Snugged in the shadowy climes of Mount Asama, Japan’s most active volcano, sits the Karuizawa distillery, just a stone’s throw west of the town of…yep…Karuizawa. Sadly, since the year 2000, the distillery has lain dormant, yet the occasional releases still finding their way to the marketplace, often leads to speculation that it’s tiny little operation could one day start up again. Indeed, in the years following the 2000 mothballing there were moves that indicated this very well could be the case, but alas…never to full fruition. Now…with only a couple hundred remaining casks…it would seem the legacy of Karuizawa has finally come to a close.
The distillery was founded in 1955, with new make spirit first flowing the following year. For 45 years this little distillery-that-could pumped out its own unique malt whisky. It should be noted though, in consideration of those who may not fully comprehend the rationale behind the rather exorbitant prices Karuizawa commands, that the distillery’s peak capacity was a mere 150,000 litres per annum. As you can imagine, low output + closed distillery = scarcity and demand. C’est la vie, so long as the distillate supports the hype. In the case of Karuizawa…it does.
This multi-vintage release is composed of four different casks (both bourbon and sherry butts) distilled between 1981 and 1984. For the whisky nerds among you (and yes…I count myself one) those cask numbers are as follows: #6405, #4973, #8184, #6437. Bottling in 2011 suggests this whisky is at minimum 27 years old with a couple older vintages added for some deeper dimension. Neato.
Time’s a’tickin’, so let’s get diggin’ in…
Nose: Wow…is this strong! Somewhat smoky and briny. Chocolate. Orange and cherry. Iodine. Sticky toffee pudding. Spicy and hot. Leather. Much, much dark overripe fruit. Slightly jammy. Borders on notes of tropical fruits.
Palate: Thick and chewy. Smoky and sweet. Jam-like again with some licorice and cinnamon-spiced dough. Some very interesting fruit notes are a highlight. Hits some salty and farmy bits along the way. Again…almost tropical. Palate actually outshines the nose here, which is a bit of a rare treat.
This is case in point as to why the collectors go apeshit for this distillery. Great stuff.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt