Tokyo Tastings: Ichiro's Malt Ace of Spades and Kawasaki 1981

Another day in Tokyo, another random bar stumbled upon. This time it's Zoetrope, a bar specialising in Japanese whisky and silent films! Another only in Tokyo experience. I was rushing to the airport to catch my flight so quickly scoured the menu and found 2 gems, an Ichiro's Malt Ace of Spades and Ichiro's Malt Kawasaki 1981. There were many other interesting whiskies to try on the menu so definitely will be back!
So this is the famous Ace of Spades worth a ridiculous US$10K according to this article. These Ichiro card series bottlings are getting increasingly rare and collectors are all over them like bees to honey. Think I'm pretty fortunate to have tried it because I probably had the last drop from the bottle.
There were 2 releases for this series and this was the 1st one I believe with an outturn of 122 bottles.
THE REVIEW
Comments: A very classy whisky. A wonderful citrus and earthy nose. The palate is sherried candy and becomes chocolatey with a long lingering spicy finish. Great balance with the oak and sherry! Not sure though if I could ever justify paying the price tag on this whisky right now.
Kawasaki just like Karuizawa is another closed distillery in Japan. The only difference is that Kawasaki is a single grain whisky (90% corn / 10% barley). Let's see what Ichiro-san's magic can do for the whisky.
THE REVIEW
Comments: Wow! Strong vanilla with layers of orange and dark chocolate permeate the tastebuds. Remarkably smooth for the alcohol strength and does not bite at all. Feels like a cross over of some of the great bourbons and rums that I've tried. Solid stuff! (P.S: Realised after that this whisky was a Malt Maniacs 2010 Gold Medal winner).

Whisky and Steak - Part 2 (Old Pulteney 21 Year & New Zealand's 1987 24 Year)

The third dram we tried that night was the Old Pulteney 21 year which I have been longing to try since it won the Whisky of the Year in Jim Murray's 2012 edition.

THE REVIEW
Comments: Refreshing lemon zest and pears on the nose. The palate is oily with hints of chocolate, vanilla and a dash of smoke in the end. What a beautifully balanced whisky and worthy addition to any whisky cabinet.
Another interesting dram for the night...a 24 year whisky from New Zealand's only and closed Willowbank distillery. This one commemorates the year of the 1st Rugby World Cup, which was of course won by the All Blacks. Only 1000 bottles of this whisky are in existence. A rare treat indeed.
THE REVIEW
Comments: Refreshing spring grassy mouth followed by a spicy toffee and citrus finish with woody vanilla undertones. Nice tipple and great effort from the Kiwis.

Whisky and Steak - Part 1 (Balvenie 16 Yr Triple Cask & 15 Yr Single Barrel Sherry Cask)

Last minute steak dinner pulled together at Y's house with some good friends. Had some really good wine to pair with the food but of course had to end the night with some whisky. We had a very random selection of 2 Balvenies, a 24 year New Zealand (yes New Zealand) whisky and the award winning 21 year Old Pulteney.

Let's start with the Balvenies which are recent additions to the range. The first is a 16 year Triple cask available exclusively for travel retail and the second is the newly released 15 year Single Barrel Sherry Cask that is replacing the Oak cask series (reviewed here)

THE REVIEW
Balvenie 16 yr Triple Cask: A bit light on the palate and somewhat disappointing. The usual vanilla and honey notes are there but lacks the usual full bodied flavour of a Balvenie. Maybe the 40% abv has something to do with it? For the price point there are other better Balvenies to be had.

Balvenie 15 yr Single Barrel Sherry Cask: A worthy successor to the Oak cask Single Barrel and great if you like sherried whisky. Apricots, raisins dominate with a hint of nuttiness and the finish is long and smooth.

Ichiro's Malt Chichibu The First



Good whisky is meant to be shared. This one is no exception. At a BBQ no less. Presenting the legendary Ichiro Akuto's first whisky from the Chichibu distillery. For those of you who are not acquainted with Japanese whisky, Ichiro is the grandson of the founder of the now defunct Hanyu distillery and is carrying on the family tradition with some of the biggest cult whiskies in Japan (see details on the Card series here). This one is destined to be a collector's item one day...
THE REVIEW
Comments: You would've never guessed this was a 3 year old whisky with its level of complexity. The notes evoke caramel and honey and this follows through with thick layers of spice and citrus on the tongue. This goes on for a wee bit then ends abruptly. Good things, as they say must come to an end.

Lagavulin Distiller's Edition (1994 & 1995) and Glendronach 15 Years Revival

Had dinner at one of our favourite sushi restaurants in Singapore after returning from Tokyo. Yes, I love Japanese food. Knowing that the head chef loves his whisky, we brought a bottle of Glendronach 15 Revival to savour as an after dinner drink. Before you knew it, he took out his personal stash of Hibiki 30 (reviewed here, what an amazing dram which was sold out everywhere in Tokyo!) and Lagavulin Distiller's Edition 1994 and 1995 (previous review of 1989 version here).

