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Friday, June 24, 2022

Three Yoichi Key Malts

Given the choice of Nikka's two Japanese distilleries, Miyagikyo and Yoichi, I'll always pick the latter. With more than a decade of maturation, Yoichi can hold its own with, or surpass, Scotland's best peated whiskies. Of course, "more than a decade of maturation" is quite the qualifier, presently. The Key Malts I have here today are likely very young, judging by the Miyagikyo set I reviewed on Wednesday. It may not be Waterford-young, rather Kilchoman-young. But of the two sets, this is the one I've been looking forward to.

Sapporo Triplets

Woody and Vanillic - 55%abv
Sherry and Sweet - 55%abv
Peaty and Salty - 55%abv
The nose is woody indeed. With peat thrown in, it registers like mesquite. After 10 minutes the vanilla bursts in, carrying mint and sugar with it. Rosemary, hazelnuts and dried apricots stay in the background.The nose starts out earthy with a little bit of wood smoke. Vanilla, lemon and caramel sit on top. Nutty sherry on the bottom. It develops a cheesy yeastiness with time."Laphroaig Jr." (per my notes) on the nose. Old bandages and antiseptic. Ham, dry peat, citronella candles and eucalyptus.
The palate is REALLY HOT, like 65%abv. Very sweet too. Once the tastebuds recover, they pick up something a lot like Craft bourbon. There's burnt wood, wood smoke, mint and pears. Maybe some kiwis in the distance.Generic sherry cask notes lead the palate, with black raisins and cherry syrup. The peat barely makes it to the midground. Basic.The palate shows a good balance of smoke, sweet and bitter. Notes of lime, mint leaf, fresh ginger and cayenne ease in gradually.
It finishes hot and sweet, with mint and lumber.The finish offers dried cherries and currants. Very little smoke, but plenty of woody bitterness.Lime, ginger, wood smoke and a touch of herbal bitterness fill the finish.
Diluted to 45%abv:
The nose has sugar cookies and pine, with hints of farm and dried herbs. The palate is very bitter and very sweet, with vanilla extract and pineapple. Nothing but bitterness and vanilla in the finish.
Diluted to 45%abv:
Sulfur and roses in the nose, followed by vanilla and golden raisins. The palate starts out well with dry oloroso and lemon, but then the black raisins and tannins take over. It finishes with maraschino cherries and woody bitterness.
Diluted to 45%abv:
The nose feels gentler and more pulled together. Lots of ocean and dry peat. The palate becomes tarter and more herbal, with kiln smoke filling every corner. It finishes with dry herbs, limes and kiln.


Woody and Vanillic - The whisky fulfills the label's promise. It's also the worst Yoichi I've ever tried. I don't know why they'd punish the lovely spirit so. The nose saves this one from getting a lower score, as is often the case with over-oaked whiskies throughout the world.

Sherry and Sweet - Another bummer, this one somehow underperforms Miyagikyo's Sherry & Sweet, even though the Yoichi has much less sulfur. It'd be forgettable were it not for the constant reminder that this is somehow Yoichi, and not a lazily sherry-finished mass production from Scotland.

Peaty and Salty - Huzzah. One good pour. This Yoichi hits all the right notes, reading like a stronger, better version of their standard NAS release. Yes, it's quite young, but it's mezcal-free, well-balanced and very drinkable even during this humid season.

I'm short on words words words here. Disappointment is what I'm feeling, like that "Really?" reaction I had when tasting an early batch of Suntory's Distiller's Reserve whiskies. Seriously, I just poured Yoichi product down the sink. It's more like "Yoichi loses", rather than "Miyagikyo wins" this week. Back to Scottish stuff next week.

Yoichi Woody and Vanillic - 74
Yoichi Sherry and Sweet - 78
Yoichi Peaty and Salty - 85