BLOG: A very Japanese Christmas…

Cobbled together by Stu

I was lucky enough to be treated by my lovely* wife to one of the drinks by the dram advent calendars in the run up to Christmas 2016… and even luckier that it was the Japanese version, giving me a great opportunity to try a lot of drams from an whisky producing area I was becoming more and more interested (and obsessed!) by.

*The adjective is used purely in the hope of this treat being repeated later this year. Just don’t tell her I said that…

As I tried each dram I took some very quick notes which I have reproduced below. I apologise they are not the most detailed but hopefully they will give you a flavour of what the dram offers if you were interested to try more.

I have also given a score out of 10 (and ordered them highest to lowest) to give some context of how much I liked it. These scores are purely subjective and are based on nothing other than my enjoyment of the dram on that particular day. As I’m sure you know, how much you enjoy a dram can vary widely from day to day depending on a number of factors, so this may have affected my enjoyment in some cases.

I was particularly taken with the Akashi 5 year sherried single cask dram. So much so I have since bought a bottle (still unopened)! If you can get your hands on one I highly recommend it, but they are not cheap and they are pretty hard to get hold of! You have been warned.

You’ll notice there are a few of dates missing. This if for a couple of reasons:

  • I already owned a bottle of a couple of the drams, Nikka from the Barrel (roughly a 9/10 on scale below), and Nikka Pure Malt Black (probably 8/10), both of which are review in depth on the Japanese episode of our podcast which you can find here… a must for any Japanese Whisky fan!
  • I also was lucky enough to try a Hibiki Suntory 17yr (roughly 9/10 on scale below) as part of this calendar – a dram I’d been keen to try for ages. Instead of included my brief thoughts here, I have a more detailed notes on that one here, along with the Hibiki 21 yr (this would be a 10/10!) that I managed to get hold of.

 

23rd Dec – Akashi 5 year single malt (abv 50%)

  • Nose: buttered toffee, chocolate, some cinnamon, almond/pistachio, sherry
  • Palate: Rich, cherry, sherry
  • Finish: Medium, warm, sweet

So rich and enjoyable! Nose to die for.

8.5/10

10th Dec – Nikka blended

  • Nose: Apple, toffee, cinnamon
  • Palate: musty wood, warm spice, honeyed apples
  • Finish: sweet, long

Good value dram – looking at the price

8/10

11th Dec – Hakushu Distiller’s reserve 

  • Nose: sharp, citrus, honey, aniseed, melon
  • Palate: honey and apples, melon
  • Finish: subtle smoke, warming oak, long , honey

8/10

4th Dec – Togouchi Kiwami

  • Nose: rich butter, Christmas cake
  • Palate: smooth, Apple, nutty
  • Finish: cherries, sweet cinnamon, almonds, praline

Nose and Finish far superior to Palate!
8/10

9th Dec – Tagouchi 18 year

  • Nose: Honey, slight citrus, syrup
  • Palate: peat & honey, blackberries
  • Finish: smoke & wood

7.5/10

1st Dec – Nikka 12 yr blend

  • Nose: warm and musty, toffee, rich, oak, nutmeg, butter
  • Palate: oaky and rich, slight orange
  • Finish: warm and medium, bit of spice

7.5/10

17th Dec – Yamazaki 12 year

  • Nose: sweet, honey, caramel, hint of honeycomb, apple, nutty
  • Palate: floral, smooth, thick, butter, fruity sharpness
  • Finish: sweet, butter, medium

7/10

21st Dec – Yoichi single malt

  • Nose: sugary apples, werthers originals, candy floss
  • Palate: sweet peat
  • Finish: subtle earthiness

7/10

24th Dec – Taketsuru 17 year Blend

  • Nose: apricots, toffee, citrus, honey
  • Palate: thick, smooth, oak toffee and nuts
  • Finish: medium, nutty, oaky

7/10

14th Dec – Miyagikyo single malt

  • Nose: chocolate, honey, orange, flowery, blackcurrents
  • Palate: rich, thick oil, almond, black pepper, spice
  • Finish: toffee, chocolate, warming, medium

