Asian Delights – White Oak Akashi Single Malt 40%

Akashi Japanese whisky is actually a part of the Eigashima distillery which has made sake and shochu since the late 1880s. From 1919, the “White Oak Whisky” distillery was making whisky of sorts… however from 1984, equipped with a new pot still based on Scottish designs, the distillery started to make “proper” whisky under the brand of Akashi. While it predominantly made blends, production of single malts – like this one – started in 2007.

And while it is known as Japanese whisky, the barley and malts are imported from Scotland. In keeping with Scottish whiskies, they are aged for a minimum of 3 years however with the warmer climate in Akashi, the Angels share is considerably more than in Scotland.

For a few years now, Akashi White Oak whiskies – both the blend and single malt – can be found in Mumbai Duty Free for a reasonable price. Largely linked to this accessibility and affordability, our Whisky Ladies first sampled the blend in late 2016. We enjoyed its simple “apple cider” quality so much that we tracked down a 2nd bottle to share with the gents in a “Ladies Choice” evening early 2017.

Knowing one small bottle alone would not be sufficient, I’d called for reinforcements – and got two – both another Red Blended and this Single Malt! Both Red were opened and polished off but this bottle was kept aside, patiently waiting for the right opportunity to opened with its contributor.

Finally in March 2019 the moment came…. and what did we think?

White Oak Akashi Single Malt 40%

  • Nose – Fruity and spicy, green apples, simple and sweet, evolved into a happy candy floss, shifting to cinnamon and vanilla cream
  • Palate – Mmmmm…. apple, a bit of wood, quite pleasant, a nice spice, uncomplicated yet had some character
  • Finish – Easy going, slightly bitter

An earlier experience from an open bottle left me with the impression of bubble gum… this time? “Grown up” bubble gum!

Here’s a few more whiskies we enjoyed in our Asian Delights evening:

And our earlier Akashi tasting experiences?

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Random whisky tasting at KODE

When we started our different whisky tasting clubs in Mumbai it was at a time where the offerings readily available beyond whiskies personally brought into the country were rather limited. Fast forward and today it is possible to have a respectable flight… right here in the city… for a price.

That shared, we likely won’t see many single casks entering anytime soon… in part because to import requires donating a “sample” for testing purposes. When a product has only say 100 bottles in the world and to sell at best a handful in a particular state, it becomes impossible to justify such a “donation”.

So while the more unusual limited edition specimens likely won’t show up anytime soon,  the overall range is sufficient for those curious to be inducted into the world of single malts and whiskies in general.

Which is exactly what we sat down to accomplish one fine evening at KODE in Mumbai early April.

My sampling companions and I warned the waiter that we would be requesting different bottles, sniffing then selecting so to be patient with us. And they were.

We began with a clear progression from light to distinctive profiles…

I’d initially thought to start with Compass Box Hedonism as it is such an unusual yet light whisky. They were just out of stock, so shifted instead to a readily accessible “appetizer”:

Our palates now acclimated, our real journey began with:

I then wanted to shift gears to start to discern more subtle complex flavours… It was wishful thinking to hope Glendronach 18 year might be available however did have a choice between the 12, 15 and 21 year... We went with:

  • Scotland – Glendronach – Glendronach 15 year “Revival” 46%*

Then split into the following to cater to the emerging different palate preferences of my sampling companions:

As conversation veered towards talk of casks and the difference between a Scottish single malt and Bourbon, I thought it would be good to do a wee detour to the US to contrast what we sampled so far with Bourbon & Rye:

Then proceeded to compare the nuances between very similar whiskies from Glenmorangie that have different finishes:

  • Scotland – Highland – Glenorangie Lasanta 12 year 46% – Olorosso & PX Sherrry finish
  • Scotland – Highland – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 year 46% – Port finish

And finally we closed with a split between revisiting whiskies that “stood” out for my companions:

*Just in case you were wondering what all the “asterisk” mean… each of these bottles were brought into India thanks to Keshav Prakash with The Vault Fine Spirits. I’m incredibly proud of what Keshav and his team have achieved and have made a huge impact on the range now available in Mumbai. Thank you!

KODE – Freestyle Bar and Kitchen

Ground Floor – 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills – Entrance #2, Lower Parel,, Mumbai, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Tel: 077188 82924

PS It may seem like an insane quantity of whisky but keep in mind we were splitting 30 ml singles – focusing more on sniffing, swishing and savouring.

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Ladies Choice – Appetizer whisky aka Akashi Blended Whisky 40%

First up in our “Ladies Choice” evening where the Whisky Ladies hosted the Bombay Malt & Cigar gentlemen, was a whisky we introduced as an ‘appetizer’ to the main meal… the Akashi from Japan.

Photo: Team Table

Photo: Team Table

And our 1st guest writer is a newer member of the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai, Nikoulina Berg.

