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

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PODCAST: S2E4 – That Boutique-y Whisky Company Blend #1 35 Year

In a market that is crowded with unique characters and eye-catching bottlings, That Boutique-y Whisky Company‘s range still manages to stand out with rare and old sources and illustrated labels by artist, Emily Chappell.  Andy and Stu have obtained quite a few Boutique-y expressions to try in recent months but for this podcast, they zeroed in on Blended Whisky #1 35 Year.

Blended-Scotch-Whisky-1-Batch-3-Front

Andy and Stu both agreed this whisky had perhaps the finest nose they had ever encountered, an intriguing and complex palette and an agreeable finish, like dinner guests who realise on their own when it’s time retrieve their coats and call a cab.  To find out what they thought of the whisky in full – and how pretentiously they put those thoughts into words – have a listen to the podcast:

 

Also available on Stitcher and Acast.

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The podcast also features some exclusive, on location and mostly uninterrupted footage from The Whisky Lounge‘s Newcastle Whisky Festival 2017, where the team were joined by avid whisky fan and all-round good company, Sean and tried a dozen or so whiskies between them, some of which will feature in future episodes.

We were delighted to have some input into this episode from Dave WorthingtonEvents & Marketing Ambassador at That Boutique-y Whisky Company, who told us about his busy time at the festival.

“I hardly had a moment to spare throughout the show, I was on my own for all three sessions, so wasn’t able to have a run around the exhibitors looking for a highlight dram. I did manage to squeeze in a couple of Whisky Discoveries before and during the interval; a rather tasty Irish Whiskey from The Dublin Liberties with their 10 Year Old Copper Alley, the latest Talisker Distillers Edition, The Spey 18 Year Old, and starting the day with Springbank Local Barley 16 Year Old is the breakfast of champions.”

For the playlist, in honour of the Boutique-y bottle labels a challenge of “songs from albums with great artwork” was laid down. Another broad and wide-ranging theme delivered some of the best of punk, jazz, electronica and two guitar classics from guest Sean (Santana – Samba Pa Ti) and Boutique-y Dave (Led Zepellin – Kashmir). See the wonderful artworks above, and listen to the playlist here:

 

Also on the podcast, a brand new Jingle Wars and the scores on the doors for the Boutique-y Blend on The Dramier League Table. Vote for your favourite jingle in JINGLE WARS here:

Our conversation with Dave from That Boutique-y Whisky Company continues…

TIMD: Which is your favourite whisky of the ones TBWC have released?
Dave: Another difficult question! There’s a whisky for every situation and time of the day, so at any one time, my favourite will change! We’ve had some cracking releases from Ben Nevis last year, Batch 3, 4 and 5 were all diamonds in my book with Batch 5 topping this list for me. The single grain releases have been great too, Girvan, Carsebridge, Cambus, North British and of course some gorgeous Invergordons. My current favourites are the Macduff 11 Year Old and the Glentauchers 17, they were hugely popular at Newcastle too.

TIMD: And which is your favourite bottle label?
Dave: The labels are ace aren’t they? Emily Chappell does an incredible job of deciphering the often cryptic design briefs we send her! The Dailuaine label amuses me the most, good sulphur/bad sulphur molecules turned into teddy bears! Oh and just what is going on with the zombie apocalypse on the Auchroisk label?

TIMD: You mentioned at the festival that there may be some new blends on the way from TBWC… can you tell us any more?
Dave: Yes, we’ve got lots of new stuff going on back at HQ, lots of exciting new things. All of our blended whiskies are small batches, so of course there’ll be new batches required to replace the dwindling stocks of the current releases. There’ll be a few new labels to look out for too.

TIMD: Also, we’ve noticed you branching out into other countries recently (Irish, Indian, Bourbon…)  Are there any plans to expand your range to include any others soon? Maybe Japanese *Stu crosses fingers*?
Dave: We’re always looking for opportunities to bottle exciting whisky, wherever it is made, and we’re working hard trying to find it! Keep those fingers well and truly crossed, and perhaps one day, your dreams will come true!

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: S2E1 – Lagavulin 16

What a way to start the second series of the podcast: being blown away by a smokey peat train as we sat down to enjoy a generous dram of Lagavulin 16. Andy & Stu spend the podcast delving beneath the deep layer of peatiness, to uncover the other tastes and smells that gradually reveal themselves as the peat subsides in this complex and interesting dram. To find out what they concluded, have a listen to the podcast itself:

 

So what about a musical accompaniment to this peat train? The lads picked the (rather tenuous) theme of “famous Petes and Peters” for the playlist, to link to the “peat” in the whisky. This led to song titles containing Pete (Boards of Canada, Nils Frahm), artists called Pete (Peter Gabriel, Pete Seeger and Oscar Peterson … no Peter Andre though, sorry!) and bands containing Petes (The Who and the original line up of the Beatles). The latter brought about a discussion about Ringo vs Pete Best… one for the music geeks out there! Here the playlist here:

 

Also on the podcast, we have the exciting conclusion of our first ever jingle wars to decide what should be the jingle for our regular “science bit” feature, as well as hearing the efforts of Andy and Stu for the jingle wars  feature itself. A jingle for jingle wars in the jingle wars part of the podcast, which doesn’t have a jingle yet… yes, we’re confused too!

Here are the two jingles which you can also hear on the podcast:

Don’t forget to vote for your fave! Thanks blog readers and podcast listeners – you’re proper mint, man!