Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Karuizawa 1960 vs. Yamazaki 1960

Post by Aaron Chan, Hong Kong

A few days ago, a group of 12 whisky enthusiasts (5 from Singapore, 5 from Taiwan and 2 from Hong Kong) gathered at The Auld Alliance in Singapore for a very special tasting event: a head-to-head between the two oldest and rarest Japanese whiskies, both distilled in 1960.

One was the legendary Karuizawa 1960/2013 (52yo, cask #5627, 51.7%, 41 bottles) released last year (more info can be found here); the other the Yamazaki 1960/2003 (43 years, 56%). Contrary to the Karuizawa 1960, not much is known about this particular release: there is no information about outturn and cask type and no cask number.
On the nose, the Karuizawa has a punchy scented wood aroma, followed by dark chocolate, orange peel, citrus and honey. As with many old Karuizawas, it needs a lot of time to open up. This particular one took at least 45 minutes to reach its pinnacle on the nose. The Yamazaki, on the other hand, opened up immediately with an intense yet harmonious combination of plum juice, herbs, liquorice and coconut. Most of us agreed that based on the nose, the Yamazaki was the winner, albeit by a very narrow margin.

On the palate, the Yamazaki impresses right from the start. Mint, tobacco leaves, herbs, medicinal notes (in the best possible way) and coconut candy emerged one after another... A beautifully balanced and multidimensional palate, indeed. The finish is a very long one with traces of coconut candy again (maybe the influence of mizunara wood?).

Then it was time for the Karuizawa, which turned out to be even more stellar than anticipated: scented wood, rosewood and pepper at first, then slowly evolving towards malt, orange marmalade and liquorice.  It’s extremely complex and not perfectly balanced but that is the unique beauty of this absolutely gorgeous whisky. It’s my personal feeling that a whisky that is too well balanced tends to be lacking a little in character. This 1960 Karuizawa is definitely one of a kind. The overall experience is a true journey for the senses. The finish is extremely long and lingering on wood, herbs and light medicinal notes.

After everyone had had about an hour to enjoy these two amazing whiskies (including a little experiment with adding ice to the Yamazaki 1960!), the attendees cast their votes. The result: 10-2 in favour of the Karuizawa.
Big thanks to our friends from Taiwan for making this memorable tasting possible, and to The Auld Alliance for hosting it.

1 comment:

Myhorng said...

This is indeed an unusual tasting.