The nice people at Number One Drinks Company sent Nonjatta a sample of this Karuizawa 1986 Single Cask (cask number #7387, bottled 2008).
It had quite a distinctive smell: standing in a rose garden drinking Horlicks. There was a real attack on first tasting. I was left reeling. It is very dry but has several quite distinct stages of development in the mouth: first, overwhelming dry bitterness, then a hint of petrol station forecourt runoff, before it finally settles down to Marmite and bread. I usually taste my whiskies without water because that is the way I like them but this one definitely needed a soakiing. I used Tokyo metropolitan water, a liquid of such prodigious foulness that I don't even make my tea with it. I added a fair bit too because this Karuizawa was not compromising. It brought out vegetation, citric rind and a doused fire smells. The taste was much more amenable, mellow even: orange barley water, some wood with raisins and aniseed at the end.
At last, I am put to the test! I got this sample free from Number One Drinks and, despite all my posturing about giving honest opinions, I must admit to desperately wanting to like it because someone was nice enough to help Nonjatta along by putting a sample bottle in the post. The fact is, however, that this one is not really a favourite. Don`t get me wrong, it is a sophisticated and very characterful whisky, as Karuizawa products almost always are. I think they are probably the most fearless Japanese distillery. Some people are going to love this one. Not I.
David Broom, quoted on the Number One website:"Colour: Throbbing amber. Golden highlights.
Nose: Intense, indeed incense with a suggestion of gentleman’s moustache wax. Resinous then a mix of crystallised fruits, dried fig, cep, cassia, diluted tamarind paste. Exotic! There’s smoke and and increased spiciness with time. Water brings out a dried citrus peel note, the waxiness continues alongside a hint of tarragon dried peach. Fresher but still mysterious.
Palate: Intense. Picks up blazing heat as it progresses, before the smoke starts to reveal itself. Slight astringency on the sides of the mouth. After the initial burn the dried fruits come to the fore. Things calm down a little with water allowing a better (physical) spread of flavours and less bitterness. Scented: rosewood, light chocolate and dried mint. The richness just holds the tannic grip at bay.
Finish: Dry, fairly short and slightly tannic when neat. Dilute there’s more spiciness (cinnamon in particular). Still quite tight and dry though in time there’s fresh menthol. This is one for a cigar, or given the moustache wax, a pipe."
Abv 60.7 per cent