7/10

6th Dec – Nikka pure malt White

  • Nose: light, fruity, cinnamon, blackcurrant
  • Palate: oak, sharp & smokey
  • Finish: loooong smoke

6.5/10

18th Dec – Mars Maltage Cosmo

  • Nose: light, apple juice, vanilla, butter
  • Palate: sweet, light, smooth, orange
  • Finish: buttery, fruits linger, cherries

6.5/10

2nd Dec – Hibiki Harmony

  • Nose: sweet toffee and butter. Some citrus
  • Palate: light and sweet, slight spice
  • Finish: short and woody

6.5/10

22nd Dec – Special Nikka revival limited edition

  • Nose: smooth rich toffee, caramel, some sharp citrus
  • Palate: warm, musty wood. Hints of peat, orange
  • Finish: sweeter notes, vanilla and slight smoke

6.5/10

20th Dec – Nikka Coffey Malt

  • Nose: sweet, chocolate orange, marzipan
  • Palate: dryer than the nose, citrus, paint, red wine, raisins
  • Finish: subtle and biscuity

Palate lets down an interesting nose. Was really looking forward to this but not as good as expected. Perhaps the score reflects my disappointment!
6/10

5th Dec – nikka taketsura pure malt

  • Nose- fruity, citrus, toffee, butter
  • Palate – dry, bitter, smoke
  • Finish – warm, leathery

Palate v different (and a bit of a let down) after impressive nose.
6/10

16th Dec – Togouchi premium blended

  • Nose: butter, flowery, herby
  • Palate: chocolate orange, smooth butter, corn, herbs
  • Finish: medium and sharp

6/10

15th Dec – Okayama single malt

  • Nose: apple, stewed plums, sharpness
  • Palate: marzipan, caramel, pepper, biscuits
  • Finish: red wine

6/10

3rd Dec- Akashi White Oak blended

  • Nose: apples, vanilla, sake,
  • Palate: nutty, cereals and pepper
  • Finish: short and smooth

5.5/10

12th Dec – Nikka pure malt Red

  • Nose: subtle sherry and oak, sharp fruits, slight cinnamon and butter
  • Palate: fruity, sharp
  • Finish: sweet heat

Expected more from this – suspect I may like it more one a different occasion

5/10

13th Dec – Nikka Coffey Grain

  • Nose: solvent pens, citrus, grapefruit with sugar on
  • Palate: sweet honey, toffee, grapefruit, bourbon esq
  • Finish: dry, sweet

I can see why some would like this. But just not to my taste. Quite like a bourbon though so I think bourbon drinkers would enjoy it

5/10

BLOG: Hey, Hibiki, you’re so fine…

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”… said someone, once (it’s that kind of specificity that makes this blog so compelling… right?). And he/she had a point.

Suntory Hibiki 17 year held an air of mystique for me since I started to get into Japanese whisky. Not only is it held in very high regard by anyone “in the know”on Japanese whisky, but it also features as the whisky of choice that Bill Murray’s character promotes in one of our favourite films: Lost in Translation. For relaxing times….

billmurraygif

So having flirted with the idea of buying a bottle (it’s currently extremely hard to get hold of for less than £200 in the UK, mostly from overseas websites; It had previously been available for closer to £95 when supplies were still fairly abundant!) I gave up on the idea, and decided this might just be “one that got away”.

Little did I know my chance to try the fabled golden elixir WOULD arise soon after, as I was lucky enough to receive one of the Drinks by the Dram advent calendars in the lead up to Christmas (when else!) 2016. Included within was a dram of the Hibiki 17!

For the purposes of this blog, I also managed to get hold of some Hibiki 21 (suddenly these whiskies don’t seem quite as unattainable.. )

So what did I think of each of these sought after drams, my notes are below:

Hibiki 17

  • Nose: strong fruity honey, apricots
  • Palate: honey nut, very smooth, slight pepper coming through
  • Finish: short/medium (a bit disappointing in truth) and slightly bitter

Hibiki 21

  • Nose: similar to the 17, but more dried fruit and sweet cinnamon
  • Palate: rich and nutty, bit of Bakewell tart
  • Finish: peppery wood and cherry aftertones, long with hints of dark chocolate

So what did I think? Was it worth the build up and anticipation?

