...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Birthday Booze: Yoichi 15 year old

I've just reviewed five long-aged single malts and there wasn't a killer in the bunch. In fact, the best of the five were the two with the lowest ABVs. The key to their mild successes were good palates. I didn't have a problem with the five noses, but lots of time sometimes equals lots of cask which in turn endangers the palate. Unless the drinker loves tannins. I am not that drinker.

Anyway, hear ye! Hear ye! Birthday whisky! No, I didn't open a 1978 bottle, nor did I open something that is of my age. Yes, I did declare the same bottle that I opened on Mathilda's first day of kindergarten as my birthday bottle. I'd been traveling for business for some time when I came home for my birthday and then did not have the mental energy to open up something else.

But now I'd like to briefly open up the past. (Segue!) Rewind seven years ......

...... when I was very excited about the rumor that Nikka was bringing their single malts to America. Then they arrived and I saw Yoichi 15 year old's price. $120! What? I tried it and loved it, but still that seemed a little silly. But I bought one bottle. Then age-stated Japanese single malts vanished, and Yoichi 15's price went to $300, then $400. Now there are US retailers selling it for $700-$1000.

What's it like opening a thousand-dollar whisky? I don't know, I paid $120 for it. What I do recognize is that I'll never own another bottle of Yoichi 15. We're likely 8-10 years away from seeing an updated release, and if people are paying $400-$600 (let alone $1000) for a bottle now, why should anyone expect Nikka to price the next batch under $400?

There are a lot of dollar signs in the previous two paragraphs. But what did you expect? This is Diving for Pearls and I'm moping about Japanese whisky. Here are some actual tasting notes.

Distillery: Yoichi
Ownership: Nikka
Region: Hokkaidō, Japan
Age: minimum 15 years
Maturation: I've seen references to bourbon casks, sherry casks and a mix of casks. The label helpfully clarifies everything by saying, "oak casks"
Alcohol by Volume: 45%
Bottle Purchased: April 2014

Diaphanous(!) peat and wisps of charcoal smoke float along the surface of the nose. There's melon, plum wine, butterscotch pudding with smoked almonds and a hint of ginger candy. After 30 minutes, notes of clay and anise arise. A salty, seaweedy peat reads louder in the palate. Weaving through the peat is a good balance of calvados, subtle orange marmalade sweetness, black peppercorns and savory dried herbs. The finish is similar to to the palate with the salt, marmalade and calvados. The smoke grows more savory with time.

A few drops of water...

DILUTED TO ~43%abv, or ¼ tsp per 30mL whisky
The water brings more sugary notes to the nose. Also citronella, limes and an almost chocolatey peat smoke. No big change to the palate. Maybe more of a mineral note. A moment of sugar cookies. The finish also remains similar. Perhaps slightly sweeter with more of a cigarette smoke.

The graceful peat reads like nothing coming from Scotland right now (or ever?), and all the whisky's facets play well together in both the palate and nose. Nothing ever looms too large. The finish is moderate but very satisfying. At times it feels a bit tighter than I remember it to be, but airing it out seems to fix that.

While Yoichi 15 elicits neither sobs or swoons, as Yamazaki 18 has been known to do, it is still a great whisky. The whisky world would be better off with it readily available on shelves around the world, but its absence is more of disappointment than a tragedy. I'll enjoy this bottle while it lasts, and that will be enough.

Availability - Primary market, secondary market, tertiary market, etc.
Pricing - High
Rating - 89