Back to Japan! And back with Ichiro. The Hanyu Distillery ceased operations over a decade ago, and I talked a little bit about it in this review.
The Hanyu 23 Year Old was made with spirit that was distilled between 1985 and 1986, and then destined to spend an eternity in sherry wood before being bottled cask strength for Ichiro’s malt range – which is very popular in whisky circles. Ichiro is now known for his superb young Chichibu, but what about this older offering from his former distillery at Hanyu?
Colour: proper amber; the kind of pure amber in which you’d expect to find a fossil, if you’d watched too much Jurassic Park as a kid. Which I did. On the nose: It’s a bowl of molasses, this. Very sweet, very heady. Proper syrupy stuff. Helped along by the strength, it’s actually dominated by those notes, but brave it for long enough and there’s more wood spice and vanilla (though more the kind you get in candles trying to recreate vanilla). Weirdly some smouldering fires in the distance, but very faintly and nothing to really get excited about.
In the mouth: It’s actually more sophisticated right from the off, because you’re anticipating the sweetness to wash through first, but it’s all very statesmanlike. Of course, the sweetness is all there, and it’s very sherried. This is all balanced – though not as balanced as it could be – with some bitter wood notes, a hint of grapefruit on the back-end and that mystery muskiness you get with quite a few Japanese offerings (I think I’ve said before that I like this note). It’s got that lovely structure you get with older whiskies, a medium weight in the mouth but rolling gently round the mouth. Not zippy, but with presence. It’s extremely warming on the finish and overall is very pleasing indeed.
All in all, it’s great. It actually reminds me of a Glenfarclas on steroids.
I’m not going to lie: if you want a bottle of this, you might have to sell a kidney or a small child. It’s not extortionate, so don’t sell your favourite child, but bottles are starting to fetch around £400, depending on where you look. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but probably only worth that much if you’re a collector.