Ichiro’s Malt Double Distilleries, Mizunara Wood Reserve.

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The Ichiro’s malt is a blended malt whisky (Pure Malt as they call it in Japan); It’s a blend of single malts from the closed Hanyu Distillery and the Chichibu Distillery, which is the spiritual successor of Hanyu.


Ichiro’s Malt Double Distilleries

 

This is a blend of Hanyu whisky matured in sherry casks, and Chichibu whisky matured in new Japanese Mizunara oak cask. No detail on the age and vatting of each malts. Vatted and bottled in 2010.

Region: Japan

ABV: 46%

E150: No

Chill-filtered: No

Container: Glencairn Neat

Colour: Light Gold

Nose: Really sweet and fruity, sharp ethanol, apples, pears, honey, which reminds me of the Glenlivet Nadurra 16, but the Nadurra is much more mellow on the nose. Hints of strawberries, orange, and oak. I would guess a higher percentage of the younger Chichibu whisky is present here.

Palate: Peppery, cinnamon, malt, oak, cereal, nutmeg? slightly hot for 46%, surprisingly not fruity like the nose, not too much going-on on the palate.

Finish: Long finish, bitter oak, more peppery, malt, soap? The finish got really oaky and bitter notes starts showing up, rounding things off with a long spicy finish, some weird soap like notes kicked in on my last sip

Score: 78/100

It was a pretty solid dram until the off notes kicked in, too much bitter oak, and that weird soap note didn’t do it for me. Overall pretty decent nose, not too complex on the palate, and the finish killed it for me.


Ichiro’s Malt Mizunara Wood Reserve

 

This is a blend of malts from both Hanyu and Chichibu Distillery again, but this time, only whiskies aged in Japanese Mizunara Wood have been used. Mizunara is a native Japanese Oak, used by other Japanese distillery usually blended alongside other wood casks.

Region: Japan

ABV: 46%

E150: No

Chill-filtered: No

Container: Glencairn Neat

Colour: Gold-Amber, darker than the Double Distillery.

Nose: Really different on the nose right off the bat. Very aromatic, perhaps this is what Mizunara oak smells like. Really syrupy, honey notes. Sharp ethanol again, not sure if it’s the Mizunara oak, or it has a leather note to it. I get hints of fruits in the background, but the oak/leather notes are so dominating hard to pin-point what they are.

Palate: Leathery on the palate again, starting to believe that’s the characters of the oak. Pepper, very oaky, hint of brine, very slight malty sweetness. Not much fruity or not much going-on again. The oak and pepper is very pronounced.

Finish: Medium-finish, peppery, and oaky.

Score: 79/100

Very simple yet dominating nose and palate, starting to get the hang of how the Mizunara oak smells and taste like. But it lacks complexity, doesn’t have the bitterness of the Double Distillery, and none of that soapy finish I found in the Double Distillery.


I prefer the Mizunara Wood Reserve to the Double Distillery, it doesn’t have the odd finish of the DD, although both are lacking complexity, I like that the notes of the MWR stands out a lot more, allowing me to get a good understanding of the influence. From these two drams I find they both have things in common: peppery spicy notes. Both whiskies enters your mouth and starts tingling your tongue with pepper notes. Overall, good to experience, but there are better Japanese whiskies out there even with my limited experience with Japanese whiskies. I much prefer Nikka From the Barrel, and Yamazaki 12 to both of these.

Braeval 1995/2013 G&M Connoisseur’s Choice 18 Year Old, Benriach 1984/2012 Single Cask #1114 27 Year Old, Arran 19 Year Old SMWS 121.77,Glendronach Single Cask PX #1598 10 Year Old 2002/2012, Tamdhu 17 Adelphi Cask 1043, Caol Ila 16 SMWS 53.234.

Here is the reviews I’ve done during the Toronto Whisky Society November 6th tasting event. We had some great bottles lined up, the review quality drops as I drink more and more, I am posting them in the order I drank, in between there were bourbon, Irish whiskey, CS Rum, Calvados, Gretzky’s whisky, and local Apple Jack.

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2nd pour of the day

I brought this bottle, we figured it will be on the lighter side compared to others we got, so this went after the Gretzky. No one knew what distillery Braeval was, they were originally Bares of Glenlivet, in the heart of Speyside. Was a risky buy by me since I couldn’t find much info on the bottle and the distillery.

