Two Highly Anticipated Cask Strength Releases from Kaiyo — Mizunara Oak Aged Whisky at K&L California – Japanese Whisky News

New Exclusives from the Most Exciting Project in Japanese Whisky

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We’ve featured several different bottlings from the Kaiyo brand in recent years, all of which have been exceptional and count among the most interesting (and delicious) expressions out of Japan that we’ve had the good fortune to taste. We are especially excited to feature two new exclusives that have been bottled at cask strength. These bottlings, as is standard for Kaiyo, have been aged in Mizunara oak and spent months in the hull of a ship while traversing the globe. It may sound like a lot of effort to put into a bottle of whisky, but the results are nothing short of spectacular. While many of the details behind this pair remain frustratingly scarce, what we do know is that they will satisfy one’s craving for the best in Japanese whisky, and at a very affordable price. Each possesses its own distinctive stamp, while offering a layered complexity only found in bottlings that cost three to four times the price. It goes without saying that these whiskies are very rare and are already causing a stir among collectors. If you’ve enjoyed Kaiyo in the past, then you simply must treat yourself to this breathtaking pair. For us, they represent the very pinnacle of Japanese whisky. Quantities will not last, so make sure to secure your bottles today.

Like so many Japanese whiskies that have come to the market in recent years, Kaiyo remains an enigma. It tastes delicious, there is a tantalizing background story to the brand, but the level of detail a whisky geek desires always seem in short supply. No matter, ultimately when the price is right and the whisky tastes great, we are here to pull the trigger. The two casks are similar in their story, but very different in the final profile. Both are Japanese in origin, presumably teaspooned malt from the same source. They were placed into Mizunara oak for nearly 7.5 years and then each made Kaiyo’s hallmark ocean voyage. The gentle rocking, salt air, temperature and humidity changes are all a part of the whisky’s story. Once they disembarked from their ship their stories diverge. Cask #541 sees a year long finishing in a refill hogshead barrel. This adds a bit of complexity to the profile yet preserves the Mizunara oak as the defining characteristic. It’s a masterclass in Mizunara. Over time in glass you can pick out a wide array of sweet tropical notes ranging from juicy fruits to toasty coconut and a cabinet full of exotic spices. At 56% ABV and unchillfiltered, there is power, weight, and texture to bolster what is otherwise an elegant and complex dram.

Kaiyo K&L Exclusive Cask #541 Cask Strength Japanese Whisky (750ml) ($99.99)

Andrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: March 24, 2020

The first selection ever of a Kaiyo single cask. After 7.4 years in Mizunara oak, this beauty was transferred to a 2nd fill hogshead for a little mellowing. It’s chockablock full of vanilla, coconut, honey and sandalwood. The stylistic preference in Japan for whiskies that are balanced and nuanced is clearly present, but this is not a shy malt. The barley shines from the get go, but add a little water and it explodes. At 56% ABV it’s a robust and full throttle whiskey that screams of its time in Mizunara with its bold and spicy wood profile.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: March 24, 2020

The enigmatic and opaque Kaiyo whisky has become a staple on our shelves. It does a lot of things right in the very complicated Japanese whisky genre while maybe skirting some of the most obvious pitfalls. And I still have no information about what is actually in these bottles, but we can assume that these have been aged in Japanese Mizunara and are likely sourced from malt distilled in northern Japan (Hokkaido & Sendai). And while these distilleries are some of the world’s finest, it is clearly the barrel who is the star of the show here. Interestingly, the two barrels we purchased (541 & 543) are pretty different despite having the same proof and specs on the bottle. This cask is the most quintessential expression of the flavors I’d expect from Mizunara. The nose is tight at first and needs a drop or two of water to open up. Now we get tons of sandalwood, ceremonial incense, plum wine, coconut husk. On the palate, tons of red cherry and big spice – cinnamon, clove, nutmeg etc. It’s long, bold and peppery. This one is really pretty intense, designed for those who like more intense flavors. Adding water doesn’t necessarily diminish that but adds some depth and sweetness.

Kaiyo K&L Exclusive Cask #543 Cask Strength Japanese Whisky (750ml) ($99.99)

Cask #543 has a much more unique finishing than #541. After its ocean stint the whisky was transferred to a ruby port pipe for a year. The dark red fruited wine cask has lent a wide array of flavors to frame the initial Mizunara aging. Dark chocolate, dried dates, ripe currants, and sweet raisins all meld with the sandalwood and coconut of the oak. Unchillfiltered and bottled at 56% ABV.

Andrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: March 24, 2020

Like its sister cask, this comes from some of Kaiyo’s oldest stocks. After nearly seven and half years in Japanese Mizunara oak the whisky was transferred into a ruby port pipe for another year of finishing. The result is a spectacular array of red fruits and raisins to frame the spicy yet tropical flavors of Mizunara oak. The hallmark sandalwood notes are particularly persistent on the finish. It’s amazing how much power the famed Japanese wood carries into the spirit, and to see it with a unique finish that compliments it so well is a real treat. With a dash of water a much more complex array of red currants, dusty cocoa, and candied nuts come forward on the nose and palate. It’s as though that water is the key that unlocks the port pipe’s Mizunara cage.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: March 24, 2020

These wild casks of Japanese Mizunara Oak aged whisky have been are a bit of a mystery, but tasting them side by side is a really interesting experience. While cask 541 had tons of spice, this one has much more fruit. The nose starts with classic Mizunara plum spice, but melds into a complex bouquet of wild honey, baked apple, earthy malt and fresh oak. The softer nose doesn’t translate to the palate and we’ve still got that bold oak and spice from the Mizunara taking over. Yet here more subtlety, more malt and a bit more sweetness. There’s something that reminds me distinctively of Ben Nevis, which would be appropriate considering the assumed source. A very interesting offering indeed.

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