloliters of 65 percent abv spirit were ever produced at Shiojiri. Sekine said its spirit was never satisfactory, but that it was used in Ocean’s blends.

Ocean whisky moved to Karuizawa distillery in 1955-56 after a lobbying campaign by Sekine and some colleagues, who felt Shiojiri was not suitable for whisky making. The Karuizawa site, also in Nagano,  had been used for grape cultivation since 1939 and Sekine was familiar with it because of his additional duties as a winemaker. Tests suggested that the mountain water there was ideally suited for whisky production and the spaciousness of the site made a move feasible. At first, there was no response to the proposal from the management, but Sekine and two colleagues then went directly to the firm’s top bosses and managed to push their idea through. The new Karuizawa distillery had four pot stills (2-5 to 4 kl) and did not start producing spirit until mid-February 1956, although there had been experimental production on the site before that.

The next part of the jigsaw fell into place in 1958, when Ocean at last started to be able to source enough malted barley to sustain a substantial whisky output. Before 1958, the importing of malted barley was banned. Japan had a significant malting industry, with major maltsters including Nihon Bakuga Kabushiki Gaisha and Jinda Seibaku Gaisha, and some of the established whisky companies also did their own malting.

Ocean had problems getting enough malt to feed its stills because, as a relative newcomer to the whisky market,  its domestic supply networks were weaker than the other makers and its in-house malting expertise was nascent. It was trying to develop its that malting capacity, while relying on the big maltsters to keep it going, when new regulations in 1958 suddenly opened the door to importing malted barley. The initial reform tied the amount a firm could import the the quantity of domestic barley it also bought (more domestic barley, more imports). Karuizawa could therefore significantly boost production, with about 50 percent of its malt coming from abroad. Later, with the decline of domestic malt production, almost all of the malt for Karuizawa, and indeed all Japanese whisky distillers, began to be sourced abroad. (It still is.) By 1960, Karuizawa was producing a steady supply of high-quality malt whisky.

Which brings us to the end of this first part of the Ocean story, except to mention that very soon I think Japanese whisky fans will being tempted by some Karuizawa 52-year-old whisky. By my calculations, that dates it to about 1960, exactly the point we have reached in the Ocean narrative. Someone in the know has told me the whisky in that bottling, which is due to be released very soon, is superb.

Karuizawa distillery in winter


The comprehensive research published in Japanese by the author of Malt Whisky Blog is the main source for this post, as well as the Akira Sekine accounts referred to in that research.

"Carving out a niche (Karuizawa)" by Dave Broom in Whisky Magazine, Issue 51, October 2005, confirmed the history of Karuizawa as a winery.

Yoshiba Katsuo, Budoshu to Wain no Hakubutsukan (Kankando, 1983), p. 151, is the source for the Miyazaki quote about the strategic advantages of fruit alcohol. My book, Drinking Japan, talks about Miyazaki's place in wine history.

I created the river graphic. The image of Karuizawa in snow was taken from the distillery's promotional material.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Toasted Oak (Yamazaki) Matured Plum Liqueur

Post by Nonjatta contributor Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.

A couple of days ago, I had some time to kill in Shinjuku so I headed to the Kabukicho branch of Shinanoya. There, quietly sitting among bottles of Japanese whisky, I spotted an interesting Suntory release I hadn't been aware of. It's not a whisky but an umeshu (a plum liqueur, very popular in the summer here in Japan) but what makes it interesting is that it was matured in toasted oak casks that previously held Yamazaki whisky.

Some of you may remember that in 2008, Suntory released a Yamazaki whisky finished in umeshu casks (Yamazaki Plum Liqueur Finish, limited to 3,000 bottles exclusive to the bar trade). I managed to pick up a couple of bottles at the time and was very impressed with it: it was like an edgier version of the Yamazaki 12yo... the tartness of the umeshu piercing through, especially with water. I never understood why Suntory hasn't released more of it since then, especially since this was a uniquely Japanese whisky in a way.

