I fell a little bit behind last week, and was lacking prep for last week’s Whisk(e)y Wednesday, so my apologies to all that were looking forward to a more enlightening email. This week, we’re going to take a step away from bourbon and rye, and appreciate what some of our Japanese counterparts are putting on the market. I must preface this with the fact that at the moment, we are extremely limited in our offerings of Japanese whiskies, as not many are currently available in the state of South Dakota, but those that are available are quite splendid.
You’ll notice this week that our featured flights options will include two different flights of gin to go along with two featured whisk(e)y flights. This is done for a couple of reasons. First, it’s summertime and there are a few drinks that go extremely well with warm weather, and one of them is a gin and tonic. Finding a gin that you enjoy and will go well in a G&T can be difficult at times, so we want to give you a chance to try something new and judge for yourself what you prefer. Another reason, is that I have found my palate can become a bit stagnant when all I drink is whisk(e)y. That’s not to say I’m abandoning my brown spirit of choice for a colorless one, but I do recognize that without some variation in my adult beverage consumption I am limiting myself from a world of incredible flavor and complexity.
So without further ado, I excitedly present this week’s whiskies of emphasis-Mars Iwai, Mars Iwai Tradition, Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky, Akashi Blended Whisky, Akashi Ume, Suntory Whisky Toki, Suntory Hakushu 12 Year Old, and Chichibu Ichiros Malt and Grain Whisky.
Both Mars whiskies are named after the first person to bring whisky distilling to Japan, Kiichiro Iwai. The Mars Iwai is a whisky inspired by the American desire for high corn sweetness, touches of rye bite, and a solid body provided by the 20% malted barley in the mashbill. Aged in ex-bourbon casks, this smooth and elegant whisky is also the most affordable Japanese whisky on the market. With the Iwai Tradition, we see a full flip in profile. Made from 70% malted barley, 25% corn, and 5% rye, this lightly peated blend of 5 to 20 year malts uses ex-sherry, ex-bourbon, and fresh American and French oak barrels to produce a smooth whisky with a soft finish. Nikka Coffey Grain doesn’t actually use any coffee in its mashbill, and is actually named after the style of still used to distill the whisky. Nikka’s offering is a full-bodied, bourbonesque whisky full of tobacco and vanilla with a light, lingering finish. Akashi Blended is produced at the most coastal distillery in Japan, providing slight salty flavors to the whisky. With a strong body and bite to match, this is a blend that is great for sipping neat or on the rocks. Akashi Ume is a unique take on whisky, as it uses Japanese plums to add flavor and sweetness. It essentially becomes a premixed Old Fashioned that when poured over ice is ready to drink immediately. Suntory Toki has a sour nose, reminiscent of distillers beer, with a strong peaty kick in the middle, and a nutty and tobacco finish that lingers for minutes between drinks. Suntory’s Hakushu 12 draws you in with strong stone fruit and subtle peat on the nose. Once it has you interested, it brings you back with it’s bold peat and green woody flavors, and finishes light and lingering. The final whisky of emphasis is the most awarded Japanese Whisky on the market. Dubbed the Pappy Van Winkle of Japanese whisky, this multigrain offering blends whisk(e)y from Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and the United States to create a harmonious balance of complexity and smoothness that is sure to leave you wanting more. Choose any of these four to fill out your Featured Flight of the week.
For our gin offerings this week, I chose to vary the styles in the flights. For the first flight, we will focus on London Dry style with offerings from The Botanist, Monkey 47, Nolet’s, and Ki No Bi. London Dry is a style characterized by its meticulous attention to detail during the distillation process, as the spirits are distilled to a point of being completely neutral at 96% ABV, before being redistilled with botanicals to provide flavor and depth. Most often, juniper flavors tend to dominate the flavor profile, with other botanicals adding complimenting flavors. For sweeter flavors, Hendricks Midsummer Solstice, Roku, Hayman’s Old Tom, and Big Gin Old Tom, capitalize on the extra licorice used to tone down much of the juniper and citrus zest found in London Dry gins, making them perfect for mixed drinks and pre-Prohibition cocktails. No matter which way you go here, you’ll find something that introduces your palate to new complexities that are often times not found in whiskey.