Saturday, July 27, 2013

10 facts about Japanese distilleries you might not know

1. Yamazaki and Hakushu (Suntory) have several stills which are formed in diferent shapes. This makes the Suntory able to create many styles and you can argue that there is no real distillery style from these distilleries, apart from what the blenders present to you

2. Japanese distilleries don't work together. Japanese blends use their own malts and grains or foreign whisky as a general rule

3. Distilleries with no grain distillery tends to look for Canadian grain for blending

4. Eigashima uses Shochu, a japanese pot distilled spirit as a component for one of their blends. This is grain based and matured. Shochu is not necesarily grain based and usually not matured

Shochu maturing at Eigashima White Oak

5. One of the barrel choices sometimes used is Japanese oak. Mizunara. It gives the whisky a spicy, woody, vanillaed flavour. And with spicy, I mean some kind of hot feeling as well

6. Chichibu washbacks are made from Mizunara. As far as I know this is the only distillery with oak washbacks

7. Suntory's big hit is Highballs, a whisky cocktail, based on whisky, ice, soda and a slice of lemon. Suntory Highballs can be bought from vendor machines all over japan and in all bars. After tours at Hakushu and Yamazaki, they give you Highballs. First a Highball based on the NAS and then a Highball based on the 12yo. If you ask you can try it neat, but you have to ask!

8. Fuji-Gotemba makes bourbon. A flavour component of their blends. I would really like to try this :-). Don't expect a japanese bourbon being bottled. Not under the "Bourbon" name as this is restricted to whiskey made in USA. Kirin owns two distilleries, Fuji-Gotemba and Four Roses by the way.

9. Like many scottish distilleries, most japanese distilleries use a pagoda roof as an easy recognisable part of their distillery. These pagoda roofs (originally the kiln chimnney in Scotland) looks like whisky to me and are built in the scotish style more than the traditional japanse style

Shinsu Mars Pagoda

10. Japanese whisky is quite comparable to scottish whisky in style and flavour. Japanese distilleries like Chichibu, Hakushu and Yoichi are making peated versions. I find that japansese and scottish whisky differs more and more the older it gets. The whisky simply matures in a diferent way. The difference at 12 years old might be hard to spot, but when we move above 20 years I find Japanese has matured somewhat differently. It tends to be less mellow and more wood character

Ah well. The 10th might not be a fact, it's just my opinion :-)

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