Apparently, however, someone at Suntory had the brilliant idea to do an inverse experiment and put umeshu in ex-whisky casks. The umeshu itself was made at the Yamazaki distillery, using 100% Japanese plums, without any added colourings or additives of any kind. It is very inexpensive (what a relief!) - you can find it for a little over a 1,000 yen (about 14 USD)--and it comes in a lovely black 660ml bottle (14% abv). I tried it neat, with water, and with ice and I must say, it is impossible to detect any whisky elements. That being said, the taste profile is distinctly different when compared with other (standard) umeshus: it's much less syrupy and sweet, and much drier. I've never been a big fan of umeshu (I always felt it to be like swallowing a sweet shop, coating your mouth for hours afterwards with that sticky sweetness), but this is something else altogether. This is what Japanese advertisers would call "otona no umeshu" (adults` umeshu). I can easily see this becoming a staple of the hot summer to come at my place!

Ichiro`s Blends

Post by Nonjatta contributor Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.

In general, releasing blends is not really an option for the small craft distiller in Japan (for that you would have to distill your own grain whisky, which is what the major players in the business do, of course), so when Ichiro Akuto (of Chichibu Distillery) discovered some old casks of Kawasaki grain whisky a new avenue of enterprise opened up: the small batch craft distiller blend. Today, we'll focus on three fairly recent customer-exclusive blends created by Ichiro Akuto.

The first was released in the fall of last year to celebrate the 180th anniversary of the department store chain Takashimaya under the Ichiro's Malt & Grain banner. It was bottled at a strength of 48 percent abv in a limited run of 500 numbered bottles. When it was first released, the label (both on the bottle and on the gift box) had a spelling mistake in it ("exclusivery") - someone must have spotted this, because about a month after it had first appeared in Takashimaya, the mistake had been corrected. (I wonder if they actually had to relabel all of the bottles!) 

So, anyway, for the whisky completeists out there, there are two slightly different labels. There's no real information about what went into this blend, but the possibilities are limited, of course: Hanyu malt whisky, very young (i.e. 3 year-old) Chichibu malt whisky (or younger spirit, because the SWA regulations don't apply here in Japan, of course) and Kawasaki grain whisky. 

I had the chance to sample it on different occasions--my impression was that there must be a high proportion of grain in it, with a topping of malt (some stewed fruits coming through); that, or the grain simply has more character (is presumably older) than the malt used. It's a pleasant enough malt, but unfortunately it's a bit pricey (10,500 yen or 130 USD). I really feel the business of pricing whiskies here in Japan is a bit "bottakuri" (ぼったくり) --there just doesn't seem to be any logic to it, other than the logic of making everything an exclusive, limited edition so that you can slap on whatever price you want. 

The second Ichiro's Malt & Grain we'll focus on today is not explicitly customer-exclusive, but I've only seen it at the Isetan department store in Osaka, so it may well be. It seems to be a posh variation of the standard white-label Ichiro's Malt & Grain (which you can buy for about 3,000 yen, which is very reasonable indeed).

The Isetan version sports an elegant washi  (Japanese paper) label, is bottled at 48 percent abv as well, but limited to 300 bottles (not numbered). The price is the same as the Takashimaya blend, so maybe that's the standard price for a department store blend (Read: the percentage of profit that they add). I couldn't bring myself to buy a bottle without trying it first, which was not possible at the Namba Isetan branch, so if anyone has tried this... let us know what you think.

The last blend today also seems to be an Isetan exclusive--it's still available at the Shinjuku branch. This one is a little different--in fact, it's what used to be called a "vatted malt". Akuto-san called this creation "ku-zen-zetsu-go" which roughly translates as "the first and probably the last". The label says it is a vatting of Scotch and Japanese whiskies (doesn't say whether that includes grain, but presumably not) that was married and finished in a Pedro Ximenez sherry cask.

Again, I tasted it on several occasions and my impression was that it was rather bland and uninspiring - it must have been a pretty tired sherry cask because I found the influence of the cask to be minimal. It was bottled at 50 percent abv (not numbered, outturn not stated) and sells for ... can you guess? Right: 10,500 yen. It's also available in a small 200-ml bottle for 3,900 yen.

