Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
For the past couple of years, the good folk at La Maison du Whisky have done more for Japanese whisky enthusiasts than any other retailer in the world (and that includes Japan!). Every year, they offer at least a dozen special editions – mostly single casks – of a caliber rarely found elsewhere. This year is no exception. They presented 11 exclusive Japanese single casks last week at Whisky Live Paris. We will be reviewing them over the next few weeks, starting today with the first in a triptych of Ichiro’s Malts featuring artworks by Singapore artist Bak Chiang.
This Hanyu, atypically, needs time to reveal itself in the glass. Initially, it comes across as more subdued compared with other specimens from the same vintage but given time, it really opens up. The initial impressions are: tarte tatin, shibukawa-ni (Japanese style boiled chestnuts soaked in liquor), stewed peaches, new plank and fried burdock but there’s a distinct note of… something akin to a car repair shop in a damp forest (somewhat reminiscent of Glen Scotia). With time, it becomes more fragrant with oriental spices (cardamom, fenugreek, turmeric), honey-glazed spare ribs and kashiwa mochi (rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves).
The attack on the palate is very intense: spicy and savoury but with concentrated fruit notes as well. Chutney in liquid form, that’s what it is… fenugreek, coriander, cumin, ginger, tamarind, citrus fruits, cranberries, caramelized onions, mint leaves and much more. If you wait an hour or so, you’ll find yourself eating blood sausages with sour cherry sauce. What a delight for the senses. The finish is long and lingering on sweet-and-sour sauce (with pineapple chunks!), unripe peaches and macadamia nuts. As it fades, hints of gooseberry jam and fresh rhubarb emerge - a stunning afterglow. Water flattens the nose somewhat, but acts like a roving spotlight on the palate, heightening and intensifying elements left, right and centre. One of the great Hanyus from the final vintage.
Join us again tomorrow for a review of the 2 Chichibu single casks that complete this triptych.