Braeval 1995/2013 G&M Connoisseur’s Choice 18 Year Old

Region: Speyside

ABV: 46%

E150: No

Chill-filtered: No

Cask Type: Refill Sherry Hogshead

Colour: Light Gold
Nose: Poweful fruit bomb! Apricots, citrus, apples, pears, spice, malt, red jolly rancher, floral.
Tons of fruit on the nose, very light sherry influence.
Palate: Stewed fruits, strawberries, chocolate, apple pie, melons, pepper, honey, syrupy, peppery, more spice, and a hint of smoke.
Did I mention fruit bomb? Yep, really delightful, I love a nice fruity whisky, where did the smoke came from??
Finish:Long finish, syrupy, red fruits, spices, oak, slight earthy notes.
Pretty delightful finish, really syrupy, still loaded with fruits, and slightly earthy towards the end.
Score: 78/100

This kind of whisky what I enjoy, loads of fruits without being really sweet, got some good complexity and pretty well balanced overall.


4th pour of the day (Had Adelphi Limerick Slaney Malt 23Y before this)

Benriach 1984/2012 Single Cask #1114 27 Year Old

Region: Speyside

ABV: 46%

E150: No

Chill-filtered: No

Cask Type: ex-Bourbon Hogshead #1114

Colour: Gold Amber
Nose: Vanilla, caramel, oak, sweet fruit, banana wax, chocolate, malt, honey.
Few strong dominating notes, and banana wax! Don’t exactly know how it smells like, but that’s that!
Palate: Very oaky, malt, cereal, digestive biscuit, chocolate, faint hint of pineapple.
Really dominating bourbon notes again, very oaky, each notes really stand out.
Finish: Long oaky, malty, chocolate, buttery, grass.
Nice long finish, I kept getting malt and chocolate alongside the oak.
Score: 87/100

Not a complex dram, but what surprised me is how deep each flavor is, just lingers in your mouth. Really well done whisky, gave it a higher score despite the lack of complex notes. This is the oldest whisky I’ve had so far to date.


5th pour of the day

Arran 19 Year Old SMWS 121.77 Dunnage warehouse orange boxes

Region: Isle of Arran

ABV: 53.4%

E150: No

Chill-filtered: No

Cask Type: Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead

Colour: Light gold
Nose: Light fruity nose, malt, orange, brown sugar, light stone fruits, vanilla, interesting herbal spice, sharp alcohol, bit of cereal.
Palate: Not too complex, dry, malt, sugar sweetness, citrus, oak, pepper.
Finish: Medium finish, malt, more sugar, oak, peppery.
Score: 83/100

My first SMWS experience, surprisingly this isn’t as complex as their younger OB offerings, like the 12CS, and 10Y CS First-fill bourbon LCBO cask. Perhaps the refill cask killed the complexity. I also believe the OB 12CS uses a mix of bourbon and sherry casks to improve complexity as well.


8th pour of the day (Had Cadenhead’s Heaven’s hill 11Y, George T. Stagg 2015 before this)

Glendronach 2002/2012 Single Cask #1598 10 Year Old

Region: Highland

ABV: 54.1%

E150: No

Chill-filtered: No

Cask Type: PX Sherry Puncheon #1598

Colour: Amber
Nose: Stewed fruits, strawberries, cherries, brown sugar, raspberry jam, orange, chocolate, spice.
Palate: Oranges, strawberry jam, brown sugar, chocolate, oak.
Finish: Long, spicy, raspberry, strawberry, oak.
Score: 85/100

This tasted a lot older than a 10 years old, love a nice sherry bomb, not as complex and in your face as A’bunadh, still really enjoyable.


9th pour of the day

Tamdhu 17 Year Old 1995/2012 Adelphi Cask #1043

Region: Speyside

ABV: 58.8%

E150: No

Chill-filtered: No

Cask Type: Unknown

 

Colour: Light gold
Nose: Possibly sherry cask, light red fruits, raspberry, strawberry, vanilla, light oak, malt.
Palate: Strong malt, a bit of off weird notes, pepper, orange, hint of cinnamon.
Finish: medium- long, oak, sherry spice, cereal.
Score: 84/100

Much nicer than their OB 10, not too complex, the higher proof and age definitely helped.


12th pour of the day (Had Applewood Farm winery Apple Jack, Boulard Calvados Pays d’Auge XO before this)

Caol Ila 16 Year Old SMWS 53.234 Smoke without fire

Region: Islay

ABV: 64.1%

E150: No

Chill-filtered: No

Cask Type: Refill ex-Bourbon Hogshead

Colour: Light straw
Nose: Smoked meat, peat, honey, meaty, vanilla, brine, slight sharp ethanol note.
Palate: Powerful peat, ash, dry, oaky, citrus, pepper, more smoked meat, alcohol.
Finish: Long finish, brine, oak, heavy peat, vanilla.
Score: 86/100

Quite like this, well I am 12 pour in, most stuff we had were cask strength, has that Caol Ila ashy peat, not too complex, I prefer the Caol Ila CS over this.