I also wonder whether this was in fact "the first"... some of you may remember the "Uniting Nations" blend that Akuto-san put out in 2008 to celebrate the UK-Japan year which was a vatting of Scotch and Japanese whiskies (first edition: about 900 bottles; second edition the year after: about a 1000 bottles). These were also finished for about 5 months in Pedro Ximenez casks and bottled at 50 percent abv... so I would take the ku-zen-zetsu-go with a pinch of salt. To be fair, maybe something in the process was different.

I'm big fan of Akuto-san's work but the blends haven't really convinced me yet. I understand he is running a business, but I'd be happier if they were priced a little (well, let's be honest... a lot) more reasonably. Then, we might get the chance to buy them more regularly! As it is, I feel this strategy of making everything "exclusive"/"limited" in the interest of a higher profit margin might backfire when it comes to blends. We'll see...

Seijo Ishii Mars Single Cask


Post by Nonjatta contributor Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub

Many enthusiasts of Japanese whisky will know that Mars (Shinshu) distillery started distilling again in the early spring of last year after a hiatus of almost 20 years (they stopped distilling in 1992).

Mars occasionally puts out some interesting single cask releases from the days before they stopped. These are available through the distillery's online shop and from the better liquor shops in Japan. They very rarely bottle single casks exclusively for retailers--I know of only two cases--but a third exclusive bottling has been available for a few months now.

It was bottled for the posh supermarket chain Seijo Ishii from an American white oak ex-sherry butt (cask #902), distilled in February 1990 and bottled in November 2011 at a whopping strength of 64.7% abv. Bottles are individually numbered - the out turn was 425 or 430 bottles (depending on whether you believe the numbering on the bottles or the information on the promotional materials displayed at the supermarket).

As usual, they're a bit on the expensive side (16,900 yen or about 200 dollars for a 21-year-old). Mars single casks can be a bit hit-or-miss, and I haven't been able to sample it yet, so the jury is still out as to whether the liquid justifies the steep price tag.

A new whisky blog and a massive boost for Nonjatta

I am really pleased to announce that Stefan, a multi-talented fellow Tokyo resident, is getting into whisky blogging and has agreed to join the Nonjatta team. Stefan--who among other accomplishments is a composer, teacher and whisky enthusiast--has just set up Tokyo Whisky Hub about the Tokyo whisky scene and will be cross-posting on Nonjatta any entries that are relevant to Japanese whisky.

Take a look around Tokyo Whisky Hub. It is already a fascinating read and promises to fill a hole in the blogosphere that is rapidly developing around Japan`s drinking scene. The Tokyo whisky scene is an almost limitless subject.

Stefan explains his vision for the site:

"Although my first three posts are about Japanese whisky, my aim is to write not only about Japanese whisky, but about the Japanese whisky scene at large (i.e. special bottlings - mostly Scotch whisky, of course - for the Japanese market; events that aren't advertised in English (again, not necessarily only events to do with Japanese whisky, but any whisky)."

Personally, it is really morale-boosting for me to have a fellow enthusiast lending their arm to the oar.  Judging by Stefan`s writing, his posts are going to be required reading.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

French artisans experiment with Japanese whisky

La Maison du Whisky in Paris, which handles Nikka`s exports and just won the "whisky retailer of the year multiple outlet" prize at the World Whiskies Awards, has been working with a select group of French artisans to see what can be done with a drop of Japanese whisky and a barrel of inspiration.

The chocolatier Jacques Genin, butcher Yves-Marie Le Bourdennec and baker Christophe Vasseur took part in the project and some of the results are mouthwatering. The bread, in particular, seemed a great idea. I quite fancy having a go at that myself.

Nikka Lamb injected with whisky


Whisky bread

Friday, March 23, 2012

Yamazaki 25 wins at World Whiskies Awards 2012

Suntory's Yamazaki distillery won the Best Single Malt Whisky prize at the World Whiskies Awards in London last night, while Nikka whisky's Taketsuru 17-year-old won the Best Blended Whisky award.

These double scoops of both the single malt and blended categories are getting to be a bit of a habit for Japanese whisky. They did it in 2008 and 2011.

