...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Two teenage actual Japanese blended whiskies

Harrumphs continue over contemporary Japanese whiskies that are not fully made out of Japanese whiskies, and the harrumphed whiskies continue to be made. I expressed my vital opinion on this matter three years ago and that hawt take hasn't changed.

This Japanese week ends with two lesser known blends (no apologies for the rhyme), both of which are very likely probably kinda sorta totally 100% Japanese, and both of which I'm fairly geeked about. The first is a recent blend, the second is a random dusty that I know nothing about!

Kirin's gigantic whisky factory, Mt. Fuji Distillery (formerly Fuji Gotemba), sits near the eastern base of the wee hill, producing dozens of blends, grains and malts we don't hear much about in The States. Over the past decade, several editions of an 18-year-old blend have been released in its home country. Imma try one.

Fuji Gotemba (Fuji-Sanroku) 18 year old
2018 Small Batch blended whisky

Brand: Fuji Gotemba / Fuji-Sanroku
Distillery: Mt. Fuji Distillery (previously Fuji Gotemba)
Ownership: Kirin Distillery Group
Type: Blended whisky
Region: Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
Age: minimum 18 years old
Maturation: ???
Outturn: ???
Release year: 2018
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
(from a bottle split)


The oak moves in waves through the nose. At first it's shy, allowing lots of grains (barley and otherwise) to hold the fore. There are also oranges, out-of-season peaches and a whiff of glue. Toasty aromatic oak, toasted coconut and white chocolate move to the front after 20 minutes, then recede again at the 45-minute mark, allowing the fruits to return. The palate begins with fresh ginger, tart oranges and sawdust. Then something plummy takes over after 20 minutes. At the 45-minute spot, the plums are joined by whole cloves, wood smoke and more citrus. The ginger and orange finish gets sweeter and smokier with time, with a hint of the palate's plums.


This comes across as a bit of a generic blend until 45 minutes pass by. At that point the oak and spirit find their best balance. The mouthfeel is very thin, perhaps the victim of heavy chill-filtration, but I really enjoyed the fresh plums and the finish is quite pleasant. The whisky's overall quality is comparable to the major Scottish 18yo blends, with the plums perhaps giving it a slight edge. But Johnnie Walker 18 averages $85. This averages $600. I don't know, man.

Availability - It can be found
Pricing - $500-$850
Rating - 81

Rarely do I have a whisky sample that's so random that I can only shrug and say, "I dunno, here's a thing," but I'm short on facts here.

It's a 17 year old Suntory blend with Takashimaya and Yokohama Club listed on the label. Takashimaya is one of Japan's chains of ten-storey super-duper department stores. I've been in a few, and I highly recommend travelling to the basement level and eating yourself to death. Once upon a time, these department store chains' basements sold exclusive single casks and small batches of Suntory's and Nikka's famous distilleries. Today their whisky selection isn't much better than a Duty Free shop. Perhaps this specific Suntory blend was a bottling for the Takashimaya store in Yokohama, or maybe there was a whisky club in Yokohama and they had a blend made for them which was then sold via Takashimaya? There's very little information about this bottling online, so if you made it here via a Google search and you know more about this whisky please let us know in the comment section below. Thanks!

Otherwise, I dunno.

Here's a thing.

Suntory 17 year old blended whisky, Yokohama Club, Takashimaya

Brand: Suntory
Ownership: Beam Suntory
Type: Blended whisky
Country: Japan
Distilleries: Yamazaki and Hakushu for malt, Chita for grain (probably)
Age: minimum 17 years old
Maturation: ???
Exclusive to: see above
Alcohol by Volume
: 43%
(from a bottle split)


The nose triggers an intense sense memory of the white Kosher wine served at Kiddush at the synagogue I attended in my childhood. But the nose also shows polyester, dried paste, Dijon mustard, plum wine, ocean water and raspberry candy. And, no, none of those notes can be bothered to work together. The palate delivers some serious OBE: dust and must and metal. Lots of sweet grain whisky. Some paper. Raw almonds, malt and whole wheat toast. It picks up some peaches after a while, and has a gingery fizziness running throughout. It finishes sweet and malty, though also bitter and papery. Some peach sweetness eases in after a while.


Had I tasted it blindly I would have guessed it was an early '70s scotch blend, like Ambassador or Passport. Not the healthiest compliment on the surface, but I do like the dirty oddities that 40-50 years brings to those cheapies. The nose is truly strange and not of the clean, rounded quality of later Suntory blended products. That could also be read as a positive, because I think I'd rather drink this than Hibiki Japanese Harmony. I'd still take Toki over them both.

Availability - Somewhere. Or not.
Pricing - Damfino
Rating - 77


Thank you for joining me on this week's twirl through Japanese whisky. These were the last of my Japanese whisky samples. Yes, the last. I even finished the heel of my Yoichi 15 bottle. Next week the blog returns to Scotland for three reviews of one very sexy distillery's single malt.

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