The White Oak distillery, founded by Eigashima Shuzō, is perhaps the least known of Japan’s whisky producers, but it has a legitimate claim to be the country’s oldest with a license to make whisky granted in 1919 — four years before Yamazaki was built.
This unusual bottling offers a marriage of two barrel maturations, one familiar to malt whisky drinkers, Oloroso sherry, and another less so - Ariake.
The latter comes from one of the few remaining cooperages in Japan, Ariake Sangyo, founded in Kyoto in 1963. In 1984 the company began producing casks to meet the requirements of Japanese wine and Sochu makers. With most procedures still done by hand, the company's artisan approach garnered a reputation for high quality. Demand increased and inquiries from whisky distillers rolled in.
"Ariake Barrel" has since expanded to a premises in Miyazaki prefecture, located in the southwest of Kyushu, on Japan’s third-largest island. While most casks still go to the wine and Sochu industry, around 10% are destined for whisky. Ariake Barrel import new virgin casks, French wine and American Oak, along with refill casks like Brandy and Sherry. They've also begun dealing in Mizunara (Japanese) oak.
Five years is quite some time to spend in virgin American oak, and with an extra 5 months finishing in x Oloroso Sherry casks, we'd expect this to be a very well endowed whisky. Completely natural with no chill filtering or colouring added, this release is limited to 1000 bottles worldwide.
Other reviews... Nose: Dark cherries, cracked pepper, Christmas cake, marmalade, creamed corn, black currents, balsamic, some burnt twigs. Palate: A richness that belies it’s young age. Pretty much follows the nose but adds ginger bread, sweetened tea, nutmeg, cocoa, creamed sherry and tangy orange. Finish: Creamed sherry, peppermint, sweetened tea, tobacco, raisins and the tangy orange. Last Word: Nicely balanced whisky with a maturity to the package beyond it’s age and the Oloroso cask finish adds richness and fullness. I’ve given this whisky to a few people to try and they have all enjoyed it.
- www.the japanesewhiskyreview.com