Niko knows her stuff. Experienced in the F&B industry with a career that has spanned Germany, US, Spain, China, Singapore and now India, Niko has a certain flare for food and fine spirit and wines.

Currently based in Mumbai with The Table & Magazine Street Kitchen as Vice President Operations of Food Matters, she has a hand in crafting special evenings of food and fellowship.

She immediately fit into the Whisky Ladies – in her inaugural session she just so ‘happened to have’ a Bavarian whisky (Slyrs) to augment our European whisky evening

Here is what she has to say about the Akashi Blended Whisky 40% (also sometimes referred to as Akashi Red for the red stamp on its label).

  • Colour: Pale, Light gold
  • Aroma: Sweet, Cereals, Honey
  • Palate: Mellow and very light body – everything but harsh – sweet on the palate, smooth with a hint of caramel and hazelnut
  • Finish: Leaves you wanting more – more texture, more intensity – almost disappears instantly after a quick hit of spices
  • Water: After adding water it becomes almost sweeter than before and it has a surprisingly longer finish, with hints of marshmallows, pear and pineapple

Most of us have a favorite style of whisk(e)y and it is very easy to dismiss this one after a quick taste – not finding the ‘usual’ intense aromas and tastes with a more complex structure.

Take a second look or sip and it might not be so bad after all.

Turns out this Akashi is a great ‘aperitif’ – not too complicated or intense – it’s simplicity creates an appeal in itself, maybe best described as a ‘table’ whisky.

It pairs well with cheeses, charcuterie, antipasti because it does not overpower them but is rather complementing.

After our tasting with the cigars being lit, the Akashi pretty much turned into the favorite of the night with it’s easy-sipping qualities. Hence, it is not just a decent aperitif, but an evenly good ‘digestif’ or maybe just a very ‘sociable whisky’.

Table for One

Table for One

Here are the ‘official’ notes on Akashi:

Akashi whiskey subtly blends malt and oak. Compared to traditional whiskey, Akashi is easy to drink, with less peat and smoke flavors. The flavor is mild, soft, and retains a strong malt aroma, characteristic of Japanese whiskeys, which are approachable, smooth and soft. It is recommended to add ice and soda water for a more delicate and smooth taste.

• Nose: fresh orange peel, very light smoke, ginger, pepper, honey
• Palate: oily, pepper, sweet cake, citrus fruits, vanilla
• Finish: middle to long, light honey, sweet aftertaste

What else did we sample in our “Ladies Choice” evening for the BMC gentlemen?

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Whisky Ladies Choice – Treating the BMC Gentlemen…

Last year, the gentlemen from the Bombay Malt & Cigar club took it upon themselves to treat the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai to an evening of Irish whiskies and cigars.

This year, it was our turn to return the favour.

We debated a range of different approaches and finally decided on a theme of “Ladies Choice.” And what pray tell did that mean to us?

We wanted to share with the gentlemen some of the most memorable whiskies we sampled together as a tasting group. They may not be the world’s best whiskies but they would be our “Choice” – ones that stood out in some kind of way.

We went about it in a democratic manner and voted, tallied up the responses to create a “short-list”, then began the efforts to source these whiskies.

Our approach was a bit flexible, in some cases we knew it would be impossible to source the EXACT same whisky. What worked was finding something from the same distillery or similar category.

The whiskies were literally sourced from around the world involving travel, friends of friends and even last minute acquisitions…

What made it into our final “Ladies Choice” list?

JapanAkashi Red Blended Whisky 40%

  • In truth we had several Japanese whiskies in mind however the Akashi was accessible and a refreshing departure from the expensive exclusive impossible to find Japanese single malts, so figured why not!
  • It also made for a perfect ‘appetizer’ whisky to get the evening going…

Sweden – Mackmyra Vinterdröm 46.1%

  • The most enjoyable peaty Mackmyra Svensk Rok 46.1% captured our attention with its clean, minimalist yet smoky qualities.
  • So when our Swedish whisky lady went on the hunt over Christmas for something distinctly different from the distillery, this limited edition “Caribbean love affair” avatar was her pick!

IndiaPaul John Single Cask #1844 60.5%

  • The Paul John Select Cask Peated Batch 1 “OMG bacon!” made many Whisky Ladies swoon for more during our Paul John evening… we definitely wanted to include a Goan single malt, preferably a Select Cask or Single Cask…
  • Thankfully Michael from Paul John distilleries was able to oblige our interest – literally hand delivering this single cask a mere two days before our evening!

