Saturday, September 21, 2013

Karuizawa Asama 50.5%

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
We’ve already written at length about the various Karuizawa Asama releases (1, 2, 3) and the recent 50.5% version. We finally got round to tasting the latter, so without further ado…

On the nose, it’s reminiscent of some ‘rouge cask’ Karuizawas (i.e. the 1995 vintage, when most of Karuizawa’s output was filled into casks that had previously contained Japanese red wine). There’s also a strong earthy, vegetal dimension to it (mushrooms, grilled capsicums) together with some dried fruit notes (dates, prunes) and a slight ‘metallic’ hint – something that tends to manifest itself in young Karuizawas. There are also many other tiny notes (barbecue sauce, rosemary, mint, tinned apricots, …), making this quite a complex nose for such a young Karuizawa. The attack on the palate is pretty sharp – then, you get wine-soaked fruit, dark chocolate (think 99% cocoa), fudge, liquorice, hoshigaki (dried persimmons), kumin and hints of kaiware (i.e. sprouted daikon radish seeds – slightly bitter and peppery) and bonito flakes. It’s not as sweet as you would expect. The finish is medium-long on Seville oranges and l├Ąckerli.

Although the label – well the printing on the bottle, to be precise – states this vatting of casks from the final vintages (1999 & 2000) of Karuizawa was married (i.e. returned to the original casks) for over 12 months, it’s actually closer to two years and the whisky has clearly benefited from this extended recalibration. There will be several thousand bottles of Asama 50.5% but I hope the Number One Drinks people are giving some of their ‘Asama casks’ a bit of extra honeymoon time. It’ll be interesting to see how the liquid keeps changing - and improving, fingers crossed - with time.

Read more about Karuizawa Distillery here.

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