Ardbeg 1991/2001 10 Year Old Murray McDavid

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Quick review from a dram I had at The Feathers Pub in Toronto.

Ardbeg 1991/2001 MurrayMcDavid 46%

Region: Islay

ABV: 46%

E150: No

Chill-filtered: No

Cask Type: ex-Bourbon

Container: Feathers Pub Glassware, neat.
Colour: Light starw
Nose: Vanilla, peat, floral, brine, light sweet smoke, faint hint of citrus, honey.

Really simple nose, clean, loads of vanilla from the ex-Bourbon cask.
Palate: Oily mouthfeel, Lots of woody peat, oak, vanilla, salt, citrus, pepper.
Finish: short finish, faints away pretty quickly, leaving a bit of vanilla behind
Score: 82/100

Good mouth feel, more or less a single dimension, no off notes, decent nose, and falls short on the finish. I enjoy the OB 10 more than this.

Laphroaig PX Cask

This is a travel retail whisky from Laphroaig, matured in 3 types of casks despite the name. It first went through ex-Bourbon, then quarter-casks, and finally into PX Sherry casks. Bottled at 48% just like the Quarter cask, and Triple Wood.

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Laphroaig PX Cask

Region: Islay

ABV: 48%

E150: Yes

Chill-filtered: No

Container: Glencairn Neat

Colour: Gold

Nose: Smells awfully similar to the Laphroaig 18, I notice the similar citrus notes, peat, sweet smoke, perfume, cherry soda, hint of pineapple?, malt, frosted cereal, hint of spice, sharp ethanol.

The nose isn’t influenced by the PX cask that much, just smells sweet without the red fruits.

Palate: Raspberry, peat, salt, citrus, oak, cranberry, caramel, pepper, smoke, mineral, not as red fruit forward as I thought.

Very oak dominant, didn’t notice much sherry fruits here, sweet peat transition into salted caramel and some mineral notes, again not a lot of sherry going on, feels more like an older Laphroaig’s sweetness rather than sherry sweetness.

Finish: medium-long finish, smoky, earthy peat, citrus, deep oaky flavor, turns bitter in the end.

Score: 86/100

 

Overall a nice sweet smoky dram, wouldn’t have guessed it’s PX finish if tasted blind, feels like a younger version of Laphroaig 18, with a bit more peat, more oak, and less mellow. I much prefer this to the Quarter-cask. The finish is a not too ideal, but didn’t kill the overall balance.

Current Laphroaig Tier List:
Laphroaig 18 (88)
Laphroaig 15 200th Anniversary 43% (Not Reviewed)
Laphroaig PX Cask (86)
Lphroaig 10 43%= QC (Not Reviewed)

Caol Ila 2001 Hermitage Wood Finish Gordan & MacPhail

Quick background on Hermitage wine, Hermitage is a small appellation part of the Northern Rhone Valley, with only 345 acres of planted vineyards producing only 55,000 cases of wine per vintage. The Hermitage AOC only allows 1 red wine grape to be planted, which is Syrah, the most common Rhone valley grape, and two white grapes Marsanne and Roussane. Syrah creates is one of the darkest, most full-bodied wines in the world, usually spicy with loads of dark fruits, chocolate, and some herbal notes. Unlike most other French wine region, Hermitage usually never blend their red wine.

With the boring wine facts over, here we go:

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Caol Ila 2001 Hermitage Wood Finish Gordan & Macphail

Region: Islay

ABV: 45%

E150: No

Chill-filtered: No

Container: Glencairn Neat

Cask Type: Finished in First Fill E. Guigal Hermitage Casks

Colour: Golden Amber

Nose: Waves of sweet peat, smoke, lots of red fruits, strawberries, cherries, hint of light herbal note, cacao, pepper, light orange note, red jolly rancher.
Love the nose, really reminds me of the Longrow Red Australian Shiraz, hold on a second! They are both in the same type of grape varietal barrel (French Syrah and Australian Shiraz)! No wonder!

Palate: Nice and syrupy on the palate. Peat with distinctive ash characteristics, never experienced this before. Sweet cherries, jolly ranchers, charred thyme, cacao, oak, pepper, something I keep chewing on but I have no idea what it is, not exactly tobacco but something woody/muted in that direction.

Finish: Long and smoky, it has that mineral water aftertaste to it, earthy, vegetal, hint of bitter oak, unripe tropical fruit – mango?.