It was the second year in a row that the Yamazaki distillery won the single malt prize, after its superb Yamazaki 1984 won last year, and it is the fourth year in a row that Nikka have won the blended whisky prize. The Yamazaki 25 also won the best Japanese whisky category this year.

For more details of the competition visit the Whisky Magazine site. There are many drinks prizes and I don't follow all of them very closely, but I do always wait for the World Whiskies Awards, partly because of their historical significance for the Japanese whisky industry. It was a forerunner of this competition, run in Whisky Magazine, which turned heads in 2001 by naming a Japanese whisky the best in the world. That has now become almost routine.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chichibu releases own floor-malted whisky

New "The Floor Malted" bottling from Ichiro Akuto at Chichibu.

In 2008, when Chichibu was just getting started, Akuto went over to Britain and personally did his own floor malting at a British maltster. There is a photo of him doing it on this Japanese site. This bottling is made entirely from that malt and has been aged for three years in Chichibu's traditional dunnage warehouse. It is 50.5 percent alcohol and there are a fair number of bottles (8,800) but I have learned from Nonjatta readers more experienced in these matters than I that that does not necessarily mean it will be easy to get hold of. It is expected to hit the shelves on about March 26 for about 9,000 yen (100 dollars). Chichibu is describing it as being soft on the palate with sweet and bitter chocolate notes and citrus fruit, orange peel, ginger and herbs in the nose.

The reason why this bottling is more than just a gimmick is that it is concrete evidence of the acquisition of skills by Chichibu that will be necessary to deliver on Akuto's stated aim of developing Chichibu's own malting operation. As it stands, almost all Japanese whisky is made from barley grown and malted abroad. This is not particularly unusual. There has long been an international trade in malted barley and, even at the time Masataka Taketsuru visited Scotland in 1919, much Scottish whisky was actually made from barley malted in England. But it would definitely be an tremendously exciting step if Japanese whisky made from Japanese barley malted in Japan were to make an appearance.

Update 23.3.2012: The Whisky Wall also has a post up about this which describes the casks used in more detail.

The photograph was provided by Liquors Hasegawa.

Another 1 million yen whisky


What do you get when you combine a "living national treasure" and 35-year-old whisky? A bill for 1,000,000 yen (about $12,000).

Nicholas Coldicott (Twitter) alerted us to an article in the Asahi Shimbun about another of Suntory`s high-end flights of fancy: 35-year-old Hibiki blended whisky sold in Kakiemon pottery made by the 14th Sakaida Kakiemon (the previously mentioned national treasure; this Wikipedia article has information about the start of that line).

The bottle depicts azaleas on a textured, milky white finish and contains whisky ranging in age from 35-46 years (46 per cent alcohol). There are only 150 bottles and they are going for 1,000,000 apiece, but the article says Suntory expect to be sold out within the week.

Suntory have a tradition of putting their best whisky in the best of bottles. There are big displays of similar past bottlings at the Yamazaki distillery (here is a press release for a 2002 release, also priced at 1,000,000 yen.)

For more information on the Kakiemon bottling, see the Suntory press release. The Asahi article says the whisky has fruity, honeyed and vanilla characteristics.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Red can make you a whale! A really grand whale!"

V. Valenti has posted loads of vintage Japanese ads on flickr and few are more fascinating than the 1960s Suntory Red adverts that I posted about in December. With Vinnie's permission I have translated the copy of some more of the adverts.  The Japanese used often seems to have purposefully odd syntax and the vocabulary can be weird, too. These are very rough translations. So, if anybody spots a mistake in the translations given here, please just chip in.

There are some classic lines in some of these ads and many could certainly not be written now:  "Red can make you a whale! A really grand whale! Drink like a whale. To be able to drink a lot just like a whale! The art of manhood! In the past, that art required prolonged periods of samurai training. It is all so easy now. Ultra soft Red is here!

Anyway, I have put the English version below each ad. First, the ad above.
"Red will open any mouth. Those young people who are not left handed [Nonjatta note: this is a reference to slang for drinkers], i.e. those young people who cannot drink, are most unfortunate.
Drinking and getting drunk, mumbling 'Tomorrow is yet another day,' is part of the wisdom of life. But Red can be drunk by anyone. Even those unintiated will find it platable. Well, it is, after all, ultra soft."

