2021 has been a relatively slow year for new Japanese whisky releases, partly owing to the on-going whisky shortage, and partly down to distillery closures as a result of Covid-19. However, in the past couple of months we have seen a handful of mouth-watering expressions appear on the market, from fine single malts to unique world blends, and today we’ll be delving into our favourites.
For the past several years, Ichiro’s Malt have been bottling Chichibu casks for exclusive release at Singapore’s world famous Takashimaya Shopping Centre. Each release in the series highlights the year’s Chinese Zodiac animal.
The 2021 release, featuring an ox on the label, contains liquid distilled in 2012 and matured for around 8 years in a red wine cask. The results are a rich, fruity expression that brings red berries, cherries and gentle plum that combine perfectly with notes of toasted malt, oak and subtle spices. It’s a phenomenal whisky, as we now expect from Ichiro’s and Chichibu, and with only 243 bottles released, quantities are highly limited.
If you’re a fan of Japanese whisky, the Akkeshi Distillery will have been on your radar for some time. Situated in Hokkaido, in the far north of Japan, the distillery is one of the fastest rising whisky producers in all of Japan. To date, they have released a number of unique new-make bottlings, as well as two single malt whiskies that have delighted drinkers everywhere.This Hokkaido Limited Blend is a world blended whisky created using malt distilled at Akkeshi and imported grain whisky. All of the spirit in this blend was matured in Japan and it brings harmonious notes of citrus fruits, sweet berries and oak spice that combine in heavenly fashion. A really great whisky and another fantastic addition to the world blended category.
Hombo Mars’ Lucky Cat series has been delighting noses and palates for years now with its smooth and balanced flavour profiles, and this one is sure to follow suit. It is yet another world blended whisky; these are popping up with increasing regularity since the introduction of new labelling standards to Japanese whisky earlier this year.
This expression brings hints of roasted chestnuts, melting chocolate, milky coffee and cinnamon spice, all of which work in tandem to create a memorable drinking experience. The master blenders at Mars have clearly put a great deal of time and care into this superb whisky and, given it’s a limited edition of which only 6,700 bottles were released, we don’t expect it’ll remain on the shelves for long.
The Akashi White Oak Distillery, or Eigashima Shuzo, was the first in the whole of Japan to gain a license to distil whisky way back in 1919. Since then, they have been working to perfect their craft while releasing a plethora of fantastic whiskies along the way.This beautiful Akashi 4 Year Old is made from single malts matured in sherry and bourbon barrels which were then vatted in a single port cask for one year. The results are a well-rounded and complex whisky that has an abundance of notes to explore, from spiced plums and sweetened cherries to winter fruits and black pepper spice. There’s plenty to explore in this expression, despite its young age, and with only 849 bottles produced, it’s worth getting your hands on while you can.
The final whisky we’re looking at today is another from the Akkeshi Distillery and it’s another limited edition world blended whisky.
Created using malt and imported grain, both of which were matured on Hokkaido, it brings a delicate balance of smells and flavours for you to delve into. It’s smooth and well-balanced in every way, with sweet and salty notes complimenting each other in real style. Released as a limited edition for New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, it’s hard to find online, but well worth adding to your collection if given the chance.