Monday, February 23, 2015

Japanese Toddlers Galore at Whisky Festivals in Chichibu & Kyoto

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
There’s no shortage of whisky shows in Japan, but it’s probably the first time two festivals as big as the Chichibu Whisky Matsuri and the Whisky Festival in Kyoto have coincided. That’s what happened yesterday, though, so it kind of divided the country. People in Kanto went to the Chichibu Whisky Matsuri, whereas whisky fans in Kansai flocked to the inaugural Whisky Festival there (organized by Tsuchiya-san and his team at the Scotch Whisky Research Centre).

On the Japanese whisky front, the most noteworthy thing is an avalanche of very young single cask bottlings (either just released or in preparation). The Chichibu Whisky Matsuri had its own festival bottling: a 3yo (2011/2015, 261 bottles, 57.6%, #3292) matured in an Imperial Stout Barrel. Since there were many more people coming to the festival than there were bottles (outturn 261), it was allocated by lottery… and, at the time of writing, going for 20 times the original price at local auctions. That seems to be the way the cookie crumbles these days.

Two exhibitors at the Chichibu Whisky Matsuri had brought their own forthcoming Chichibu bottling. Blackadder is releasing a 4 or 5yo (depending on when it will actually be bottled; the whisky was distilled in March 2010) matured in an ex-cognac cask (#745), and Japanese retailer e-Power (importer of, among others, Silver Seal and Maltbarn) is releasing a “double cask”, i.e. a vatting of a cask fitted with mizunara heads (#1490, filled in December 2011) and a heavily charred new barrel (#1683, filled in February 2012), bottled at vatting strength (60.3%, outturn 580 bottles).

At the Whisky Festival in Kyoto, the organizers of Whisky Talk Fukuoka unveiled their new festival bottling: the first Mars single cask from the new regime. This will be a 3yo (2012/2015), drawn from ex-Bourbon cask #1490, with a striking new design (a departure from their ‘endangered species’ series).

We hope to feature these bottlings in forthcoming reviews. One thing is clear, however: there is very little old Japanese whisky (Hanyu, pre-1992 Mars, Karuizawa, etc.) left in the warehouses, and producers are trying to capture the imagination of whisky fans here (and abroad, soon, too) and effectuate a smooth transition towards younger, recently distilled whiskies with these single cask bottlings.


Peter Dixon said...

At least you are getting age statements, even if they are very young! In Europe even the Glenlivet 12 is going NAS in some countries.

Adam Irvine said...

Does anyone know if either festival is happening in 2016? I just googled but can't find any details. Thanks

Stefan Van Eycken said...

Yes, both festivals are happening. Chichibu Whisky Matsuri is the Sunday after Valentine's. Kyoto Whisky Party (as it is called now) is Feb 11th.