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This is the first Karuizawa bottled for a US retailer, namely K&L Wine Merchants in California. @cpstecroix and I bought one bottle each, and he was kind enough to provide me with a sample from his, so I don't have to open mine if I don't want to. Whatta guy!!
Distilled in 1999, this malt was matured in a sherry butt for 13 years, yielding 500 bottles in 2013. Bottled by Number One Drinks Company in its "Noh" series, with a gorgeous Japanese Noh theatre mask on the label. Despite its youth, I presume this is highly collectible, though I haven't seen it listed at auction yet (I won't divulge what I paid but it didn't break the bank).
The colour is a deep burgundy. On the nose, extremely rich and savoury: wet forest floor, tobacco leaves, beeswax, prosciutto...even molasses. Cloves. Bitter cocoa and furniture polish (in a good way). Like the Asama, we get some beautiful wood smoke with the addition of a few drops of water. Beautifully done.
More bitter chocolate on the palate, even slightly salty. Orange, dark honey and wild mushroom. Deep and oaky. It doesn't feel like cask strength in the mouth as there is very little alcohol burn. But do add water as it evens out a bit while becoming spicier.
The medium-length finish is mouth-drying, featuring salted chocolate, raisin and ganache. This takes what we found in the Asama, bringing all those beautiful vegetal / meaty notes forward, while at the same time burying those slight sulphurous edges we found in that bottle. Not as elegant, per se - but big and bruising, and seems much older than its thirteen years. Fantastic.