I’m a huge fan of Japanese whisky which often rivals and can surpass Scotland’s produce. There is an exotic appeal to this market and other emerging areas of the globe in terms of whisky. Historically Japan learned from Scotland and then developed their own practices that persist even today. Now retailers offer a frightening array of whiskies from distilleries in Japan. Above all of these is the name of Karuizawa.
Sadly today, the distillery is no more and you can read more about the background to this saga, its closure and future in the series of TWEblog posts. These posts are hugely informative and give an indication of what is to come now Number One Drinks have bought the remaining casks. Karuizawa was not a huge distillery and placed its emphasis on 100% Golden Promise barley and the best Spanish sherry casks. Time has shown that longer maturation benefits from such an approach and only in recent years have we begun to see just how special the Karuizawa malt can be. Hence the comparisons some writers make with Port Ellen.
The distillery is associated with sherry casks but there have been some surprises from Karuizawa including this bourbon single cask release. I’ve wanted a couple of Karuizawa bottles for sometime now and the single cask releases tend to retail around £200 (£180 for this particular bottle) if you can actually grab one in time. On several occasions my hesitation or lack of awareness has cost me that vital opportunity. By chance recently a couple of bottles appeared online of this bourbon release and a sherry cask (sadly I missed again!) at normal retail price. Previously I thought these 2 bottlings from late 2012 had sold out and each had recently been fetching circa £350 at auction only the week prior. So finally I’ve bagged a Karuizawa!
Part of the appeal whisky aside of Japanese releases, is that the bottles and labels are often wonderfully designed. In comparison to many dreary Scottish malts, their Japanese counterparts are stunningly imaginative and reflect the location or history of the distillery. Such is the case again with this bourbon release and the embossed label is a nice touch.
Today if you want to experience a Karuizawa you can either purchase a sample dram from Whisky Samples, which can be an expensive route but they do have (as I write this) samples from 1969 and a 1970 to buy. On the open market such bottles would be priced out of reach of most whisky enthusiasts. Whisky clubs might be another option but Number One Drinks have foreseen this issue and created 2 releases from a vatting of 77 Karuizawa casks in the form of Spirit of Asama, bottled at 48% and 55%. I will be picking these up shortly as well and being ever alert for more Karuizawa.