Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Japanese Whisky tasting at Kyoto Garden

An invitation last week to taste some Japanese whiskies at Kyoto Gardens Sushi restaurant delighted us. We were intrigued the last time we tasted some of these whiskies, so it was a welcome opportunity to learn more about them
This is the line up: The Chita, Nikka Miyagkyo, Nikka Rare Old Super, The Yamazaki Single Malt 12 year old, The Taketsuru Pure Malt and the Hakushu Single Malt.
Our tasting guide was Whisky expert Hector MacBeth. A local lad with good Scottish ancestry
The Japanese have been making whisky seriously since 1924, when the first commercial distillery was opened. It can resemble good Scotch, sometimes Irish and even sometimes bourbon. Each has its own unique identity. These were all very enjoyable and pushed our perceptions somewhat. Lynne would never have identified her favourite of the group as a whisky but she really liked it
We had arranged an Uber to take us there and back home afterwards. The portions were suitably tiny, just about three mouthfuls of each in special tasting glasses. Enough to get to know the nose and the flavours and some left over to which to add a little pure water, which completely changes the character. It softens them so much, we preferred it neat. It seems the Japanese are fanatical about the water
The Chita is a column still whisky, made from maize. Vanilla and soft peaches and banana on the nose, lovely full caramel banana on the palate. Hot at first and long. The Nikka Miyagikyo is made in a continuous still from malted barley. Smoky ginger and lime with minerality first on the nose. Then red berry perfume, raspberries and cherries predominate. And they are there on the palate, a cherry blossom whisky ! It is long with some pine nuts on the end. Lynne absolutely loved it, as did several others
Hector showed us how to nose and taste these whiskies, never stick your nose in and sniff hard. Just let it waft. You then take a sip, hold it on the top of your tongue for 10 seconds, put it under your tongue for 10 seconds and then bring it back to the top. By then you will have the full flavour profile and enjoyment. The Nikka Super is a blend of two whiskies: a malt and a grain whisky. It has a floral brandy nose, caramel toffee with light smoke on both the nose and palate with some apricots. Wood whiff on the end. It is very smooth and integrated with a hint of salty bacon
Then SA's most sought after Japanese whisky. It costs in the region of R3000 a bottle and the last consignment sol out in 8 hours. It's the Yamazaki 12 year old. Strong vanilla, minerality and wood on the nose with a hint of caramel oranges. Thick cream and sweet vanilla on the palate with spice, caramel, basil and thyme. It finishes with white chocolate and more basil. Very unusual and rich.
Other media at the tasting were tweeting. Then the last two. Taketsuru is the Grandpa of Japanese whisky. It's a blend of the best malts. The ocean, kelp and salt with some perfume of vanilla on the nose. Sour/sweet on the tongue, rich oak wood and warm spice, turning almost savoury, with limes and nuts and some peat. Very long flavours..
The final one was the Hakushu Distillers Reserve. Peaty socks, mossy, herbal and citrus apricots on the unusual nose. Light honey and peat, warm and spicy on the back palate. Very interesting. Good wood and length
We enjoyed the tasting so much that we booked to stay and have the winter special, which we had sampled before we went to Europe
Just as good as before
The PR comped us a delicious bottle of Chamonix Chardonnay to go with dinner

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