The mighty Karuizawa 12 year (1999/2011) 58.9%

Another highlight at Whisky Live Singapore‘s Collector’s Room was the increasingly rare Japanese discontinued distillery – Karuizawa.

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Karuizawa 1999 12 year 58.9%

Bottled 24 Oct 2011, Single Cask #867 with 204 bottles

What did I find?

  • Nose – Lots of dark fruits, dusty
  • Palate – Spice, gorgeous complex character
  • Finish – Long yet quite subtle, lots of figs, dry and bitter

The challenge with dark, rich, intense whiskies is they can become a little too overpowering. This was not the case here… it held back from overwhelming. While it had a lovely nose, it was the taste and finish that really stood out.

While I doubt I will have a chance to try something like this again, am glad I had this opportunity.

Other rare Japanese whiskies sampled:

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Whisky Live Singapore – Collectors Room

Whisky Live Singapore has a special ‘Collector’s Room’ where the unique, rare and exclusive whiskies reside.

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Which ones did we chose?

Then had a bonus Bruichladdich 10 year 58%.

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Rare Japanese Whisky – Karuizawa 39 year 1973/2013 Cask No 1607 67.7%

I still cannot believe we sampled this near mythical dram. While I was intrigued but not blown away by the ‘entry level’ Asama, a mature Karuizawa whisky is valued in the $15,000 range?!

That is… if you can find it…

Image from Scotch Whisky Auction

Image from Scotch Whisky Auction

This vintage cask no 1607 release from Karuizawa was bottled exclusively for La Maison du Whisky at a cask strength of 67.7%. It was distilled in December 1973 and bottled July 2013, making it 39 years old, with only 138 bottles taken from the ex-sherry cask. To call it ‘rare’ is a bit of an understatement!

Here is what we found:

  • Colour – Deep rich burgandy
  • Nose – Like a fine cognac, hint of orange zest, grape, sugary honey
  • Palate – Fire, orange, chocolate
  • Finish – Cigar pipe tobacco soaked in cognac

The sample came courtesy of India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula and tasted together with the gorgeous quartet of grand dames – Glendronach 39 – 42 year whiskies.

My tasting notes simply do not do justice…. it is hard to put into words something that just wraps you up in so many layers of richness… It was a bit overwhelming to sample such mature, complex and yet still eminently enjoyable drams. Age doesn’t necessarily mean quality, but in this case it does!

Related posts:

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Rare Japanese whisky – Kurazaiwa’s Asama 46%

Much as I’m a fan of most of the Japanese whiskies I’ve sampled til date, the price tag keeps getting steeper and steeper. And that is if you can even find what you seek!

In my whisky quest in Tokyo last year, something from the discontinued Kurazaiwa distillery was on my ‘wish list’ however I did not have any luck and was advised to try auctions…

So when my aunt and uncle offered a sample of Asama, I jumped at the opportunity!

Asama (Whisky Lady's uncle)

Asama (Whisky Lady’s uncle)

Here goes for the Asama 46% (Karuizawa 1999+2000)

  • Colour – Burnished copper
  • Nose – Musty and mysterious – not in a bad way. Raisins, a little citrus. As it airs, has a distinctive sweet almond paste aroma, the lightest curl of tobacco, definite sherry influence
  • Taste – Warm, chewy, lots of raisins, that same musty element, perhaps mushrooms? Almost fudge-like or creamy daifuku
  • Finish – Oddly tea like… and more raisins and berries
  • Water – I almost didn’t add…  and then honestly wished I hadn’t. Just a few drops kicked up the spice but dulled the more interesting elements and drowned that oddly appealing tea-like element in the finish
  • Overall – While interesting, it certainly isn’t exceptional

This Asama was selected from 1999 and 2000 vintages, bottled and distilled at the now discontinued Karuizawa Distillery in its last two years of operation. Aged 11 years, it is part of the stock purchased by Number One Drinks Company.

The name ‘Asama’ comes from Mount Asama, an active volcano near where the Karuizawa distillery operated from 1955 – 2000. There have been a series of ‘Spirit of Asama’ released in small quantities over the years, of which this ‘Asama’ is considered entry-level for this increasingly rare Japanese whisky coveted by collectors.

It is certainly distinctive, however is it worth the fuss about Karuizawa? Yes and no… it is teasingly different and makes one want to explore what else Karuizawa has to offer.

However is this particular expression exceptional? Not really.

Do I have any regret about tasting it? Heck no!

What a treat and many thanks to my fabulous aunt and uncle back in Canada for the sample.

Canadian stash

Canadian stash…

Here’s what others say:

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