THE REVIEW

Lagavulin DE 1994: A sherried Lagavulin! Have forgotten what it tastes like already as it has been awhile since I've had the Distiller's Edition version. This one treads the balance nicely between sherry and smoke. The debate will forever rage whether this is better than the 16 YO.

Lagavulin DE 1995: The sweetness in this one overpowers the peat slightly in this one. A little more tannic on the taste buds as well. I prefer the 1994 although I know of people that prefer this one, probably because they prefer less smoky whiskies in general.

Glendronach 15Yr: Not in the same class as the single cask series but nonetheless very impressive for the price point. Fresh floral notes and a strong sherry punch hits you when you taste it with a candied finish. I'm stocking up on this one as an everyday dram!

Tokyo tastings - Ichiro's Malt Single Cask, Balvenie from the 80s and The Spoon

Bar Keith named after the Glen Keith, the owner's favourite distillery
Tokyo always never ceases to amaze me with the infinite number of whisky bars that have fascinating collections. Went to Bar Keith in Shinjuku after doing whisky shopping in Shinanoya and had the fortune to try 3 sublime whiskies thanks to the owner Koji-san, who was extremely knowledgeable AND spoke decent English.

Interesting label for an Ichiro's Malt

First up was a hidden gem, an Ichiro's Malt Single Cask! Bottlings from the now defunct Hanyu distillery are really hard to come by these days. This is my first Ichiro's Malt review and hopefully many more to come from this cult whisky maker...

THE REVIEW
Comments: Bursting with fruits, citrus and plums come to mind, followed by hints of cinnamon and vanilla notes finished. Drops of water bring out the maltiness just a tad. Great whisky! If only I could get my hands on some.

Is this Balvenie masquerading as Cognac? 
I mentioned that Balvenie was one of my favourite distilleries and this was what showed up on the table, a 1980s bottling of a Balvenie 18! It must've been my lucky day as there was only 1 serving remaining in the bottle. I could see Koji-san holding back the tears as he poured the last drop from the bottle.

THE REVIEW
Comments: The distinct Balvenie cereal malt taste is more mellow and a fresh vanilla and oak finish hits you with hints of leather at the end. The water, barley and casks used must have been different back then. How the taste of Balvenie has evolved over the years.

Balvenie and Glenfiddich elope
Time for a nightcap and I was shown this interesting bottle called 'The Spoon' which is essentially a 23 year Balvenie single cask diluted with a teaspoon of Glenfiddich (in whisky circles Balvenie+teaspoon of Glenfiddich=Burnside). Apparently, this is done as stipulated by the distillery so the independent bottler cannot label the whisky they bought a single cask and dilute the parent distillery brand. Nonetheless, a 23 year Balvenie single cask is a 23 year Balvenie single cask, even if diluted with a drop of Glenfiddich. I was more intrigued by the cool label then anything else. On to the review...

Comments: Spice, honey and citrus tones with a medium long finish that is tannic and oaky at the same time. Quite enjoyable and a great way to end the night.


Glendronach 23 Years 1989 Cask 5470

How do you end a fantastic wine dinner night with good friends? With a great whisky of course! Found this hidden in my stash that I've been meaning to try for awhile.
THE REVIEW
Comments: Yummy raisins and citrus notes dominate with a long clean honeyed finish. Lovely, lovely stuff. If you love sherried whiskies, these Glendronachs are the way to go. I am becoming a fan...


Laphroaig 14 Years Signatory 1998

Had a happy hour session with my reservist army mates and decided to bring an interesting bottle for them to try. This was a bottle picked up from our good friends from LMDW and came highly recommended.
THE REVIEW
Comments: The cask strength style definitely gives a punch! Grassy, floral waves followed by the inevitable smoked brilliance of Laphroaig. Crisp, medium finish makes it a good nightcap.

Santis Malt - Edition Dreifaltigkeit

Was playing poker at a R's place and he recommended we try some interesting whisky from Switzerland that his wife recently bought called Santis Malt. What makes this whisky unique is that it is stored in oak wood beer barrels instead of the usual oak or sherry casks. On top of that, they have a few different products in the market and this one we sampled was the Edition Dreifaltigkeit, which won Jim Murray's European Whisky of the Year in 2010.
Photo courtesy of: www.saentismalt.ch
Probably the only culture in the world rivaling the Japanese in terms of meticulousness and attention to detail would be the Swiss. Santis Malt keeps the reputation intact by sourcing water from the Swiss Alps and grain from Switzerland grown under extreme weather conditions to impart an idiomatic Swiss flavour to the whisky. On top of that, the bottle labels are personally designed and hand-cut by the managing director himself.
Comments: This whisky definitely has a very distinct flavour, very unlike traditional whiskies. Strong malt profile with a hint of beer and a smokiness that is closer to smoked duck than the usual Islay peatiness. Very well done for a relatively new distillery. Definitely worth a try!

