This year, 2012, I outdid myself and bought a very special gift: Karuizawa 27 year old. I paid quite a bit for it as a matter of fact when I hung up the phone after I ordered it, I took a few deep breathes and kept saying, "OMG, I can't believe I just bought that. People, especially the non-whisky friends will think I'm nuts. My mother will definitely think I have a drinking problem". But then again, I am worth what I paid for it. I work hard and make a decent salary, I deserve this whisky (justification, :) And so I waited for my birthday gift to arrive. A friend was bringing it back from a work trip. I had to be patient. The day came and then, it went... He was delayed. Four days later he brought it over at 8:00am, before he went to work. Some may really think I'm completely mad but as soon as he left I grabbed a nosing glass, popped open the seal, poured a dram and handed it to Graham. I held out the Glencairn with a great big smile. "Here", I said, "you get the first dram". He stared at me with complete awe and said: "I can't believe how easily you just opened that bottle". He sat down in a rocking chair and at 8:15, he took the first sip, then he handed me the glass. It was a Tuesday and we didn't care.
WHISKY FACT: Japan is the 2nd largest whisky producing nation after Scotland.
Karuizawa - Pronounced Ka-REE-zaR-wa. (Ian Buxton - reference). This distillery was quite different from the giants of Japanese Distillery as it was started as a vineyard. The owner converted it into a whisky distillery six years later in 1962. Most Japan distilleries produce vast ranges of whisky styles, but Karuizawa focused on one style only. Their whiskies are typically very rich, smoky, hardy and they predominantly used Spanish ex-sherry casks. The distillery closed without any apparent reason in 2001. The site was then turned into a museum which gave tours of the mothballed distillery. Then last November (2011) the building and lot was sold to an unknown buyer. The distillery is officially "lost". Stocks of the whisky were purchased by Number One Drinks and have slowly been leaking out onto the market year after year. They are bought just as quickly. This bottling is the first of a series of multi-vintage releases planned by Noh. I'm super happy I was able to acquire one of the three bottles that was allocated to our area of the world.
KARUIZAWA NOH WHISKY, MULTI VINTAGE#1 - Cask 6405, 4973, 8184, 6437. Distilled 81-84 and distilled in October 2011. 59.1% ABV (Cask type - Sherry Butt & Bourbon)
Color: Dark mahogany. Legs are thick, viscous and very slow running.
Nose: Beautiful old leather chair, fir tree resin (gum from the sap of the tree) sort of has a eucalyptus quality for someone who has never smelled fir. Lots of oak and roasted hazelnuts. I added a bit of water (not much) and it turned into rich prunes/figs with hints of dark fruit like currants or bing cherries.
Palate: Nicely sherried. Bitter orange marmalade that makes your mouth water. Peppery in nature, nice heat. There's some smoke at the back but it's not as predominant as I thought it might be. With water, chocolate appeared with a large thump, whoa! The water added a dimension to the smoke and a lovely sweetness came out as well It reminded me of the topping on a creme brulée, crackling sugar.
Finish: Still quite hot and peppery. It's a bit like the burn you get after you swallow Nyquil (flu medication). It has a very long finish, probably one of the longest I think I have ever experienced. The smoke is there still.
WOW! This is one of the best whiskies I have had in a long time. This is one of those special bottles that won't come out often. I've been lucky enough in the last ten years of whisky imbibing to try many special drams, some very old, rare or expensive but maybe knowing this is my birthday gift makes it even "bigger and better". I'll ask Graham to pour it blind someday to see if I still feel the same about it. Either way I have no regrets buying it, opening the bottle AND, the most special part of my gift... Giving the first dram to Graham.
Happy Birthday to me... Life, as the whisky lassie is good! Back to North America tomorrow, I can see the finish line now!
Thanks for tagging along on this wonderful whisky trail we call the fabric!