Score: 85/100

 

Overall an interesting dram, but after trying the Longrow Australian Shiraz, the Caol Ila Hermitage is no match for it. The bitter finish I am not a big fan of, then it turns into mineral water, which I also prefer not to drink. I’d imagine this would be great at a higher proof, sadly G&M seem to enjoy watering things down.

Dalwhinnie 15

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This is one of the first few scotch I purchased, it’s getting low, and so I figured I better review it soon before it’s gone.

Dalwhinnie 15

Region: Highland

ABV: 43%

E150: No

Chill-filtered: No

Container: Glencairn Neat with a few drops of distilled water Colour: Gold
Nose: Apples, honey, citrus, hints of smoke, pears, smell of an apple from the skin, hint of vanilla.
Very aromatic and fruit forward, exactly the reason why I bought it.

Palate: Citrus again, smoked honey(wtf is smoked honey), vanilla, more smoke, cinnamon, pepper, cereal, malt, a bit of oak after I chew on it a bit more.
Nice and lush on the palate, good mouth feel for a 43% chill-filtered whisky, not a super smoky but it merges well with the sweet notes.

Finish: Medium+ finish, still smoky, oak, malty, peppery, more smoke.
Decent finish, well balanced overall.

Score: 82/100

 

Interestingly, I still enjoy it! The “starter pack” (Glenlivet 12, Glendronach 12, Nikka Taketsuru, Benromach 10, Dalwhinnie 15, Auchentoshan Three Wood, Aberlour A’bunadh Batch 53) Only the Dalwhinnie and the A’bunadh I still quite enjoy, the rest I think I “developed” out of it. I like the touch of smoke alongside the honey-sweet fruits. Not super complex by any means, but overall well balanced, good mouth feel, well-made whisky.

Elijah Craig 12 Small Batch

 

Elijah Craig 12

Region: Kentucky

ABV: 47%

E150: No

Chill-filtered: No

Container: Glencairn Neat

Colour: Mahogany

Nose: Smells like corn-based bourbon, sweet woody notes, not much caramel, cinnamon, vanilla, acetone, a bit of fruits, brown sugar. High intensity nose.

Palate: Medium- mouth feel, caramel, pepper, oak, toffee, hints of tobacco, a bit of heat. Not as potent as the nose, kind of a letdown.

Finish: Medium finish, dry, bitter oak, pepper, slight sour, hint of spice, a bit hot.

Score: 80/100

Longrow Red Australian Shiraz

This is my first Longrow experience, I’ve only tried Springbank 10, and 15 before from Campbeltown, I am a sucker for these special finishes; Shiraz (Syrah for old world wines) is one of my favourite grape variety, Australia is famous for their Shiraz. I like the full-bodied, dark fruit forward, chocolaty profile of Australian Shiraz, let’s see if it gets carried over here.


Longrow Red Australian Shiraz

 

Region: Campbeltown

ABV: 53.7%

E150: No

Chill-filtered: No

Container: Spiegelau Whisky Snifter neat

Colour: Coppery-Amber

Nose: Red fruits infused with wonderful peat smoke, raspberry, strawberries, salt, orange custard, cacao, hints of honey, drop of water opens up more citrus notes.

Palate:Lush in the mouth, sweet peat, more orange notes, red berries, chocolate, smoked meat, salt, and a hint tannins on the side of the mouth.

Finish:Long, smoky finish, lots of smoke! Complex finish with spices, red fruits, custard, dried grapes, and more smoke.

Score: 88/100


 

Just noticed it’s my 20th review! Anyway, this is one powerful whisky, loads of smoke though out is my impression, I like the amount of non-medicinal smoke, lush and complex whisky, develops well on the palate, I typically favour sweet/fruity whisky, and this delivers them on a smoky platter. Back to the original question, did the cask finish transfer the essence of Australian Shiraz? Sure! But with my limited whisky experience I wouldn’t have guessed it was a Shiraz cask finish. Looking forward to more Longrow and Campbeltown offerings!

Aberlour A’bunadh 53 and 55

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Aberlour A’bunadh Batch 53

 

Region: Speyside

ABV: 59.7%

E150: No

Chill-filtered: No

Container: Glencairn Neat with five drops of distilled water

Colour:Tawny

Nose:Faint ethanol as expected with a cask strength, but surprisingly acceptable. Waves after waves of sherry notes, stewed apples and berries, dried berries, figs, hints of orange. Sweet sherry spices, a small minty tone.

Palate:Powerful, strong, sherry bomb. Without water this is aren’t too palatable for me. With water, sweet sherry notes, lots of spices, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg. Then it comes in with a wave of oranges, stewed apples, berries and toffee.

