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Karuizawa 8 @Day 0, 2012-04-16
A 50ml bottle from a small lot of samples I received recently (April 2012). As with all samples from the seller, bottles are decanted in full so this is a "fresh" sample.
Nose: Japanese plum, honey, grapefruit, melon, fragrant peat smoke - like thin tendrils of burning incense sticks. Something else that tingles the nose in a curious way. Malt takes a back seat - almost undetectable. Nose is quite delicate. With water: More fragrance, smoke sweetens, touch of dark sugar developing.
Taste: Soft smoke, grapefruit tang, honey accompanies the alcohol in a fairly laid back delivery which continues on the palate. Softens in all departments over several seconds with only the development of a little dry oak spice. With water: More woody spices revealed and a hint of menthol and leafy herbs.
Finish: Oak spices, soft peat, bitters, a touch of brine, damp leaves in a short-ish, pleasant finish.
Balance: The balance between fragrant peat, citrus and wood spice is harmonious without being complex. Malt however is understated in comparison and struggles to come to the fore. Somewhat muted delivery of palate lets the alcohol be noticed early (even at the "low" 40% ABV) - not to say that the alcohol dominates, it certainly does not, but it is noticeable over the intrinsic character of the whisky which in my opinion, detracts from the experience of the delivery.
Score: N20 T19 F19 B19 = 77
While there are no major flaws, there are also no obvious standouts either. A bit thin and subdued overall. A nice enough dram though where the nose provides the most enjoyment at the current stage. I wonder if the palate will reveal another dimension in the next couple of weeks?
Karuizawa 8 @1 Week
I've been sick for several days. I think my nose is finally good enough for nosing again. Just as well, because it's been a week (and a day) since I opened this sample bottle, so time for round 2.
Nose: Light musky sweetness, some other vague sweet, white fruity notes and just a faint hint of ash dust. Having real problems discerning anything - maybe not such a good nose day after all, or has the nose really died so much in a week (albeit with 2/3 full 5cl sample bottle)?
Taste: Tingle of young alcohol which softens quickly, dash of mineral water, spice, citrus zest, a touch of peat.
Finish: Sour and bitter citrus fruit, wood spices, hints of plum in a short finish. Something lingering in the mouth feel which reminds me a little of port (wine).. curious.
Balance: Nothing remarkable going on here. No major faults but equally not a lot to praise. It's not bad, it's not good, rather mediocre on the complexity scale. Very subdued nose and palate so has consistency there at least.
Score: N17 T18 F18 B18 = 71
Karuizawa 8 @4 Weeks
Nose: Subdued, quite dull except for a little smoked fruit and a dusting of fine icing sugar. Having difficulty getting the nose to speak. After a few patient minutes, now getting some honeycomb, apple and some of that distinctive floral oak.
Taste: Bitter, tart, a little "bitey" and hot, oak and cracked pepper, a hint of phenols in the back, some restrained sweetness there which could be malted barley. Hard to tell sometimes with Japanese whisky!
Finish: Bitter citrus peel, bourbon notes, spices. Some lingering malt sweetness and bitter phenols in a finish that's, well, neither here nor there.
Balance: As good as the nose is, the taste and finish experience flaws in prevalance of the undesirable sort of bitterness, tartness and general "rawness" of spirit.
Score: N20 T19 F18 B19 = 76
Not bad, but not great either. Perhaps at 8 years of age this is not quite ready yet.
Final (Average) Score: N19 T19 F18 B19 = 75