Sunday, January 27, 2013

Shinanoya 5th Anniversary series: The Game IV

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub.

Although the official release date is tomorrow (January 28th), Shinanoya sold out the entire outturn (232 bottles) of the final (5th) single cask Japanese whisky bottling to celebrate its 5th anniversary in less than half an hour when it was put up on its website last Friday. Such is the popularity of its series "The Game", but that merely reflects the respect it has earned from the whisky drinking populace in this country and, indeed, abroad over the last couple of years.
"The Game IV" is a real showstopper of a whisky and one of only a handful of Japanese whiskies finished in rum wood (some of you may remember Ichiro's "Four of Clubs" [1991/2007] and Zoetrope's 3rd Anniversary Hanyu [2000/2009, a sister cask of The Game IV]). "The Game IV" comes from Hanyu's final vintage (2000), and spent the last five years and a half - March 2007 to November 2012, to be precise - in rum wood. A long "finish" but well worth it. Shinanoya's spirits buyer knew he wanted this cask immediately when he tasted it. He also knew immediately this was going to be the cask to close the anniversary series with. Talk about confidence...

So what's it like? The nose is like a chameleon, and one that can't sit still! It starts off with stewed fruits, then moves into spicier territories (ground coriander, cinnamon, ...) with some "dirty"-sweet notes (brown sugar) thrown in the mix, before developing a kind of Lebanese edge with hints of aubergine moussaka and falafel. If you give it a bit of time, you may find an intriguing komatsuna note as well as some steamed edamame. But you may also get some lovely raspberry chocolate truffles. The nose just keeps evolving. The perfect whisky for when you find yourself home alone with nothing to do - you couldn't wish for better company!

The rum influence is most apparent on the palate. The balance between spicy and sweet is just perfect, but there's fruit, too - tinned peaches and dried dates, most prominently. The finish is phenomenal and - as you would expect by now - changes the mood, again: banana split with advocaat and dark chocolate. Water softens the nose and sweetens the palate but the amazing thing is that it brings out this gorgeous tiramisu (with lots of espresso!) note - absolutely stunning.

"The Game IV" is a complex whisky, but complex in a playful way. It's not a typical Hanyu, but that's one of the many things that it makes it so special. It's in a world of its own, and what a world it is. We've come to expect the best of the best from Shinanoya, but the incredible thing is that they keep on surpassing these expectations. The only thing that's alarming about this - as word spreads - is that it may soon become next to impossible to get your hands on one of their bottles. The Game I was on their shelves - actual shelves in physical stores! - for months. The Game IV didn't even survive an hour online. Makes you wonder about The Game V. You may have to resort to industrial espionage...

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