Saturday, June 29, 2013

Karuizawa Geisha 1976 for Taiwan

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo

Busy times at Nonjatta HQ, with loads of exciting things in the pipeline, but until we can tell you more about some of those, we thought we’d review an old, forgotten geisha. We’re talking about the series of Karuizawa bottlings for Taiwan, of course. This one is a 1976 butt bottled a few years ago (2010).

There aren’t too many Karuizawas from this vintage. In fact, we only know of one other bottling, the famous Hagoromo Noh bottling (#6719). Karuizawa completists may be tempted to point out there is a third 1976-bottling – true, but it’s from the same cask as the Geisha, bottled the same year (for Whisky Live Paris 2010) and at exactly the same strength but with a different label (the classic “Vintage” label, 60 bottles). Anyway, let’s not split hairs here…
Karuizawa 1976 / 2010, for Taiwan #7818, 63.6%abv, 554 bottles

OK, we won’t beat around the bush. The nose is phenomenal – so complex, lush and decadent (in the good sense of the word!), you could happily spend an entire evening with this, just nosing it. There’s walnut bread, prune juice, cigar boxes, balsamic-glazed lamb chops, peach compote, stewed berries and dried dates but also pear pie, honey roasted pecans and almonds, bales of dried hay, old leather bound books, far Breton, burdock soup and crushed pink peppercorns. There’s loads more but we’ll keep that for another evening.

On the palate, you get hints of bramble jam and dried dates enveloped by under-ripe grapefruit, yuzu peel, a bit of sudachi and a hint of royal jelly. It’s a tad oaky, to be honest, and not as enticing as the nose but if you add a few drops of water, things really change and remarkably so. Water – just a little bit, really – pushes sweeter elements to the fore (pureed berries, soft fruit candy, mango chutney, tinned pears), balancing the tart and bitter notes that dominate the liquid when tasted neat. Now it’s almost on a par with the nose.

The finish is very long and intense – on dates, dark chocolate and Guillermo (espresso with lime, a Nonjatta staple in the summer) – and the really nice thing about it is that, towards the end of its decrescendo, a lovely, subtle wisp of wood smoke emerges. What a beautiful send off…

Read more about Karuizawa Distillery here.

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