Today, we are thrilled to present the third bottling in our alternative history of whisky making in Japan, aka the ‘Ghost series’. Just like the previous two releases, it’s the sort of whisky you don’t come by every day. In fact, it is an absolute first as far as Japanese whisky is concerned because it was finished in an Italian grappa cask. Just like our previous releases, it comes with a bit of a story – in fact, a few stories.
this post for further details.) To recap: a little over five years ago, Minoru Nishida (of Bar K6 fame) bottled an extraordinary aged grappa from Paolo Berta (1990 vintage) for his liquor shop Kask. It quickly sold out and became the stuff of legend but, fortunately for us now, Nishida-san had the foresight to check if something could be done with the empty cask. He contacted Ichiro Akuto to see if he would be willing to use the empty grappa cask for the secondary maturation of one of his Hanyu whiskies. To make a long story short, Akuto-san filled the 500-litre botte with whisky from the final vintage of Hanyu (2000) and left it to further mature at Chichibu distillery. Fast forward to late 2013, when plans were starting to take shape for a new bar that would be a SMWS hub in Kansai, Bar Keller. As part of the interior design, two ‘casks’ were mounted in the wall – the cask heads coming out of the wall, as it were – and a cask section was built into the wall separating the entrance from the main area. Nishida-san got part of his grappa-finished Hanyu shipped to Kyoto and filled the glass cask section with it. We happened to arrive in Kyoto a few days after this had been done, tasted it and instantly fell in love with it.
|Nishida-san with his Hanyu on tap at Bar Keller, Kyoto. © Stefan Van Eycken|
|Family picture: grappa (left), grappa-finished Hanyu (right). © Stefan Van Eycken|
This is the story behind the print on the label, as told by Yoshitoshi-expert John Stevenson:
“Sakurahime, Cherry-Blossom Princess, was a beautiful and famous courtesan in Kyoto, who had become highly jaded after years of triumph. Seigen was abbot of Kiyomizudera, one of the largest and most powerful temples in the capital. A more unlikely pair to fall violently in love is hard to imagine. Yet they met one day when Sakurahime was visiting the gardens of Kiyomizudera to view its celebrated cherry blossoms. Each had qualities that it was impossible for the other, at the pinnacle of their respective and contrasting careers, to hope to experience. Fascinated by each other, they became inseparable.
The scandal rocked Kyoto. Seigen abandoned his studies and religious duties, and was expelled from his temple. Sakurahime gave up a privileged life to be with him. Before the fire of their desire for each other cooled, Seigen was killed by Sakurahime's outraged servant.
In this print, Seigen's ghost appears in the smoke rising from a sunk fireplace.”
|Kiyomizudera in Winter. © Stefan Van Eycken|
Fans based in and around Tokyo will have the chance to try our 3rd Ghost at a special Hanyu-tasting organized by local whisky club Eastern Faeries on April 20th – i.e. a month from now - at the Beer Horn in Akasaka (4-6pm). We don't expect the bottles to last that long, but save the date if you are curious.
In the meantime, head on over to Malt City to get your very own 3rd Ghost. You won’t regret it.