Saturday, April 20, 2013

TIBS/Whisky Live 2013 Day 1: Highlights

Post by Stefan of Tokyo Whisky Hub

The first day of TIBS/Whisky Live 2013 has just drawn to a close and one thing’s for sure: it’s even better than the previous editions. The new venue is perfect – much more spacious than the Midtown or Big Sight venues – and the list of participants reads like a Who’s Who of whisky anno 2013. Nonjatta will be there tomorrow, too, so keep in mind, what follows are just the highlights of what we experienced today. There’s much more left to explore tomorrow.
Our first port of call was the indefatigable Akuto-san’s booth. He had brought 3 “concept whiskies” to the show – whiskies that will not necessarily be bottled, but that act like antennae to gauge consumer response:

- “Almost Five” (cask#2472), 2008/2013 (first cask: 1st fill barrel; second cask: 2nd fill puncheon);
- “Refill Barrel” (cask#2186), 2009/2013 (first cask: 1st fill barrel; second cask: 3rd fill barrel);
- “Refill Hogshead” (cask#705), 2010/2013

For me personally, as well as for most of the people I spoke to, the “Refill Barrel” was the clear favourite, with its beautiful notes of glazed chestnuts, milk chocolate and raisin butter. Quite extraordinary for a whisky that’s just a few years old, even by Chichibu standards. Here’s hoping enough people will drop a hint to Akuto-san for him to make this available as a single cask.

We were very happy to see our good friends of Mars distillery (Hombo Shuzo) again. The last time we were at the distillery, a few weeks ago, preparations were under way for their next releases – both vattings of 4 casks – and today we had the pleasure of trying them both. The Mars Komagatake 22yo is a vatting of two American White Oak casks (#1042 and #1039), an ex-sherry cask (#384) and a refill (ex-Scotch) cask (#481), bottled at 43% abv (750ml) and with an outturn of 1,359 bottles. It’s a really lush amalgam of crème brulée, lemon tart, calvados, Danish pastries, candied lemon peel, shortbread and butterscotch. There’s also 24yo in the works. This is a vatting of 4 ex-bourbon casks, which combined will yield a mere 120 bottles. The president, Mr Hombo, was kind enough to offer us a sneak pre-taste of this and it really is phenomenal: on the nose, ripe pears and pencil shavings, also fresh ginger, peach jelly and apricot sorbet; on the palate, ginger ale, white pepper, butter, a hint of lemongrass and much, much more… (too much to be able to take in at a busy event!). The finish is extremely long with maraschino cherries and peach liqueur leading the proceedings. Both of these are scheduled for June. The people at Mars are still thinking about how to offer the 24yo, seeing as it’s extremely limited. It’ll be a mad scramble for crumbs when this is released...

The Shinanoya booth was crowded, as always. Make sure you stop by to try the Hanyu 26yo “salon de Shimaji” for pen & Shinanoya. It’s sold out, so unless you managed to get hold of a bottle or two, this is your last chance to try this Hanyu, finished for a year and a half in an ex-Madeira cask: if you love brown sugar on toast, dates, fig logs, raisin bread and the like – and we do! – this is a dram for you. We will spotlight this release in a forthcoming post and give it the attention it deserves.

Other highlights of the show include:

- Tomatin 30 (Japan-only release, to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Kokubu)
- Talisker 35 (1977/2012)
- Glenglassaugh 45 (1967/2012) The Massandra Connection – Red Port Style Finish

Best visitor attraction is, undoubtedly, the Wild Turkey American Honey booth. Check it out at your own risk.

The mini-seminar format seems to be a big hit – we particularly enjoyed the Arran seminar – and the guest bartenders drew huge crowds, too. We’ll bring you more news from the show tomorrow and in the days to follow, so stay tuned.

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