Friday, April 4, 2014

Fuji Gotemba “The Housky” Original Blend Kit & Single Grain 25yo Release

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo

It seems like the folks at Kirin have finally started lavishing some love and care on their whisky side business after decades of neglect. Having released a few special bottles to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Fuji Gotemba distillery last year (check here and here), they are continuing with two new projects this spring.

The first – “The Housky” Original Blend Kit – has just been released. It’s not really all that original - the big guns (Suntory and Nikka) have already released similar DIY whisky-blending kits in the past – but it is a first for Kirin. The set includes four 200ml bottles of whisky (two malt and two grain), two 250ml cans of soda, a jigger and a tumbler.
It’s easy to disparage these sort of things as gimmicky but they’re good fun and it seems like the Fuji Gotemba team has actually put quite a bit of thought into this set, so why not! Each of the whisky samples represents one of ‘the 4 whisky elements according to Kirin’: water, earth, wood and fire. And each of these, in turn, corresponds to a sort of whisky archetype: ‘Water’ to a ‘Japanese (malt) whisky’ type (delicate and light, modeled after ‘Kirin Fujisanroku Tarujuku 50°’); ‘Earth’ to a ‘Scotch (malt) whisky’ type (smoky, with a more pronounced peat influence); ‘Wood’ to an ‘American (grain) whisky’ type (with emphasis on the use of virgin American white oak, as in ‘bourbon’) and ‘Fire’ (which is interpreted as different methods of distillation) to a ‘Canadian (grain) whisky’ type. Kirin has provided graphs for each of these types (see below), as well as a downloadable pdf-file with blank graphs to keep track of your own blending experiments.
It all seems like good fun and a rare chance to try your hand at blending. We couldn’t resist and ordered a set. There’s only 500 of them and given the reasonably price point (5,400yen), it doesn’t look like they’ll be around for very long.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the new Fuji Gotemba Single Grain release that will come out on April 15th. This will be a 25yo, using grain whiskies distilled in continuous stills and in pot stills. It’s a shame that the presentation (43% abv) and the pricing (a whopping 32,400 yen for a 700ml bottle) are serious obstacles to a wider appreciation of the liquid in the bottle. Sure, whisky prices are going through the roof, and the Kirin team must have noticed, but to ask almost the same for a 25yo grain whisky at 43% as the ‘monochrome’ Joker (a 1985 single cask from a lost distillery, bottled at cask strength) is pushing things a bit. Well, a lot, really. It would have been nice if they had learned a thing or two from the experience of releasing their 27yo single cask grain in the summer of last year. That was limited to 100 bottles priced at an astronomical 100,000 yen plus tax. Well, they’re still available 9 months later. It’s highly likely that the new 25yo awaits a similar destiny.

We’re thrilled Kirin is releasing more and more special whiskies, but they need to reconsider a few things. First, why all these single grain releases when there is plenty of malt in the warehouses there, too? Variety is the spice of life, and all that. Secondly, why the low abv on these old exclusive releases when they are clearly destined for sipping, not for highballs or drinking on the rocks. Thirdly, the people at Kirin need to be disabused of the notion that you can slap ridiculous price tags on releases just because they are aimed at the connoisseur segment. Consumers have sent clear signals, one would think… if only the people at Kirin would be a bit better at listening. Anyway, modo liceat vivere, est spes


Chris Bunting said...

This looks really quite fun.

Anonymous said...

I ordered it, and found that these whiskies are very very young.
Not yummy.....

So, I mix these whiskies with other special malt whiskies.
i.e. Hakushu Sherry-cask, Mars 3+25, kirin gotenba 18yo, so on.

Very intersting!!!

Anonymous said...

I found that these whiskies are for High-ball, not for straight drinking.