And so with another month, another Whisky Squad upstairs at The Gunmakers. This time saw the squad take it’s first serious steps offshore away from Scotland, to the land of the rising sun. Japan has a fairly large market for whisky – I’m not sure where I learned this…but apparently a bottle of whisky will be a very appreciated gift if ever you are being hosted by a Japanese family.
It was actually a tangent that got us started on this fine Thursday. Introducing Rum #0, Ron de Jeremy, a brand owned by an adult entertainment star who looks a bit like Mario from the Nintendo games.
Rum has never really been my drink, probably after a few unwise experiments with Navy Rum from the parents spirits cupboard at the age of 16 it just didn’t really appeal. This, however, slipped down rather nicely. Very sweet – the sugar cane is obvious, but there isn’t the sugar burn I found on the rum tasting at Vinopolis. And so onto the whisky.
The first whisky up is 25 year old, distilled in 1983. To me it smelled strong – deceptive, in that it was ‘only’ 43%. On the nose, pine trees on fire, a real spicy/herby mix but not particularly medicinal. At £89, probably not something I would put on my own shelf, though super rare in the UK.
Whisky 2, is much younger – 10+ years old and likely a blend as the bottle is a little hazy on the details. It’s richer and sweeter. A proper dose of Christmas cake, with the stickiness of glacé cherries. At 46%, marginally stronger. At £85, it’s probably over my budget right now but this was much more to my liking.
Whisky 3 continues in this vein – not at all smoky, with even more of a rich fruit nose. No age statement, but at 46% is perfectly savour-able. At £27 it’s also the cheapest of tonight’s tasting bottles.
‘Whisky’ 4. It’s time to break out the caps: FUCKING MEDICINAL. Heading out towards an Islay style – there’s a lot of peat on the nose of this. It’s a very ‘noisy’ flavour, with burnt vanilla and saltiness trying to come to the fore but not quite winning. This one actually can’t be labelled as whisky according to the rules – it’s just 3 months old and it’s craziness stems from the fact its short cask life was in a brand new American oak barrel, much like a bourbon would be. As it’s essentially ‘new’, it’s still 61% so there’s a lot of duty in the £65 retail price. The base wort was brewed using optic barley, apparently well known for it’s smoky flavour.
The regular tasting ended here – with the additional complication of import duties, Japanese whisky tends to be more expensive thus your entry price can’t stretch too far. However, Darren had gone to the trouble of finding some samplers – of which I only wrote anything down about one.
Whisky #5 is Ichicho Malt, King of Hearts 1986. Very simply smooth – easy drinking, going back towards the styles of whiskies 2 and 3.
And so ended another successful Whisky Squad. Number 17 continues the Japanese theme and is already fully booked. However, 18 sees the journey around the globe continue eastwards coming around to the USA for an introduction to bourbon. Tickets are not yet available – follow @whiskysquad on twitter if you’re interested. Knowing absolutely nothing about bourbon I plan to be there if I can be in the right place at the right time (none of this Olympics ballot nonsense!)