Halloween Whisky - Glenfiddich 30 Year & Yamazaki 25 Year

Had the pleasure of going to a friend's place for a pre-Halloween dinner and unexpectedly, some seriously fine whisky. 
The first whisky we savoured was the Glenfiddich 30. I've always liked Glenfiddichs and the opportunity to taste on of their top end drams was definitely a treat. This one recently won the Gold Medal at the International Spirits Challenge in 2013.


Comments: Overall a superb whisky that goes down very well and suits all palates. Great balance overall with blends of citrus fruit, honey and vanilla overtones for a mellow, distinct flavour.

A Glenfiddich 30yr would typically be the highlight of any good night out...until an even rarer Yamazaki 25yr gets pulled out of the cabinet. This is the World Whisky Awards 2012 winner of Best Single Malt and is practically sold out everywhere.


Comments: Talk about intense. Chocolate? Coffee? Sherry? Surprisingly flavourful and deep for a 43% whisky. And the finish just goes on and on...lovely stuff.

Kavalan Solist Fino

Went to a friend's place recently and he told me that he had this whisky that I absolutely must try from Taiwan. It was the Kavalan Solist Fino and apparently won Jim Murray's Best New World Whisky in 2012 (97 points!!!) and WWA Best New World Single Malt Whisky.


We know the Taiwanese love their whisky but who would have thought that they would be able to make something seriously decent in such a short span of time! This whisky is full-on sherry with hints of nuttiness, sweet fruits and liquorice. The finish though is slightly on the bitter side and not really my cup of tea unfortunately. Otherwise, an interesting whisky to try for sure.

Christmas with Hibiki 30 Years and Glengassaugh 1972



It's Christmas time and what better way to celebrate it than to have great whisky. We were having dinner with family and friends at an Italian restaurant and we had brought a Hibiki 30 years to savour at the end of the meal.
THE REVIEW
 

Comments: Wow! What an amazing whisky. If you think the 21 year is good, this one adds another layer of complexity with a fantastic nose filled with vanilla and luscious berries. This is such an easy and delicious drink to quaff that the bottle will be gone in no time. Only for special occasions.


We offered the restaurant owner a dram of the Hibiki and being a self professed whisky lover, he was subtly impressed. Not to be outdone, he was kind enough to let us try his personal bottle of Glengassaugh 1972 which had his name inscribed on it as a gift from a friend!

THE REVIEW

Comments: A really different whisky compared to the Hibiki, this dram is oozing with blackcurrants, apricots with peppery spice and strong sherry elements. It has an unbelievably long finish that never seems to end, surpassing even the Hibiki. In the owner's words, 'this tastes more like a fine cognac than a whisky'. 

Laphroaig 30 Years Cairdeas

Here's a whisky I broke out for the New Year to celebrate with friends and family - the Laphroaig 30 year Cairdeas. This dram is essentially the award winning Laphroaig 30 year (reviewed here) double matured in Maker's Mark bourbon casks. Sound interesting enough already? Let's get on with the tasting.
Comments: You can definitely taste the Laphroaig 30yr here subdued a little by the oak finish. Depending on whether you are an oak or sherry cask person will determine how much you like this one. Overall an excellent whisky nonetheless worth every penny for special occasions.

Tokyo tastings: Nikka Yoichi 1991 & Rosebank 1983

Here's another whisky adventure from our travels to Tokyo. Went to a whisky bar aptly named Wodka Tonic tucked in a little corner near Roppongi hills with D and some friends.
Classic Japanese whisky bar - long wooden table, meticulously ordered shelves of whisky and the prerequisite bartenders in vests and bowties.
Some of the gems we saw at the bar were the Black Bowmore 1964 and Yamazaki 50 year (only 50 bottles available worldwide with a retail price of 1M Yen!). Unfortunately, they were way out of our price range and all we could do was take a whiff of heaven at the table. Fortunately, there were many other excellent whiskies available that were affordable. I now present you the Nikka Yoichi Single Cask 1991 and the Rosebank G&M Connoisseur's Choice 1983.
THE REVIEW
Comments: We liked the fresh fruity nose and taste of this one. Starts with an amazing burst of citrus and ends with elegant wood notes. Another testament to the great whiskies that Japanese are creating in modern times.

THE REVIEW
Comments: Another one of our favourites, the now defunct Rosebank distillery. Triple distilled goodness reveals the characteristic cut grass and floral notes. Light and fluffy, almost velvety texture. Excellent stuff.

Laphroaig 30 Years

Here is the long awaited review of the multi-award winning Laphroaig 30 year whisky that has been sitting around on my shelf for way too long. I think most whisky lovers need no introduction to this one.
Comments: Absolutely sublime! The sultanas, the berries mixed with a burst of sherry followed by an extremely long and smooth finish. Then you realise that there is actually some peat in this one to remind you of its Islay roots. Definitely one of the best I've tried so far!