Image provided by V. Valenti

Text above says: "Spring sleep never knows dawn? [Nonjatta note: this is a quotation from the Chinese poet Meng Haoran.] It is difficult to wake up the morning after drinking plenty because of the alcohol still in your body. It is not like that with Red because it is full of good malt! Only Red will make you want to drink again the morning after drinking a lot."

Image provided by V. Valenti

Text above says: "Night in the middle of winter. What is your right hand doing? Of course, it is holding a glass of Red. This is how it should be. Why...? Under the lamp light, drinking Red on sharp ice near the fire; this is the best winter pleasure. First, a glass in one gulp. Ultra soft. You will nod and pour the second, and drink that in one go. Ultra soft. Now, the third."

Image provided by V. Valenti

Text above says: "Electric light is not the only thing that makes the night bright. Red also makes night bright, particularly those for young people. Red, to be precise, is the soft whisky for youth: shiny individuality, so modern! Not heavy. Not strong. For those new to whisky, you can drink it without difficulty. Red certainly offers you a happy evening."

Image provided by V. Valenti

Text above says: "Red can make you a whale! A really grand whale! Drink like a whale. To be able to drink a lot just like a whale! The art of manhood! In the past, that art required prolonged periods of samurai training. It is all so easy now. Ultra soft Red is here! Even those who are new to whisky can drink Red easily. Without wasting time you can quickly become a grand whale."

Image provided by V. Valenti

The text above says: "Go! Go! Right under the sun. Go, Go Red! Summer has come. The summer we have been looking foward to. The vacation requires a bottle of red. This one bottle largely defines your vacation. Soak up the sun, run, fly, jump, dance and, then, Red. Songs will trip from your lips...! Summer is for young people. Play, play, drink and drink."

Image provided by V. Valenti

Text above says: "Night at the beach. Red will sing loudly for you! Summer for the youth means the sea. The cymbal of sun will be ringing on their foreheads. Swim! Breastsroke, crawl, butterfly! Sand will shine while biting the ankles. Dance! Monkey! Go! Go! Surfing. But the climax of the day is not here yet. It will come only when you take a sip of Red with the stars as a side dish. The moment that soft taste runs over your palate you will feel sudden doubling of joy."

Image provided by V. Valenti

Text above says: "Snow? Fall as you like, if you want. Only kids and dogs are happy with snow. The best seat during winter is right next to your stove, and it becomes a first class seat if you have Red. Let's sip it slowly in front of a warm fire ... ever so slowly. Body and soul melt into spring. Red gives the softest drinking experience. Soft whisky."

Image provided by V. Valenti

Text above says: "Drink? Or drunk? You drink thuggish whisky. You lose your memory. How shameful. Hangover? What suffering! But Red is nice to you. It entices you with lightest of light tastes, and you can drink glass after glass. You will not find yourself drunk. The secret is pure spirit...!"

Image provided by V. Valenti

The text above says: "The hometown of Red is Main Street, Top of the Cloud! [Nonjatta note: It actually says 1st district, 1st sub-division, Top of the cloud, but it basically means an address on the cloud] Cloud. The softest place in it. Red was born there?! No way! It is not true, but that's what comes to mind when you drink Red. That's what the ultra soft taste does to you. There is only one whisky which will remind you of a cloud: Red."

Image provided by V. Valenti

Text above says: "New Release! Red Double size! Twice as much and twice as much spirit form the still, but only 900 yen! Oh my! What a surprise! Your old friend Red's double size is coming out! Twice as much and twice as much spirit from the still. The price is not double but 10 per cent off: 900 yen. A bottle comes with a special Red bag, which is handy to carry the bottle around."

Monday, March 12, 2012

Gourmand Awards at the Folies Bergere, Paris

"Drinking Japan," written by Nonjatta's Chris Bunting, was the second best wine tourism book published in 2011 according to the judges of the Gourmand Awards, a global food book prize in which about 8,000 books are entered every year.

