Japanese whisky is like gold dust nowadays, but mizunara-aged whisky? That’s as rare as ambergris.
So you may be intrigued to learn that Kaiyo, a new brand of blended Japanese malts is coming to the UK, making its way to these shores by boat… all while stored in mizunara casks.
As with other products shipped in cask, it’s believed that the agitation and variable humidity that the casks are exposed to during the journey help to accelerate the maturation of the liquid.
Once in the UK, the liquid is bottled, and as a result the Kaiyo team have taken the decision not to call their products ‘Japanese whisky’ due to it being bottled outside of the country.
There are two different products available here: Original, weighing in at 43% abv, and Cask Strength, at a more punchy 53% abv.
Blended by Jeffrey Karlovitch, who was previously at The Lost Distillery Company, all the liquid produced is currently no age statement, and has been bought from other distilleries. Due to the fact the liquid is sourced, we had to ask whether the liquid had been aged exclusively in mizunara casks.
The response was that ‘nearly all aging is in Mizunara oak – any flavour from other wood aging is generally dominated by the power of Mizunara flavours’, which is true because mizunara imparts very spicy characteristics. It still leaves us scratching our heads over all the wood that’s been used to mature the whisky, however.
So what do they taste like? There’s no mistaking the mizunara influence on either of them. The Original smells of sweet spice and cocoa, intermingling with nectarine pits, lime zest and candied orange. The chocolatey sweetness continues onto the palate, accompanied by drying prickly spice – pepper and pencil shavings – which gives way to a jasmine-like florality.
The Cask Strength, meanwhile, unsurprisingly has a bigger, richer mouthfeel, and a more bitter flavour profile. Cocoa mixes with earthy coffee ground bitterness, dried chilli flake heat and numbing Szechuan spice. It’s safe to say that neither are for the faint-hearted.
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