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Akashi whisky is produced at the White Oak distillery that is located in Akashi, close to the city of Kobe in Japan. The distillery was founded by Eigashima Shuzo in 1888 with the aim to produce sake and shochu, two of Japan’s most popular alcoholic drinks. Eigashima Shuzo obtained a license to manufacture whisky in 1919, but even today the distillery keeps focusing on the production of sake and shochu, while its whisky stills are in operation only during a very short period each year. Traditionally, all of the whisky produced at White Oak distillery has been used in a blend called ‘White Oak’. The first Eigashima single malt, an 8-year old one, was only released in 2007, as the low production rate means that very little whisky is aged for long enough to be considered for single malt bottlings; when the occasional releases happen, the whisky is released under the name of ‘Akashi’. This 14-year old expression was matured in Spanish oak ex-sherry casks for 12.5 years and then finished for a further 1.5 years in an ex-white wine cask from the distillery’s winery in Yamanashi; it was released in May 2012 with a total outturn of 400 bottles.
The nose starts on notes of burnt rubber and fermented soy beans. Later on some fruity elements develop, such as apricots and berries, followed by caramel and milk chocolate. Overall, the nose remains rather closed without water. Adding water reduces the rubber notes and brings new flavours such as honey and butter to the fore.
The palate is full-bodied and spicy. The burnt rubber and fermented soy bean flavours are back, together with a touch of mint and again chocolate. With water the smoky element from the burnt rubber becomes more prominent, however everything else gets a bit bland.
The finish is of medium length and warming. Some sherry notes appear right at the very end.
This was one of the more challenging single malts I had in a long time. The nose is the most complex and most rewarding part, with flavours ranging from ashy/smoky to fruity/buttery. Interestingly, while in my opinion the nose worked better with water it was the opposite with the palate where even a little water diluted most of the flavours. Rather odd. Also, I did not detect any wine flavours although this was ‘finished’ in an ex-white wine cask. All in all, this single malt provided an interesting and satisfactory drinking experience but only with enough time and effort spent.