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This incredibly generous sample was provided by Johanne McInnis ("Whiskylassie"). This Karuizawa (selected by La Maison du Whisky) is cask strength but comes from a mix of sherry butts and bourbon casks. Distilled in 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1984, the cask numbers are 6405, 4973, 8184 and 6437, and was bottled in October 2011. A bottle of this sold at auction in Hong Kong in May for $CDN3,110, making this easily the most expensive whisky I've ever tasted in my own home.
The colour is a very reddish copper. On the nose I get big tobacco and peat smoke - this is easily the smokiest of the three Karuizawas tonight. Dusty bookshelf and old cracked leather. The dominant fruit is overripe raspberry - there is some papaya there too - but the top note above all is tobacco smoke from the fruitiest, most elegant cigar you could imagine. With a few drops of water a balsamic note appears, with more of that signature wet forest floor. Incredibly robust and sophisticated.
The palate is a perfect reflection of the nose, with all of those notes enveloping the tongue. But the tobacco smoke does a better job of making room for the fruit, chocolate, leather and oak. Also walnuts and 90% dark chocolate. This is bracing, revelatory, richly satisfying malt, tied together beautifully if you add a drop of water. Unbelievable.
The finish is long and deeply savoury with bitter dark chocolate, herbs and rich oak. Dries the mouth perfectly. This is one of the greatest whiskies I have ever had - utterly unforgettable. To take this journey from the Asama, to the 13 year old, and now to this, paints a delicate portrait of this tragically closed distillery. The common notes are all there - vegetal, wet forest, mushroom, meaty, rich - but as we move from the first to the next, and to the final - the few false notes drop off, and we end with near perfection. These whiskies pair perfectly with the holiday spirit; I have spent hours with these and I can't think of a better way to end Christmas Day. Time to happily float off to bed...