Karuizawa „Spirit of Asama“ single malt whisky
It’s time for something special and exotic. It’s time for one rare whisky, whose existence was unknown to me until recently. It’s about the Japanese whisky Karuizawa „Spirit of Asama“ single malt whisky, a sample of which I got from a friend. Thanks for the sample, Ogi! And now a few words about the distillery itself.
Karuizawa distillery is considered one of the smallest, if not the smallest in Japan, with an annual production capacity of 150,000 litres /in the good years, when it still functioned, because now it’s closed/. For comparison – most Scottish distilleries produce ten times more and above. The building is situated near the town of Karuizawa, which is located in the foothills of Mount Asama, which is a popular mountain resort and attracts tourists from Japan and around the world. Its location wasn’t randomly chosen – they sought to create the closest climatic conditions to the Highlands of Scotland. The life of the distillery began in 1955 when „The Mercian Wine Company“ decided to distill malt. The building of the winery was reconstructed for the purposes of making whisky, and in 1959, Karuizawa became the first distillery to export whisky to other parts of the world. It stopped production in 2000 and completely closed in 2011. At first, Karuizawa malt was used in blends, and the first single malt was released only in 1976. In addition to its small capacity, the distillery was known for maturing their whisky mostly in sherry casks and they used only Golden Promise barley, whose production is no longer in the necessary volume, but on the other hand, in the prior years it was used mainly for distillates of Macallan, because of its good taste characteristics. In turn, the water used in production of the whisky flowed through the volcanic layers and many believed that this also affected the quality of the final product. Years ago, the company’s products were cautiously accepted by the Japanese community, as there has not yet been formed trend for drinking high-quality malt, but in recent years the remaining stocks of the distillery are marketed as quite expensive collectible bottles and I think I understand why. The whisky is really good. The one that was provided to me is dedicated to the Mount Asama and its beauty and magnificence, and is bottled at 48% abv. This version of it was offered in 2012 by „The Whisky Exchange“ shop, at an affordable price – around 70-80 GBP, if I am not mistaken. Now I came across a price of 500-600 euro. It is alleged that the batch was compiled from 77 different casks of whisky, previously used to mature Oloroso Sherry. A few days ago I decided to try the sample and here are the results.
Aroma – a strong sherry aroma, which I immediately associated with Glendronach 15, dried prunes, caramel, honey with herbs, slight saltiness, tangible tobacco, dried apricots, liquorness, a memory of peat /rather an „earthy“ note/, light acetone, pepperness, nutmeg, herbal tea, dark forest fruits /wild strawberries and blackberries/, respectively and baked cake with them. I added a few drops of water, after which I caught more caramel and honey in the aroma. The rest is available. Taste – dry, gradually appeared sweetness, strong spiciness, which came as a „prickly“ sensation on the tongue /very pleasant/, ginger, black pepper, dried fruits, slight peat. With water – more fruits and sweetness, followed by spiciness. Finish – long, cherries, honey, liqueur, strong pepperness, sweetness, which after a minute or two took over the mouth and left a memory of wild strawberry jam or chocolate, dried apricots, nuts, a memory of sherry and evanescent bitterness. With water – an association with wood cleaner /Medix/, but briefly, then appeared bitterness. Assessment: 91/100.