Ichiro’s Malt Mizunara Wood Reserve

Craft distiller Ichiro Akuto is the alchemist behind this Japanese blend. It’s a vatting of single malts (possibly from the Hanyu and Chichibu distilleries), that have then been stored in Japanese Mizunara oak casks to create something rather nice indeed.

Colour: summer barley, honey. On the nose: powerful stuff. Lots going on here. First of all you’re hit with a bourbon-like sweetness, but it goes beyond that. Syrup. Spices. A sharpness I can’t quite put my finger on – limes maybe? This is very interesting.

In the mouth: that’s a belter, though a subtle one if that makes sense. Though it’s only 46%, there’s a heat, thickness and oiliness here that seems to suggest it’s much, much stronger. There’s a really powerful punch of winter spices that I’ve not tasted before. Very strong wood influences. Distance sweetness. It’s almost overwhelming at first, but when you go back in there’s more to discover: apple, grapefruit, syrup again, honey, a slightly BBQ edge that reminds me (only just a little) of the Ardbeg Alligator – of course without the peat and meaty heft.

Once the fuss has died down it turns out to be not quite as complex as you’d like, given all the promise of the nose and initial flavours, and the finish is a little short. But this a very good blend. On average I reckon that Japanese distilleries impress me more than the Scots – and they’re now performing astoundingly well at awards – so it really is about time the rest of the world started catching up with that fact. If only Japanese whisky was more easily available.

This was from a Master of Malt sample.

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