Recent releases, May 2008
|Karuizawa, Single Malt Whisky Cask #6878 (Japan) |
Believed to be the oldest Japanese whisky on sale outside its country of origin, this latest offering from the Karuizawa distillery via the Number One Drinks Company has an extraordinarily high strength, considering it has been maturing for 36 years.
A rich, expansive nose of Sherry – deliciously fruity, with orange marmalade, molasses and a background earthy note. With time, the fruits soften to orange fondant creams. Huge on the palate, with drying Sherry, slightly burnt raisins and liquorice. Water teases out more smoky, stewed fruit characteristics. The finish is very long, with a persistent note of spicy oranges.
A surprising, and very welcome, lack of negative oak impact after so long in the cask. A superb, robust veteran that has matured magnificently. (558 bottles).
64.1% ABV, 70cl, £111.00, Royal Mile Whiskies.
|Hanyu, 1990 Japanese Oak Cask #9511 (Japan) |
Hanyu distillery was situated in Hanyu City, north-west of Tokyo, and had its origins in a sake-making operation run by the Akuto family. In 1941 Isouji Akuto, built a factory at Hanyu to distil alcohol, and in 1980 a pair of pot stills was installed to produce a Scottish style of malt whisky. The Akuto’s original sake-making business was located in Chichibu, and 1990 saw the first of a range of whiskies produced under the Chichibu label. Hanyu distillery closed in 2000 and the distilling plant was subsequently dismantled, though Ichiro Akuto, grandson of the founder, acquired the plant and whisky stocks.
This 17-year-old example of Hanyu whisky is unusual in that it has been matured in Japanese Oak – Quercus Mongolica – and the nose offers attractive floral characteristics, with malt and fresh fruits, plus an exotic hint of sandalwood. The addition of water releases darker, smokier notes. The palate is sweet and comparatively syrupy; apple pie and custard, with more spicy, citric elements emerging after dilution. Lengthy and pleasantly dry in the finish. Ultimately slightly herbal.
This expression of Hanyu offers a significant contrast to the Karuizawa, reviewed above, but is another excellent example of a beautifully made and skilfully matured Japanese single cask malt whisky. (372 bottles).
55.5% ABV, 70cl, £94.00, Royal Mile Whiskies.
|Highland Park, 40-Year-Old (Scotland) |
As featured in this month’s Whisky News section, Highland Park has just released a new, permanent addition to its range in the shape of a 40-year-old expression.
According to a spokesman for the Orkney distillery, “Highland Park 40-year-old has been largely matured in refill casks, that is to say casks that have previously been used to mature whisky. Every time a cask is used, its ability to impart an influence on the spirit is diminished. When laying down a whisky for extended maturation, such as this, it is important that the cask doesn’t dominate the spirit. If first fill casks had been used, the sweetness (an oak-derived additive quality from the cask) would have been too strident. The long-term nature of the maturation of Highland Park 40-year- old allows time for the perfect balance to be achieved.”
A pretty, delicate, aromatic nose, with heather honey, gentle spices and soft toffee, balanced by plain chocolate notes which lurk in the background. On the palate, sherbet fizz is accompanied by molasses, figs, ripe oranges and Highland Park’s signature sweet, peat smoke. Sherbet citrus fruits last till the close of the long, smoky finish. At the risk of repeating ourselves, another beautifully balanced, perfectly crafted whisky from Highland Park!
48.3% ABV, 70cl, £899.00, specialist whisky merchants.
|Benromach, Latitude 57º (Scotland) |
This is the third single cask release from Benromach intended to commemorate the Forres distillery’s partnership with the ‘Glasgow: Scotland with Style’ clipper, in the Clipper 07-08 Round the World Yacht Race. Benromach distillery is situated on the 57th Line of Latitude, and this expression from a European oak cask follows Latitudes 53 and 55.
Cask number 580 presents an expansive fruity, spicy ‘Christmas cake’ nose, which becomes more smoky and sooty with exposure to air. Quite dry on the palate, with raisins and walnuts, plus some underlying figs. The finish dries relentlessly, becoming nuttier and slightly oaky. 330 bottles.
57.0% ABV, 70cl, £49.99, specialist whisky merchants.
|Tomintoul, Peaty Tang (Scotland) |
A number of mainland distillers have developed a habit of producing batches of heavily-peated spirit in recent years, including the Speyside distillery of Tomintoul.
Tomintoul first embarked on the peaty path with Old Ballantruan, and Peaty Tang follows on the heels of that release. It too carries no age statement and seems to incorporate a significant amount of quite youthful spirit. It offers a lively nose of peat reek, with floral background notes, malt and something close to carbolic soap. Characteristic Tomintoul softness and delicacy on the palate, malty and sweet, overlaid with a nutty, smoky coating. The finish is dry, smoky and comparatively short.
40.0% ABV, 70cl, £22.95, specialist whisky merchants.
|Tomintoul, Speyside Glenlivet 1976 Vintage (Scotland) |
Staying with Tomintoul, the Speyside distillery has also released its oldest bottling to date, in the shape of a 1976 vintage expression. Previously, the oldest ‘house’ Tomintoul was the 27-year-old, which was our March ‘Whisky of the Month.’
1976 is considered by Distillery Director Robert Fleming to be a particularly fine year for Tomintoul, and he says “I have meticulously selected only those casks suitable for bottling as 1976 Vintage. I consider this whisky to be a jewel amongst single malts and one of the finest to have been released in Scotland.”
The nose is textbook Tomintoul in its elegance; very floral and malty, with fresh fruits that belie its age. Equally elegant on the palate, soft and rounded, with unassuming Sherry notes, freshly-made toffee, rum and raisin ice cream and a medium-length, nutty finish. Extremely well-balanced and delightfully drinkable.
Until the end of June, Tomintoul 1976 Vintage is exclusively stocked by World of Whiskies’ airport outlets, after which it will be more widely available in travel retail and selected international markets.
40.0% ABV, 70cl, £199.00, specialist whisky merchants.