Well firstly, both are extremely nice whiskies. So smooth and easy to drink. It’s not always the case that you will prefer the older, more expensive expressions, but in this case I have to say I think the 21 year is more to my taste. The more sherried, peppery notes are right up my street.

As for the 17… we’ll maybe I expected too much. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic whisky, but I was kind of expecting it to blow me away.

Would I buy a bottle? If it was still £95 this would be on my shelf tomorrow, but I do think that anything over £150 is vastly overpriced for this particular dram, there are much more exciting and complex drams out there in that price range, and you are paying for the scarcity.

Ironically, I tried this dram twice in a week having waited so long. One of the pubs in Newcastle, the red house (nestled just off the quayside near the Tyne bridge), had a bottle and I was in there on Valentine’s Day after a lovely meal with my wife. I had to buy a dram (a reasonable £12!) and it was the last dram in the bottle so the barman kindly gave me the bottle too, a thing of beauty.

So I think that leaves hibiki 17 in the category of been there/done that/got the bottle. Time for a new elusive whisky to obsess over!

See you next time! Stu

PODCAST: S1E5 – A Pair of Nikkas

Other than providing the hilarious (hmmm…) opportunity to give our podcast a silly name, our interest in Nikka whisky stretched much further than childish puns (honest!). Stu had spent the Autumn months getting into Japanese whisky, and was trying to get his head around the enigma that is Nikka from the Barrel. A blend, £30 a bottle, readily available (unlike some of the more popular Japanese whiskies), and yet despite all this, an incredibly complex and downright gorgeous dram. Is this the best value reasonably priced whisky you can find? How does it stack up against some of the single malt whiskies we’d sampled on the other podcasts? How does it stack up against another Nikka blends? Have a listen to the podcast to find out!

It’s fair to say Andy & Stu were fairly blown away by Nikka from the Barrel, and they compare it to Nikka Pure Malt Black on the podcast, as well as creating a playlist of Japanese artists and songs that have a link to Japan. This, of course, gave them an excuse to ramble on about the fantastic ‘Lost in Translation’, as well as indulge in a bit of Bill Murray love… what a guy! Please find the playlist here:

Also on the podcast, we find out about the first celebrity follower of the @Thisismydram twitter account, and we accept a challenge from the Bourbon Gents (@Bourbongents). You can get any of our podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, Acast or Soundcloud, just search for This is my Dram.

BLOG: A taste for the inexpensive

– ramblings of Andy

One thing strikes me as we review our podcast episodes so far for this blog, is that we have to a large extent stuck to reasonably well-received and accordingly mid-priced whiskys. Other than the – as far as we can tell – absurdly good value-for-money Nikka From The Barrel, our choices have been £40-60 a bottle or thereabouts and, as a result, nothing much to dislike about them on our beginner-intermediate palettes.

Just this evening, I poured out a dram, taken from a little taster set I received at Christmas of brand-name blends, of Teacher’s Highland Cream. The nose, a little slow to wake up with a little smokiness and sweetness coming through. A malty mouthfeel accompanies my first sip, followed by a hint of peat smoke and liquorice. What’s going on here? This is £15 a bottle and I’m…chewing on a grainy, ash-tray of a finish and my question is well answered.

Still, Jim Murray awards this a more than respectable score of 90/100 in his eponymous Whisky Bible and I was almost with him until the last. Stu has been compiling our own scores for an upcoming ‘Dramier League’ feature, where to take the football metaphor to its obvious conclusion, Teacher’s seems to have blown a promising start to the season and found itself in a relegation battle by the Spring.

After tasting Nikka From The Barrel (Episode 5) for the first time on our podcast, I became a little obsessed with finding a similarly impressive, inexpensive dram from a scotch blend. The Naked Grouse (Episode 6) offered some pleasing Speysidey spice for a similar price-tag but didn’t quite make the grade. Teacher’s took me down an interesting road only to plough us both into a manure truck at the end.  The search continues!