Finish:Medium-long finish, dry, sweet berries with a pinch of oak, with lingering spices, slight hint of salt.

Score: 87/100

 


Aberlour A’bunadh Batch 55

 

Region: Speyside

ABV: 60.9%

E150: No

Chill-filtered: No

Container: Glencairn Neat with five drops of distilled water

Colour:Tawny, a shade darker than the 53

Nose:Much more rounded compared to the 53. Vanilla, chocolate, oak, not as fruit forward as the 53, array of dried apricots, figs. Christmas cake, dried raisins, caramel, cinnamon, nuts. Doesn’t have the sharp ethanol notes of the 53, can easily get pass the subtle alcohol and dive right into the sherry goodness.

Palate:Even with the slightly higher proof, this is much more palatable. Fruity sweetness, less spicy than the 53. Orange jam, cherries, vanilla, Christmas cake, candied apple, oak, cinnamon.

Finish:What’s with me detecting hints of salt on the finish?? Long finish accompanied by oak, cinnamon and cloves.

Score: 89/100

 


 

The batch 53 is a lot more spicy and hot compared to the 55. The 55 comes in a mellower package while packing the complexity, it doesn’t have the sharp ethanol notes of the 53, and it’s more balanced. While I enjoyed the 53, I would take the 55 over it any day.

The Aberlour A’bunadh Batch 53 was one of the first more expensive Scotch I ever bought, didn’t regret this decision one bit, it’s also my first ever sherry cask Scotch experience, as well as cask strength experience. I had no idea what was about to hit me back then, was wondering why it’s 15-20% higher ABV compared to the others, it was apparent the moment I took a small sip, the only single malt I had before this was Glenlivet 12, and it changed the whisky game for me.


*Btw, that’s Tanuki in the picture.

Nikka Taketsuru NAS, From the Barrel.

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The first Japanese whisky I purchased few months ago, this is a Pure Malt or Blended Malt Whisky in Scotch terms. It contains a vet of whiskies from both Yoichi and Miyagikyo, this bottling is a blend of malts aged 10 years on average in different types of oak casks. Higher percentage of Miyagikyo, with sherry cask malts blended to give it a sweeter notes. Well, all that according to Nikka’s website.
You can still grab the age-stated ones in Japan, the 12, 17, and 21 could be found not in some shops around Tokyo (my friend spotted them alongside some Yamazaki 12 and Hakushu 12), and they are also available in Hong Kong, they don’t seem to like selling it outside of Asia.


Nikka Taketsuru NAS

Region: Japan

ABV: 43%

E150: Yes

Chill-filtered: Yes

Container: Glencairn Neat

Colour: Medium gold-amber (E150)

Nose: Right off the bet, a welcoming sweet nose, you can tell some of the sherry casks are present here. Sweet stewed fruits, blend of apples, some citrus, and berries. Oak undertones, some vanilla, and a hint of spice.

Palate: Oak, not as fruity as the nose suggests, hints of saltiness, a bit hot on the palate, orange, some caramel sweetness.

Finish: Medium finish, Gingery spice, oak, some weird notes, metallic?

Score: 74/100

The nose was somewhat promising, but the taste and finish fails to deliver, like not much going on wouldn’t buy again at this price. No wonder why they use this stuff to make highball. I actually liked it few months back when I first started my whisky adventure, as my palate develop I like some whisky less now, and this is one of them.


Here we are, Nikka From The Barrel, a blend of Miyagikyo and Yoichi malts with a “unique grain whisky”, who knows what that is. Apparently these are really cheap in Japan like $20-30 a bottle, I kinda paid 2-3x the price for it. Hopefully the higher proof makes it nicer than the Taketsuru NAS.

Nikka From the Barrel

Region: Japan

ABV: 51%

E150: Yes

Chill-filtered: No

Container: Glencairn Neat

Colour: Amber (E150)

Nose: Oak, Vanilla, plums, sharp alcohol, caramel, leather, spices, hints of tropical fruit, caramel.

Palate: Oaky, followed by some spicy notes, cinnamon and ginger, very nice mouth feel, caramel, oranges, vanilla, medium tannins, and some fruity notes if I could get behind all these spices.

Finish: Lingering spices, salted caramel, ginger, a hint of smoke, slight bitterness? and more oak.

Score: 85/100

Really enjoyable dram, but not one that I would go back wanting for a dram frequently, have touched it for a long time. This is much better than the Taketsuru NAS, this is like the Taketsuru with the complexity, spices, and richness dialed up to 11. Would buy again if I find it for a cheaper price.