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1972 Number One Drinks Company Karuizawa Sherry Butt 7290 36 Year Old Cask Strength Single Malt Japanese Whisky (700ml)
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- ABV 65%
Karuizawa is held in quite different esteem to the Nikka and Suntory giants. Despite being the country's smallest whisky producer, they had ambitions to be one of Japan's best, taking an approach reminiscent of Macallan when they were setting the bar for Scotch malt excellence in the 1980s.
Fifty years ago the site of Karuizawa was actually a vineyard before its owner Daikoku-budoshu converted it into a whisky distillery in 1962. At 850 metres above sea level it is the most elevated in Japan. It stands in the countryside, in the shadow of a dormant volcano named Mt. Asama, to the north-west of Tokyo.
Karuizawa's preference for only using sherry casks (though not exclusively) helped build its reputation, and there have been a number of single cask bottlings in this sherry-led style. This matches their flavoursome spirit, made using only Golden Promise barley (as Macallan once did), all shipped from Simpson’s of Berwick. Since the mid-nineties Karuizawa was unpeated. It's ironic that the vision and persistence of its proprietors was commercially unsustainable during its operation. The distillery ceased production in 2000 and completely closed in 2011.
Enter the ''Number One Drinks Company'' - a kind of independent bottler founded in 2006 to import and distribute Japan's finest whiskies.They have secured the last casks of Karuizawa and are slowly drawing them off. How much Karuizawa is left? Number One have kept the exact number of casks a closely guarded secret. It could be anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand. What is known is that of the casks they own, only a relatively small number were distilled before 1980. The rest are from the 1980s and 1990s.
This bottling by the Number One Drinks Company was distilled in 1972 and bottled in 2008. Matured in Sherry butt #7290.
Condition: Slight deterioration on the front paper label. The wax seal is in overall excellent condition. Fill level is consistent for this particular bottling. No box is included.
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Other Reviews... Colour: gold. Nose: sure it’s extremely punchy at such high strength but quite unexpectedly, the high alcohol does not block it and lets some rather beautiful notes of figs, dates and ripe bananas go through. Quite some heather honey too, old Sauternes, apricot and mirabelle jams, pinewood smoke… Fantastic. With water: a little more oak, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon but all that goes marvellously well with the ripe fruitiness. Even more dried figs, roasted macadamia nuts, mapple syrup and orange blossom water. Extremely elegant. Mouth (neat): ouch! This is extremely hot, of course but sort of drinkable provided you take only half drops. Once again, figs and dates do dominate the whole, as well as raisins and vanilla. The sherry is rather discreet. Quick, water: exceptional development on all dried fruits and all honeys. Balance is perfect. Enough said. Finish: very long, with a faint smokiness, loads of very soft spices and hundreds of dried fruits. Okay, dozens. Comments: extremely high quality, perfect balance and not the tiniest flaw. It’s got something of some of the best old Springbanks. - 93 points Serge Valentin (whiskyfun.com)
Nose: the alcohol really hits you, but it’s still very expressive. Big sherry (well, Japanese wine) influence. Wonderful tobacco notes, like a recently opened cigar box. Plums. Kirsch. Spicy chocolate (cinnamon) and orange marmalade. Some leather. A light hint of smoke. Very complex, very good. Mouth: wow, very powerful and hot. Water needed here (and I don’t say that very often). Very intense, with a peppery attack. Fruity notes (lemon and tangerine) with a strong woody dimension. Raisins. Hints of smoke. Finish: very long finish on oak and spices. Warm and drying. Again a true classic. Not cheap but simply excellent. - Ruben (whiskynotes.be)