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Karuizawa is almost legendary. Status-wise not unlike Port Ellen, I would say. Releases sell at the speed of light, there are no sweeter cakes. It once all started as a winery, distilling taking place as of 1956. Until, in 2001, the final curtain fell. Number One Drinks bought all the stocks and is now selling them (at quite a profit, let us not beat around the bush) in Europe. Karuizawa recently made the news with an ultra-expensive (11.000 EUR) single cask bottling from 1964. We mortals have to make due with this bottle that was only around 150 EUR at the time, a single cask from 1985.
Ha, grand and deep sherry on the nose. It starts spicy with notes of earth and gunpowder. Struck matches. Dying hearth. And then the fruit cavalry arrives. Sugared oranges, blackberries, figs, dades. Maple syrup. Chocolate with vanilla filling. Pipe tobacco. Coconuts. Furniture polish. Leather. Very complex and pleasant. With water, I get more citrus and the spices fade a bit.
It is very creamy and feisty on the palate. Hot in fact. The smoke is extreme. The dark fruit returns with a vengeance, joined by mint and oak. Slightly bitter from the wood and oranges. Gunpowder again. Make that fireworks! Adding water is not a must, but recommended. It offers up a meaty side that really pleases.
The long finish is drying, but in such a was as to be a pleasant experience. With water, the tannins are just a tad louder.
Mighty Japanese whisky. Arigato, Karuizawa! Thanks, Ruben, for the sample.