Japanese tasting session – take 2!

In February 2015, I shared tasting notes of four delightful Japanese whiskies:
After the 1st session, I had an opportunity to ‘revisit’ with one member (who missed the original tasting) together with his partner (who joined the original tasting) and two new folks.
It was worth doing a 2nd time and this is certainly my preferred practice:
  • Sample with a fresh bottle.
  • Revisit the same bottle after some time – perhaps a slightly different setting – either with new company or solo.
Four key observations from this revisit:
  • Timing is everything! Just as we found in the original session the Taketsuru Pure Malt absolutely needs time to breath, the Chita should be quickly savoured as the complexity settles into a singular note after an hour.
  • Size does matter! We sampled exactly the same whisky in exactly the same Glencairn glass yet there was a dramatic difference whether we were nosing a few drops versus a proper dram. With a small quantity, two of us delightedly exclaiming about discovering prominent overripe banana notes with the Chita whereas those with a fuller glass were puzzled as there was no hint of banana initially. So we exchanged and found the difference in nose remarkable!
  • Open, shut and open again – Cracking open a fresh bottle is a very different experience than one that has had time to evapourate… The Taketsuru Pure Malt was initially a massive disappointment not just due to the order and minimal time to breath but also as it was just opened. Even the 1st whiff poured the second night was far more interesting. Similarly the lemon we originally found in the newly opened Chita and Ichiro’s Malt 46.5% (possibly Houou-uhi) were completely absent the second time.
  • When you get the order right, it is just right! We were much better able to appreciate the Taketsuru Pure Malt when it followed the Chita rather than the robust Chichibu. We then tried the Ichiro’s mystery malt (possibly Houou-uhi) before closing with the Chichibu French Oak cask. Muuuuuuuch smarter!
Our Japanese collection revisited!

Our Japanese collection revisited!

Many of the original tasting notes rang true, however there were a few notable differences which I’ve shared below.
  • Nose – Champion pungency vs overripe bananas… as it opened up, perfumed eraser and fresh cut wood. We completely lost the lemony element found in the 1st tasting.
  • Taste – Harsh then mellows, described by one as a very ‘technical’ whisky rather than ‘easy drinking’ whisky, superb body, honey water, hint of mint, muddle of clove, cinnamon and saffron
  • Finish – Shifted from short yet happy to spicy with a dash of bitter, sits well
  • Final observation – While the delightful perfume remained and this is still quite a unique whisky, it does not stand the test of time… the more it aired, the more the ranges of notes reduced to a single perfume. Not sure I would want to leave this on the shelf for long!
  • Nose – Smelly socks, figs, apricots that opened further into a meaty aroma, then over-burnt sugar
  • Taste – Meaty, spice, dried kopra, well balanced spice, like a pullao with kala eleichi, yet subtle too
  • Finish – Sooooo dry  initially, subtle and long
  • Final observation – The musky quality we originally observed is very much there as is its dryness. It really is a different beast with time to breathe. It also remained throughout the evening a whisky that could hold its own.
  • Nose – Vanilla, honey, flower, coconut, cognac yet none of the earlier lemon or nori
  • Taste – Gorgeous oaky flavour, Ghana bitter dark chocolate, cognac quality remained
  • Finish – Mature, lingers… really quite fabulous
  • Final observation – Phenomenal how the palate is as good as the nose, brilliantly balanced
  • Nose – Star anise, gentle, soft pulpy fruit, refreshing sea breeze, fig, hint of sourness… one member actually stepped out to independently to determine his key impression and settled on ginger. The moment he said it, there was a collective ‘Ah yes! That’s it!’
  • Taste – Magnificent, mixed peppercorns of red, pink, white and green, intelligent, complex, remained deliciously ‘chewy’
  • Finish – Long and strong
  • Add water – Fruit gum, ginger honey and spice
  • Final observation – The new tasters were as stunned as we were in the original tasting about the alcohol strength. It also gives the impression of being much older than 5 years.
This experiment re-inforced my appreciation of the ‘life cycle’ of a whisky bottle. It also was most enjoyable to revisit four such interesting whiskies with excellent company on both occasions.

3 thoughts on “Japanese tasting session – take 2!

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