France – Kornog Taouarc’h Pempved 14 BC 46%

  • Kornog’s whisky from Bretagne will forever be known in our group for the comment “How did you go from being a perfect gentlemen to getting my bra off like that?” (WL on Kornog Taourac’h Trived 10 BC 46%)
  • Alas the Trived 10 BC was no longer available so we took a gamble on the newer Pempved 14 BC

TaiwanKavalan Solist Sherry Cask S090102020 57.1%

  • There was no doubt a Kavalan was going to make the cut…
  • By a very wide margin, the Solist Sherry Cask topped the charts with the most votes from all our Whisky Ladies tasting experiences. So… it simply HAD to be our ‘showstopper’ of the evening!

Somehow not one Scottish whisky made it into the list. Not a single one. It wasn’t deliberate. It was simply how the votes panned out.

But that says something about how the whisky world is going…

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Apple cider whisky – Akashi Red 40%

Unless you’ve been asleep in the last few years, you would know Japanese whisky has established itself on the world whisky stage as pretty premium!

However there is another kind of Japanese whisky out there… something known as ‘ji-whisky‘ i.e. smaller local spirits companies ‘micro-distilleries’ that sometimes pump out other spirits like sake and sochu, making cheaper whisky blends primarily with the Japanese consumer in mind.

Akashi is an example of such a ‘ji-whisky’ and one of the few Japanese blended whiskies available in Mumbai duty-free. Key point – it is not ‘purely’ Japanese as it uses a mix of foreign and Japanese malt and grain whiskies.

I first sampled an Akashi White Oak 40% at a house-warming party. Not having proper tasting glasses, I sipped it from a shot glass and the overwhelming impression was of a bubblegum, vanilla and honey nose, smooth creamy light fruity oak palate and an absent finish. As White Oak from Eigashima Shuzō distillery  (i.e. White Oak) is the most readily accessible of Akashi’s offerings, I assumed this would be the Akashi sampled with the Whisky Ladies a few days later.

Nope! Our Whisky Ladies seek the less common and instead our evening featured the Akashi Red which spent 2 years maturing in ex-bourbon casks and 1 year in a sherry cask. Judging from the colour, it was liberally augmented with caramel.

akashi-red-blended

Akashi Red Blended Whisky 40%

  • Nose – Varnish and vanilla, medicinal ammonia with a bit of rubbing alcohol, apple cider, sweet cinnamon, honey, grain
  • Palate – APPLES, smooth, toffee, drizzle of honey… not much else, quite a thin body, light, soft without much substance
  • Finish – Light burn, bit woody, more apple… just this time the slightly bitter apple peel
  • Water – One attempted to find a little orange peel

As soon as one lady said “This is a bit like Calvados”, she had company in that opinion!

Apple was consistent in all elements… as we gave it some time, it initially took on a more ‘malty’ quality and became even smoother (if that’s possible!)…

And then that’s when it became flat. Think apple juice. Now, I’m not averse to a good apple juice… but apple juice whisky? Hmm….

Here’s what they have to say from the bottle:

  • Nose – orange peel, ginger, honey
  • Palate – sweet cake, vanilla
  • Finish – medium, light honey finish

We were surprised at no mention of apple… for all of this,  the core fruit to this light whisky was apple, apple, apple….

But here is the thing. It isn’t expensive. Easy drinking (if you drink it quickly!). It again reminded me of something more suited to sake shots… and I wondered if the shot glass I first sampled the White Oak was perhaps just about right for the Red too?

For a bit more about whiskies from this distillery…

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Other whiskies sampled during our September Whisky Ladies evening:

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Whisky Ladies like variety! Akashi, Spirit of Hven + Linkwood

Variety is the spice of life! And why not with whiskies too?

This Whisky Ladies session with a few ladies gallivanting around the globe, those remaining in Mumbai decided to merrily abandon the idea of a co-ordinated theme.

Instead we decided to mix up whiskies from three different countries and styles.

Whisky Ladies, Sept 2016

Whisky Ladies, Sept 2016

The Linkwood was a gift from our Bombay Malt & Cigar session, so I had sampled it earlier, however for everyone else joining, it was a 1st for them! Pronounced a rather lovely drinking dram, it kicked off our evening’s tasting session.

The Akashi is one of the few whiskies blended in Japan available at Mumbai duty free. The Akashi is an example of a ‘ji-whisky’ and has an apple cider quality. It works well as a ‘starter’ whisky for those who like something simple, smooth and unchallenging… and was meant to be our ‘appetizer’ except our poor Whisky Lady got stuck in nearly 2 hours of traffic to reach! (that’s dedication!)

The Spirit of Hven was acquired by a new whisky lady on her recent trip to Sweden. Much bolder with fabulous packaging, the Tycho’s Star swaggered into our senses and was much enjoyed. The irony was our Swedish whisky lady happened to be… well… in Sweden so missed the session however this was clearly one she would enjoy!

PS With desert, we decided to share a few drops of the Blair Athol 27 year with it full cask sherry burst – yum!

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