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Japanese Whiskies Tasting Event

4 January 2011 2,942 views Written by: Shai Gilboa

If you’re a constant reader of Whisky Israel, you might have noticed that Gal wrote several posts about Japanese whiskies, and also, that as part of the Whisky Israel Society many of us fell in love with the Nikka Whisky from the Barrel we’ve tried as part of our second summit.

Well so it happened that the Israeli Whisky Society (not to confuse with our Whisky Israel Society), which is managed by Jonathan (Yonni) Ishai – the man behind the Israeli matured Arran whisky, together with “The Scottish” – an Israeli wines and alcohol merchant and importer, have decided to have a Japanese whiskies event as “The Scottish” just got the franchise to import several Nikka and Suntory whiskies to Israel (yes, yes, even though Nikka and Suntory will not accept each other’s existence).

As usually with IWS’s events, this event happened several times over the course of several days, but I was lucky enough, with some friends, to attend the first event for the general public (there was also a press event).

On the due date and time we’ve arrived at “The Scottish” store just outside the Port of Tel-Aviv and were welcomed by a dram of Auchentoshan Classic to warm up the throat (I found it to be very light and floral, all in all simple) and some Japanese appetizers (mini, umm, sushi like raps and nachos. Don’t ask me for the exact names please).

After the nice welcome, we went upstairs to the meeting room were a rather large table was set with whisky sampling glasses (copita look-a-like glasses) per each attendant, three large bowls with lots of sushi (by Sushido restaurant in Tel Aviv; link to Google Translate as original site is Hebrew), of course all relevant sushi related “spices” (wasabi, soy sauce, ginger and so on) and also a small sample of Choya Umeshu liquor for each of us.

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The meeting room awaits the tasting to begin

We took our places at the table, finished the welcoming dram and waited for Yonni to start his presentation about the Japanese whiskies. Of course I had to take a few snapshots, even though I didn’t bring my ‘big’ camera as Yonni, who is a long time friend, told me over the phone that this time he wants me to come and enjoy and NOT to act as a photographer. So I brought along my Canon G12 as a compromise. (As a perfectionist, my apologies for the quality of the pictures as I also used FastStone tool to convert the RAW to JPGs).

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The personal placemat arrangement each attendant had

Yonni gave a very nice and informative presentation about the history and origins of whisky in Japan, it’s status in the world as a rising star in the whisky sky and assumptions as to what the future holds for Japanese whisky. The historical review was very interesting and took us from the fact distillation was in use in Japan for centuries to produce other spirits, through the trip of Masataka Taketsuru to Scotland where he studied the art of whisky making, and to current time overview of the rival Japanese whisky companies of Nikka and Suntory (including a pictorial tour of their different distilleries).

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IWS Yonni Ishai presents… Japanese Whisky

Five expressions were tasted during the evening and throughout the presentation and sushi mongering. Four of the tasted whiskies are from Nikka whisky, and the fifth is from Suntory. Out of the four Nikka there was one single malt – Yoichi 10YO, one pure malt – Pure Malt White, and two blends – Whisky from the Barrel (‘my precious…’) and Rare Old Super. The Suntory was the famous Yamazaki 12YO single malt.

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The stars of the evening, left to right:

Yamazaki 12YO, Nikka Rare Old Super, Nikka Pure Malt White, Nikka Whisky from the Barrel, Yoichi 10YO

(Background is a ‘creative’ usage of the placemats – wha’d’ya think of it?)

So how did they taste? Well, most of these whiskies (3 out of 5) were tried and posted about in the past by Gal, so I will not add on top of that, but instead will provide Gal’s old notes with links to the original posts. For the others I will be brave and provide my own notes (though I did end up purchasing them, so Gal will probably be able to add his own notes quite soon Winking smile).

Here we go. First are the three whiskies already posted about by Gal (marked by Thumbs up), and then the two whiskies for which my notes are provided (marked by Camera) , The NIS value is the Israeli market pricing set by “The Scottish” in New Israeli Shekels -

Yamazaki 12YO, 43% ABV, £35 (Buy Here), ~NIS750
Thumbs up

(Original post by Gal, Another post by Gal)

Nose: Fruity, perfumed , nutty, and complex. a light but wonderful nose.

Palate: Smooth, flowery, and wee spicy with a wee citrus note, creamy maltiness and some fruits as well (apple,pear) and even a wee tropical edge.

Finish: lingers quite nicely with some fruit, wee oak, and zest.

Rare Old Super Nikka Whisky, 43% ABV, ~£31 (Only location found on web), NIS407
Thumbs up

(Original post by Gal)

Nose: Peaty stuff. A bit coarse and spirity, some fruits and the odd malt note. Not very refined.

Palate: Again, not very smooth. some dirty-dumpy peat with some oaty feeling.

Finish: Medium, Smokey (not very, but it is there) and a bit bitter.

Shai: personally did not take liking to this blend, not much in it. In fact Yonni explained that in Japan they drink this one in highball glasses with lots of ice and coke or tonic water.

Nikka from the Barrel, 51.4% ABV, 500ml £25 (Buy Here), NIS330
Thumbs up

(Original notes by gal as part of WI summit #2)

Nose: An orgy of all things wonderful. It’s not a whisky, it’s a perfume. I swear I could be sniffing it all day long, and had i wore some on myself instead of perfume, the ladies would appreciate it.  Balsamic, perfume,vanilla , spice, cloves. Some flower blossom and a good measure of perfumed and spicy wood. Dear God, this is divine!

Palate: Big bodied with amazing entry and ooomph. Starting on sweet burnt sugar, then off with a splash of wooden spiciness that makes you want to cry with joy. Then comes the vanilla and honey drops, very little smoke also which complements all. Man o man. this is a thing of beauty, no less. I am in tears of joy here.

Finish : Longggggg…. oak, fruit, and spices. and you know what else? banana.

In one word: Greatness. (Shai: Totally agree!)

Nikka Pure Malt White, 43% ABV, 500ml £30 (Buy Here), NIS432
Camera

Nose:  Quite sweet smoky and peaty nose. Some dried fruits (apricots, dates),vanilla, cinnamon and a touch of citrus.

Palate: A bit oily with plenty smoke and peat. Cinnamon, milk chocolate, oranges/orange marmalade.

Finish: Smooth long smoke..

Bottom line: Very nice whisky, and for an Islay chap like me, a perfect addition to my collection.

Yoichi 10YO, 45% ABV, £57 (Buy Here), NIS725
Camera

Nose: Light and toasty. Vanilla, nutmeg, some spices.Green apples, nutmeg hints of honey or caramel.

Palate: Smoke and peat; surprise to the palate as no hints on nose. Touch of nuts and wood.

Finish: Medium with sweetness of peat..

Opinion: Nice single malt. I find it fun and like how the peat and smoke surprise you on the palate. My kind of whisky.

For conclusion, it was a very nice and enjoyable evening, with good company, good whiskies, good information and good atmosphere. I want to thank Yonni for this event and also Miki from “The Scottish” who sat next to me and was kind to provide assistance when it was needed.

Thanks for reading.

Sláinte,

Shai.

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  • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

    Great write-up shai.

    Seems u had a lovely evening.

    Slainte!

  • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

    Prices in NIS are plain CRAZY… let’s hope for customs reductions in 2011. let’s pray.

  • http://twitter.com/WhiskyNotes Ruben [WhiskyNotes]

    Seems like a great evening. Slainte!

    • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

      Thanks Ruben.
      the boys had a blast.

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