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Japanese Whiskies - Practice Makes Perfect

January 19, 2016

Japanese Whiskies - Practice Makes Perfect

I love Whisk(e)y and working for 30 years on the Bar scene and latterly in Retail has given me the priceless opportunity to try some of the nicest, rarest, expensive and most beautiful Whiskies from around the world. Japanese Whisky is one of them. Very often I hear that other countries “copy” scotch whisky and I often have to remind people that whisky was not invented in Scotland nor has Scotland the monopoly for making Whisky. One thing is for sure Japan is not copying anything, they are perfecting. I don’t think there is another nation on this Globe that seeks perfection like the Japanese. I’m half German, half Italian. I should know!

Masataka Taketsuru was one of the founding father in the Japanese Whisky Industry. He learned the art of brewing and distilling in Scotland in the early 1900s. A true visionary, he and his Scottish wife returned to Japan in 1920 to put the acquired skills into practice. He was hired by Shinjiro Torii, the 2nd founding father of Japanese Whisky, as Distillery Executive for the newly built Yamazaki Distillery in Yamazaki, a suburb of Kyoto.

Taketsuru left Yamazaki in 1934 and opened his own Distillery in the same year. That Distillery was Yoichi. Miyagikyo Distillery followed in 1969. In 1963 they imported Coffey Stills, which were set up in the now defunct Nishinomiya Plant. Those Stills were then moved to Miyagikyo in 1999. Creating spirits with more complexity, depth and flavour then the more modern column stills. Miyakikyo is, to my knowledge, the only Distillery that produces a Malt Whisky in an old Coffey Still called Nikka Coffey Malt.

Nikka Coffey Malt £53

Incredibly smooth yet complex.

Nose: Citrusy and Zesty, Pear and Vanilla in the background.

Palate: Fruity but more orangey than lemony on the nose. Sauce Anglaise, Toffee and hints of coffee.

Miyagikyo No Age £40

Nose: Fresh and intense fruitiness, spices and a hint of oak.

Palate: Citrusy, hints of marzipan/ almond, notes of green apples and pears, a little bit of pepper.

Reminds me a lot of Speyside. I really like it as an aperitif. The citrus and the spices get you prepared for the meal to come.

Hibiki Blend 12y £46

Nose: Light fruit and herbs, a touch of Bourbon.

Palate: Tons of fruit, plum (apparently some of the whisky was matured in Plum wine casks) honey and some beautiful peppery notes.


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