I visited Zoetrope the other day as part of the research for my new book (you'll have to wait until well into 2009 for more info on that rather daunting project!). Anyway, I finally got to taste what for me had been one of the most interesting bottlings of the year. The focus of attention these last few months has understandably been on the world beating feats of the Yoichis and Hibikis, but we might look back on the quiet arrival of this "Plum Liqueur Cask Finish" as almost as significant.
We already knew that Japan was capable of making superb whiskies but this was something new: a selection of Yamazaki whiskies aged for more than 12 years in white oak, mizunara, and Spanish oak casks but then finished for two years in an barrel that had previously been used for umeshu making! Umeshu is a traditional Japanese plum liqueur, made by steeping tart green plums in sweetened alcohol (usually shochu, but you can make it with whisky).
Only 3000 bottles were released in August and it was limited to the bar trade, so I made sure I took the opportunity at Zoetrope to sample this intriguing bottling. Nose: A definite whiff of umeshu. Then, dough and bubblegum. Mouth: Surprisingly dry after the sweet smells: instant coffee and a very subtle, rounded smokiness. It had simple, clean development. The umeshu flavours came home forcefully at the finish. My mouth really tasted like I had been drinking umeshu.
Abv 40 per cent
700 ml - Difficult to get hold of because the release was restricted to bars. I have seen it on the Japanese internet at about 9,000 yen. It is on whiskyauction.com (deadline 25 October). In November 2008, it was on sale at Shinanoya, Roppongi for a similar price.