The book is is a general guide to Japanese drinking culture, rather than specifically a wine book, but I think the judges at the Gourmand Awards interpret "wine" quite broadly. It covers sake, shochu, awamori, beer, wine, and Japanese whisky, giving details of the history and current culture of those drinks and recommendations on places to enjoy them in dedicated chapters.

The winner of the wine tourism prize was "Turismo del Vino" by F. Xavier Medina. "Drinking Japan" won the Japan category.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Hakushu Single Malt Whisky Sherry Cask 2012


Review by Nonjatta contributor - Dramtastic:

The Hakushu Single Malt Whisky Sherry Cask 2012. 48% ABV.
Nose: Top note is classic Hakushu, fresh and clean, a walk through the forest of the Japanese Alps; dry sherry, Valencia oranges, new leather seats, fresh mint, sweet tobacco, well-steeped tea, stewed prunes and a little vanilla.
Palate: Leads with a big combo of hot and sweet spices. Peanut brittle, dry sherry, strawberry, cloves, earth, chocolate, fig jam, mushrooms. Water brings out toffee, nougat, cherry and enhances the strawberry.
Finish: Medium on forest earthyness, mushrooms, dry sherry, strawberries, toffee, fig jam, peanut butter, fresh lawn clippings, tobacco leaf, drying.

Whisky Round Table on new spirit

The Edinburgh whisky blog is hosting this month's Whisky Round Table, to which Nonjatta contributes. This month's discussion is about new spirit bottlings.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Karuizawa Tsutagura Spring/Summer Aged 16 Years

Review by Nonjatta contributor - Dramtastic:

"Karuizawa Tsutagura Spring/Summer Aged 16 Years. 40 per cent alcohol.
Nose: Pears, green apples, lemon, honeydew melon.
Palate: White Pepper, pears, honeydew melon, blueberries, honey.
Finish: Short with crisp fruity flavours and a little chocolate and peanut oil. An aperitif.

Karuizawa Old Square Bottle 12-year-old

Review by Nonjatta contributor - Dramtastic:

"Karuizawa Old Square Bottle 12-year-old. 40 per cent alcohol.
Nose: Pine, malt, mint, coconut, salt, light oak.
Palate: Malt, toffee, mint chocolate, fresh oak, oily and lots of nougat.
Finish: Short and adds nothing different to the palate. Balanced between sweetness and dry woodyness. Simple but tasty.

Karuizawa Vintage 1990 11-year-old #7408

Review by Nonjatta contributor - Dramtastic:

Karuizawa Vintage 1990 11-year-old #7408. 57 per cent alcohol.
Nose: Oak, varnish, pine, grapefruit, butter, coconut.
Palate: Lots of coconut, toffee, almonds, dry oak, cinnamon, bran. Springbanky!
Water enhances the coconut and toffee and adds spearmint.
Finish: Medium with the flavours of the palate and a little grassy. Well balanced. I really enjoy non sherried/lightly sherried Karuizawa.

Karuizawa Vintage 1998 12-year-old #347

Review by Nonjatta contributor - Dramtastic:

"Karuizawa Vintage 1998 12YO #347. 64.2 percent alcohol.
Nose: Blood oranges, lemon, dates, oats, sherry, dry oak, grapefruit, mustard.
Palate: Brutal without water. Raisins, currants, freshly cut timber, oak, nutmeg, nougat, pepper, grapefruit, pikelets.
Finish: Medium on toffee, pikelets, nougat, grapefruit, raisins, coconut and oak.

Karuizawa Vintage 1999 11-year-old

Review by Nonjatta contributor - Dramtastic:

"Karuizawa Vintage 1999 11YO #867. 61.4 per cent alcohol.
Nose: Rich sherry, banana, caramel, butter menthols, brown sugar, wood stain, oak, apricot. Some struck matches.
Palate: Huge hot spices, mixed peel, oak, cocoa, struck matches. Water adds coconut, nougat and ginger.
Finish: Mint chocolate, mixed peel, toffee, tangerine, ginger, struck match, apricot.
General Comment: Bottled on the 6th of september 2011, this may well be the last official bottling from the distillery. Amazing colour for an 11-year-old.